DMT Resources

How do I learn more about DMT and its uses?

This list includes ways to learn more about DMT and psychedelics, as well as ways to get actively involved (participate in research). 

TED talks on DMT and psychedelics

One of the quickest ways to be brought up to speed on the latest in psychedelic research:

1. The future of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy (TED talk 2019 by Rick Doblin, PhD, head of MAPS) 

“Could psychedelics help us heal from trauma and mental illnesses? Researcher Rick Doblin has spent the past three decades investigating this question, and the results are promising. In this fascinating dive into the science of psychedelics, he explains how drugs like LSD, psilocybin and MDMA affect your brain — and shows how, when paired with psychotherapy, they could change the way we treat PTSD, depression, substance abuse and more.”

2. The science of psilocybin and its use to relieve suffering (TED talk 2016, 

“Leading psychopharmacologist Roland Griffiths discloses the ways that psychedelic drugs can be used to create spiritually meaningful, personally transformative experiences for all patients, especially the terminally ill.”

Articles:

Books:

Films

  • DMT: The Spirit Molecule: “An investigation into the long-obscured mystery of dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a molecule found in nearly every living organism and considered the most potent psychedelic on Earth.” Can be watched for free on YouTube.

If you want to get involved

If you’re interested in participating in clinical research (either as a participant or a mental health professional), there are two preeminent organizations involved in responsible, monitored psychedelic research:

1. Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) 

MAPS is the preeminent, research-based organization focusing on psychedelic research. It is is a 501(c)(3) non-profit research and educational organization dedicated to “developing medical, legal, and cultural contexts for people to benefit from the careful uses of psychedelics and marijuana.”

MAPS’ team includes scientists, lawyers, psychopharmacological experts, “psychonauts” (those committed to psychedelic exploration), and more. Among other things, they are working to get psychedelics like DMT accepted as forms of medicine and therapy for those who can use them the most (those suffering from things like PTSD, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and more).

MAPS vision is “a world where psychedelics and marijuana are safely and legally available for beneficial uses, and where research is governed by rigorous scientific evaluation of their risks and benefits.” 

Specifically, they work on:

  • “Developing psychedelics and marijuana into prescription medicines
  • Training therapists and working to establish a network of treatment centers
  • Supporting scientific research into spirituality, creativity, and neuroscience
  • Educating the public honestly about the risks and benefits of psychedelics and marijuana.”

MAPS is actively seeking research participants in a number of clinical trials involving MDMA, 

2. Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic & Consciousness Research

According to Paul B. Rothman, M.D., and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine, “Johns Hopkins is deeply committed to exploring innovative treatments for our patients. Our scientists have shown that psychedelics have real potential as medicine, and this new center will help us explore that potential.”

Researchers at the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research “focus on how psychedelics affect behavior, mood, cognition, brain function, and biological markers of health. Upcoming studies will determine the effectiveness of psilocybin as a new therapy for opioid addiction, Alzheimer’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (formerly known as chronic Lyme disease), anorexia nervosa and alcohol use in people with major depression. The researchers hope to create precision medicine treatments tailored to the specific needs of individual patients.”

Other Organizations

The Third Wave is an educational site and center for grounded information and more. As an organization, they are committed to helping humanity with “integrating intentional, measured, and responsible psychedelic use into our everyday lives.”

The Third Wave asserts that “[t]he first wave of psychedelics involved global indigenous use for thousands of years, the second wave was the counterculture movement of the 1960s, and today is the third wave of psychedelics.” 

Their vision and mission:

“It is an era not for ‘dropping-out’ and rebelling against society, but for integrating psychedelics into our mainstream culture; an era invigorated by the tremendous upside of responsible psychedelic use rather than paralyzed by misguided fear of their possible negative repercussions.

Here at The Third Wave, we plan to contribute to this new era by providing reliable, well-researched information about psychedelics; incubating online and in-person psychedelic community; and working within mainstream culture through constructive conversations with thought-leaders across all major fields and disciplines.

In short, we’re here to help change the hearts and minds of people everywhere.”

DMT as Therapy

What are the potential therapeutic uses of DMT?

Ancient cultures worldwide have used psychedelic plant medicines as a part of their spiritual practices for centuries. Many consider plant medicines like ayahuasca, psilocybin (the form of DMT found in magic mushrooms), iboga, and cannabis to be sacred, and instrumental in helping to support a human being’s spiritual journey.

Now, scientific research is catching up to what the ancients have known for thousands of years: these plant medicines can dramatically help people who are suffering

Clinical research and cutting-edge studies conducted and forwarded by organizations like Johns Hopkins’ Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) are helping advance the exciting reality of using DMT in therapeutic contexts. 

This means helping to ease everything from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to addiction to opiates, nicotine, and alcohol, as well as to treat debilitating anxiety and depression

Plus, when used properly, many argue that these psychedelics provide a safer, faster, and frequently more effective way to treat mental health issues than prescription medications that so often come with unhealthy side effects (and, in some cases, make things worse). This is important, given the significant limitations of modern psychiatry and in its strong links to large-scale pharmaceutical companies, the ethics of which are hazy at best. 

Some of the most serious and crippling psychological conditions humanity faces can be calmed tremendously with these plant medicines, and the applications are both thrilling and uplifting to contemplate. 

What can DMT realistically “treat”?

In a landmark 2006 research study, participants took psilocybin (the active component in magic mushrooms) in a controlled setting, with an experienced guide and a nurse on standby. 

Over 70% of participants rated the experience as “one of the five most important in their lives.” A full 30% rated it “the single most important experience of their lives.” 

The fact is, a mystical experience that gives you a real, nourishing, and felt sense of the interconnectedness of life, can be profoundly transformative. Many, many people struggle to feel safe in life, in their bodies, and in their relationships. Conditions like anxiety and depression prompt coping mechanisms like addiction to drugs, alcohol, or behaviors like compulsive gambling, etc. 

Thus the treatment range for DMT is vast.

The link between psilocybin and depression treatment is a promising one, for example. Depression is complex, and while its exact “causes” is still unknown, one common experience of those struggling with it is the unrelenting cycle of negative thoughts, known as “rumination.”

These are unproductive thought loops that are negative in nature — things like, “I can never get anything right,” or, “I’m such a loser,” or, “Nothing ever works out for me.” Such thoughts are tied to the brain’s medial prefrontal cortex, which is activated when we think about ourselves (versus thinking about others, or the wider collective of humanity, or the earth).

In order to treat depression successfully, one must calm this area of the brain — and psilocybin does exactly that. A psychedelic experience mutes the obsessive self-critical thoughts, leaving you open to appreciate the wider world (without judging yourself within it). 

Depression can also be triggered in people who’ve gotten a terminal cancer diagnosis. A particularly inspirational study out of UCLA showed that in a test group of people who’d been diagnosed with a terminal illness, taking psilocybin substantially reduced psychological distress. It also helped prompt feelings of gratitude for the moment, for the life these individuals still had to live. They felt more uplifted and ready to connect with their loved ones and appreciate what life still had to offer. 

Psychedelics repeatedly appear to prompt an awareness in human beings that helps us to know and feel that we’re not alone in life, which calms the mind, body, and spirit.

DMT and relief for PTSD

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is one of the most distressing and debilitating mental health challenges there is — and one of the most notoriously difficult to treat with things like psychotherapy (talk therapy).

Psilocybin and MDMA are currently both being used to treat treatment-resistant PTSD — that is, people with PTSD for whom other forms of treatment haven’t worked. Some of these people have suffered for decades with debilitating PTSD, the symptoms of which can include nightmares (which compromises your sleep quality, which affects everything else); persistent fear, horror, anger, guilt, or shame; trouble focusing; reckless or self-destructive behavior; hypervigilance; and more.

Those suffering from PTSD include sexual abuse survivors; domestic violence survivors; military veterans; and others with serious trauma in their background. 

People with PTSD frequently turn to substances like alcohol, drugs, and other self-medication techniques to numb themselves of the horror of everyday life. Thus many addicts, either alcoholics or those addicted to heroin, prescription opioids, marijuana, and other substances, are really attempting to “treat” their own PTSD. 

One 54-year-old man described his experience using psilocybin to help his PTSD and treatment-resistant depression. The pain of his reality left him suicidal and plagued with violent nightmares, despite trying to use things like Xanax and Valium (neither of which worked):

“My mental condition was deteriorating rapidly, and I was on [antidepressant] medication No. 14 and it wasn’t working,” said Todd (name changed to protect identity). “My psychiatrist said, ‘I honestly think you’re a big candidate for psychedelics.’”

Todd started taking psilocybin — and reported that he hasn’t had a single PTSD episode since. His depression has also dissipated. He says the psilocybin has even eased immense physical pain (he suffers from tumors in both his spine and skill). “It’s knocked that [pain] out, it’s wiped that slate clean,” he said. 

Psychedelics are safer, too

One of the many advantages to using medicines like psilocybin is the lack of long-term side effects. Whereas prescription antidepressant, antianxiety, and antipsychotic medications often prompt side effects that range from nausea to weight gain, loss of libido, fatigue, sleep issues, dry mouth, constipation, and blurred vision (as well as the difficulty of getting off of such drugs — they have to be tapered in order to avoid side effects like excruciating headaches and insomnia).

Psilocybin, by contrast, has zero long-term physical side effects. It also lacks the addictive properties of other substances — you don’t get addicted to psychedelics like psilocybin the same way you do to opioids, for example. 

Another study showed that psilocybin is also not connected to any adverse mental health outcomes. While bad reactions (also known as “bad trips”) are absolutely a reality when psychedelics are taken by those who aren’t prepared and without an experienced guide, when taken responsibly, you’re far more likely to have a good experience than a bad one.

Experts in the field cannot stress enough the importance of having a trained “sitter” (someone to sit with you) when you’re exploring psychedelic experiences. 

The future of psychedelic therapy

In May of 2018, the Right to Try Act was passed by the U.S. government, giving terminally ill people the right to try solutions that have yet to be approved by the FDA — including certain psychedelic treatments.

The co-founder of AA, Bill Wilson, has come out in favor of medically-supervised LSD therapy as a way to achieve the spiritual awareness that forms the basis of the 12-step addiction recovery program. 

After completing a pilot study on psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy, Dr. Michael P. Bogenschutz, professor and vice-chair for Addiction Psychiatry and Clinical Research at the University of New Mexico, had this to say: “The stronger the person’s subjective response to psilocybin and the more they reported dimensions of mystical quality to the experience, the greater their clinical improvement in terms of both their drinking and their psychological status.”

In other words, the mystical quality of the experience on psychedelics had a definitive impact on a participant’s ability to stop an addictive behavior and feel better about life overall.

More and more, psychedelics including DMT are entering the mainstream as an appropriate and much-needed solution to some of the most difficult and persistent challenges faced by humanity. The fields of psychiatry and psychology have a number of strong advocates for and proponents of using these powerful medicines to help those who need it most. 

We are not alone in the universe; we are deeply and inherently connected — to one another, and to everything. Interconnectedness is reality; it’s physics. We belong here — and psychedelics can help us grasp this on every level of our being.

Scientific Studies on DMT

The history of DMT research

DMT was first researched by Hungarian scientist Stephen Szára in the 1950s. Inspired by the indigenous religious ceremonies in South America involving ayahuasca and other “plant medicines,” he was one of the first to demonstrate that the substance produces heightened states (including euphoria), and prompts hallucinations, illusions, and spatial distortions. 

Research into the powerful psychedelic was furthered in the 1960s, when scientists tried to determine whether the presence of DMT could explain schizophrenia in certain individuals. (It could not be linked to schizophrenia.) In 1965, scientists Franzen and Gross also discovered that DMT can be found in the blood and urine of normal human subjects. 

Then, in 1971, the U.S. passed the Controlled Substances Act and DMT was placed on a list of Schedule I drugs, making it illegal and therefore difficult to conduct research on. 

The road to in-depth research

By the 1990s, the scientific community was able to break through governmental restrictions in order to conduct some of the most well-documented research on the substance to date. 

Dr. Rick Strassman’s initial research on DMT took place from 1990-1995. This clinical research was approved by the U.S. government, and took place at the University of New Mexico. It involved injecting 60 participants with DMT and then documenting the results on human consciousness. 

While many people who experience DMT do so in ceremonial settings such as ayahuasca ceremonies with shamans, Dr. Strassman simply gave participants a certain dosage of the DMT and then recorded their experiences. 

“There were no bells, no whistles, no Buddhist statues,” said Dr. Strassman. “It was just ‘here’s the drug, and tell me what happened after you come down,’” said Dr. Strassman. “So it was kind of like sending people off to explore a new world and telling them to come back and tell us what they encountered.”

The experience of research participants

The vast majority of Strassman’s subjects had deep, mystical experiences on DMT, including several who considered them near-death experiences. Almost all said the DMT sessions were some of the most profound experiences they had ever had, and that they would remember them for their whole lives. 

Many argue that Strassman’s research links DMT to the pineal gland, a pea-sized gland located between the eyebrows. It is the site of your “third eye” (or sixth chakra), and mystics across cultures agree that it is an access point to higher states of consciousness. Ancient wisdom suggests that developing your third eye chakra strengthens your access not only to your own intuition and knowing, but to collective wisdom. 

In his book, DMT: The Spirit Molecule, Dr. Strassman argues that DMT can be naturally released by the pineal gland, and that this is part of the basis of a soul’s movement in and out of the body. He believes DMT released by the pineal gland is part of what leads to things like heightened states of consciousness such as those accessed during intense meditation, sacred sexuality (the feeling of merging with one’s partner), and the heightened experiences often reported at birth and death experiences. 

Used wisely, Dr. Strassman believes “DMT could trigger a period of remarkable progress in the scientific exploration of the most mystical regions of the human mind and soul.”

The DMT research renaissance: Johns Hopkins and the 2000s

In 2000, a research group at Johns Hopkins got regulatory approval in the U.S. to reinitiate research with psychedelics in healthy volunteers. 

In 2006, Johns Hopkins made history with their scientific paper outlining both the safety and enduring “positive effects” of psilocybin (the active component of magic mushrooms, and a form of DMT). That study is frequently pointed to as a watershed moment that prompted a renaissance of psychedelic research all over the world.

The Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic & Consciousness Research focuses its research on “how psychedelics affect behavior, mood, cognition, brain function, and biological markers of health.”

Research out of the renowned institution has already shown highly encouraging, positive therapeutic effects in people suffering from a wide range of conditions, including: 

  • Substance abuse and addiction (including smoking, alcohol, and other drugs)
  • Existential distress caused by life-threatening disease (such as incurable cancer)
  • Depression (specifically individuals who’ve tried other treatments that haven’t worked, aka “treatment-resistant depression”)

Their current and upcoming studies specifically explore the efficacy of psilocybin (magic mushrooms) as a realistic therapeutic option to treat a number of mental health and physical health problems. These include:

  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Lyme disease
  • Substance abuse (including opioid addiction)
  • Behavioral addictions (including anorexia nervosa)
  • Alcohol use in people with major depression

The hope is for researchers to be able to come up with precise treatments specific to the needs of individual patients (similar to the proper dosage of a pharmaceutical medicine). 

The advantages of DMT research

One of the most promising and compelling advantages of DMT research is that experts report that when done correctly, DMT can help address the root causes of issues like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. 

This contrasts directly with current psychiatric responses to mental health conditions like depression, which frequently simply treat the symptoms of the depression (with things like antidepressants or benzodiazepines). 

It goes without saying that having a reliable way to help people process the initial trauma that led to their current experience of addiction, illness, mental health disorders, and more — would be more than just groundbreaking. It would be revolutionary.

The mysteries of DMT research

When it comes to DMT and other psychedelics, there are still a lot of compelling questions yet to answer. For example, while scientists know that the human body shows differing levels of DMT, it’s unclear what DMT is doing there. 

It’s obviously important, since it’s one of the rare compounds the brain absorbs that cannot be generated by the body itself (other compounds like this include amino acids required for healthy brain functioning, and glucose).

“That makes you wonder if DMT might be involved in the regulation in every day normal consciousness as well,” says Dr. Strassman. “And something else that has been discovered over the past few years is that the enzyme and the gene that synthesise DMT are quite active in the retina. So it could be that DMT is regulating a visual perception in particular as well as regulation of consciousness.”

According to Dr. Stassman, “I think DMT in particular, but psychedelics in general, must likely stimulate the imaginative faculty of the mind more than the rational faculty … So it could be that once we start looking at the biology or the neurophysiology of the imaginative faculty versus the rational faculty, DMT may help us understand the imaginative faculty’s function.”

In other words, psychedelics like DMT could help us understand what exactly the human imagination is, and what its purpose is. Again, part of its purpose could be profound healing.

The future of DMT research

One challenge in terms of researching the effects of DMT is that the body breaks it down quickly. Typically a DMT “trip” only lasts 15-30 minutes. 

However, in 2016 Dr. Strassman and colleague Andrew Gallimore published new research outlining a methodology for giving DMT continuously over a number of hours, extending a person’s experience.

The purpose of the study was in part to explore the possibility of using DMT therapeutically. “Lots of people describe the therapeutic benefits of ayahuasca,” says Strassman, “and if you could extend the DMT state you could be able to apply it for therapeutic purposes. More practical experiments would be to extend the state and see if that has applications for therapy.”

And according to Rick Doblin, TED speaker and head of the organization MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies), “In the work with classic psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin, for example, what we’ve discovered is the mystical experience you can have — the depth of ego dissolution — is correlated with therapeutic outcomes. The more people go beyond themselves into this sort of state, the better they’re able to overcome their fear of death, overcome addiction, or overcome depression.”
Doblin and other leaders in the field are outspoken about the need to legalize psychedelics, so that more people can be helped faster.

DMT Basics

What exactly is DMT?

DMT (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine) is a chemical found naturally in certain plants. It is also found naturally in the human body, though the circumstances surrounding that remain somewhat mysterious.

When consumed, DMT is a very powerful psychedelic — arguably the most powerful on earth. DMT is the active hallucinogenic component of ayahuasca, a brew that has been used in rituals by indigenous people in South America for centuries. Ayahuasca is frequently consumed in ceremonies held by shamans who brew the tea from the root of a vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) and a shrub called chacruna (Psychotria viridis). 

DMT can also be taken in crystal form, usually by smoking or vaping it. Rather than an ayahuasca trip, which can take 6-8+ hours to fully move through, smoking DMT prompts an extremely potent but relatively short hallucinogenic state that’s considered one of the most intense in existence.

DMT can also be found in other forms, including psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms (4-PO-HO-DMT).

Is DMT safe?

Similar to answering, “Is alcohol safe?” the short answer is that it depends.

DMT is an extremely powerful psychedelic. Its physiological effects frequently include elevated blood pressure and heart rate (anyone with a heart condition should be very careful if smoking DMT); shivering; dizziness and/or lack of coordination (feeling disoriented); nausea (especially if taken in ayahuasca); and sometimes the loss of consciousness.

Because of the physical effects, when taking DMT you should make sure you’re in a safe and comfortable environment. It’s best to be able to sit or lie down, and not need to walk around or get anywhere. 

The psychological effects of DMT include hallucinations, which can be fascinating, illuminating, beautiful, and thought-provoking. However, as the visualizations can also be disorienting and overwhelming, they can also provoke feelings of panic or anxiety. In some cases, this can prompt psychological trauma, particularly since DMT can generate both open- and closed-eyed visualizations (meaning you see things both when your eyes and open and closed). 

Perhaps one of the most consistent and striking parts of a DMT experience is the way many people report a form of “ego death,” meaning they lose the feeling of separation between mind and soul (and/or mind and body). This can be one of the most profoundly meaningful sensations of a person’s life, and it can also be depersonalizing to a terrifying extent.

For safety, experts and mystics alike strongly recommend having a sober guide present with you if you’re going to experiment with DMT. Having someone there to hold space as you are launched into intense, mind-altering experiences is both practical and wise. 

The cutting-edge DMT experiments currently being conducted at institutions like Johns Hopkins University always include sober guides (frequently trained psychologists) to help people move through their experience in as smooth and safe a way as possible. 

What do you experience on DMT?

One of the most groundbreaking books on DMT was published in 2000, by Dr. Rick Strassman, a leader in the field of psychedelic research. Entitled, DMT: The Spirit Molecule: A Doctor’s Revolutionary Research into the Biology of Near-Death and Mystical Experiences, the book outlines the results of Strassman’s research on people who took DMT in a clinical context.

Whether taken in a clinical setting or not, many of those who take DMT have the following in common: profound and deeply healing mystical experiences

A large percentage of those who take DMT report deep, meaningful, and sometimes shocking experiences. It has been likened to “100 hours of therapy in one moment.”

Ayahuasca in particular often provokes those who take it to come face-to-face with their demons — their deepest fears and insecurities. It’s not a “fun” experience for a lot of people, but it’s consistently reported as hugely helpful in getting an outside perspective on your own life. 

In the words of one user

“It was by far the most terrifying experience of my life. Imagine cramming like 50 years of therapy into 5 nights, going down to the core of your being and being forced to confront and release all the emotions and negative thought habits you’ve been holding on to and repressing.

Not only did it cure my depression, but also several physical ailments which I learned were physical manifestations of mental problems (eczema, heart palpitations, and digestive issues). If you are at the end of your rope (or even if you’re not) I can’t recommend it highly enough.”

For many, the experience involves seeing flashbacks from their past (childhood, etc.), but with a new, clear-eyed understanding of how they can be interpreted in a more holistic way. For example, you might see how you were neglected by your father, and be able to link that directly to your current need to drink (alcoholism). But you may also be infused with an incredible amount of compassion, not only for yourself in that circumstance but everyone else who has gone through something similar. Perhaps you’re able to let go of that sense of abandonment and move forward into a sense of belonging. 

In addition, during a DMT experience some people talk about meeting intelligent life from other planes of existence. Others see or “meet” their own ancestors, who have messages from them. Many report the grounded, peaceful sense of the oneness of not only humanity, but the whole field of consciousness.

According to an Australian study in 2010, the most commonly-reported positive impact of a DMT experience (whether smoked or on ayahuasca) was “an increase in psychospiritual insight.” In other words, it is a substance that can consistently prompt mystical experiences in human beings. 

What are the risks associated with DMT?

The serious risks associated with DMT are when it interacts with other drugs or substances. DMT affects the serotonin system in the body and should absolutely not be taken in conjunction with any of the following medications

  • SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Lexapro, and more)
  • High blood pressure medications (anti-hypertensives)
  • Diet pills (appetite suppressants)
  • Cold medicines, antihistamines and asthma medications (basically any drug with dextromethorphan/DXM in it, or with DM, DX or Tuss in its name)
  • Central nervous system depressants like Xanax, Ativan, etc.
  • Vasodilators
  • Antipsychotics
  • Barbiturates
  • Alcohol

The illegal or recreational drugs that are also dangerous to combine with DMT are:

  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines (including methamphetamine and dexamphetamine), ephedrine, MDMA (aka molly, ecstasy, X), MDA, MDEA, PMA
  • Opiates (opium, heroin, morphine, codeine, etc.)
  • dextromethorphan (DXM)

Is DMT legal?

DMT is illegal in most countries, though the enforcement of laws banning it vary. If used in the U.S. as an ingredient in the tea containing ayahuasca, for example, there are certain exceptions made for groups who utilize it for religious purposes. (The actual plants that contain DMT, such as those used to brew ayahuasca, are not illegal, but once the DMT is extracted, it becomes an illegal substance.)