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DMT: The Spirit Molecule Explained

What is DMT and its role in human consciousness? An in-depth look at the bizarre psychedelic drug known as The Spirit Molecule

DMT drug image

Dimethyltryptamine (or DMT) is a psychedelic drug that can induce out of body or near death experiences, intense hallucinations and even apparent alien abductions. If you smoke it, you will appear to pass out for several minutes, where you'll have euphoric insights into other dimensions. In the US, Dimethyltryptamine is classed as an illegal Schedule I drug.

Yet, many believe we produce DMT in our bodies naturally. What is this mysterious substance and how is it connected with dreams, death and OBEs? Let's take a detailed look at the facts about 'The Spirit Molecule'.

What is DMT?

DMT is a naturally occurring 'tryptamine'.

Tryptamines are a group of substances found in nature that mimic the chemical structure of serotonin. As you may know, serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the human brain - and one that plays a very important role indeed. It's job (which we don't yet fully understand - research is on-going) includes the regulation of mood, memory and sleep.

Other tryptamines include melatonin (the hormone responsible for sleep), psilocybin (magic mushrooms), bufotenin (psychedelic toad slime), LSD, and of course DMT itself.

Where is DMT found?

The only thing we really know with 100% certainty is that humans have been taking DMT for several thousand years. In 1990, two mummified human bodies were dug up near the Matanza River in northwestern Argentina. The mummies were very well preserved, both being adorned with high quality woolen mantles. With them was buried an intricately engraved pipe, sculpted from puma bone. When lab tested and carbon dated it became evident the pipe had been used to smoke Anadenanthera colubrina var. cebil - a South American plant containing DMT. The pipe was dated to 2130BC!

see where is DMT foundThe Peruvians were reported to be carrying out the Ayahuasca ceremony from as early as the 16th century, when Spanish and Portuguese missionaries made their first encounters with the native tribes. The practice of taking DMT - in some form or another - has then presumably been going on in South America consistently since at least 2130BC (and persists to this day). Ayahuasca uses a brewed preparation of two or more plants, which when imbibed from the ceremonial cup invokes visionary religious experiences. The practice has become increasingly popular in the last decade, with 'Ayshuca Tourism' on the rise and now officially 'a thing'.

DMT is found in over 60 different plants, either in the bark, roots, leaves or flowers. In fact, Terence McKenna has referred to DMT as "the commonest hallucinogen in all of nature".

Now these traditional methods of taking DMT could be considered as relatively 'gentle'. Although, the word gentle is probably a bad choice for a shamanic ritual that often involves severe vomiting (otherwise known as 'purging'). However, since DMT was first synthesised in the lab in 1931, people have been able to inject, snort or smoke an extract to experience effects many times more potent that the traditional preparations made from leaves.

Just what are the DMT effects?

The effects of DMT are possibly the strangest of any other psychoactive drug known to man.

In fact, the DMT effects are so strange that many would refer to them as something more akin to a 'journey' than a mere 'trip'.

Smoking synthetic DMT has become the most popular route of administration these days, outside of shamanic Ayahuasca ceremonies. The effects begin within 10-60 seconds and last around 5-20 minutes. In reality, the person will appear to be unconscious or asleep for this time. Whereas internally, the person will be experiencing the most incredible and profound insights.

In simple terms: extreme visual and auditory hallucinations. Possible ego death. Increased pulse rate, blood pressure and respiration. But simple doesn't do the effects of DMT justice.

DMT effects visual

So what exactly is a DMT trip like then?

A DMT trip literally transports you to another reality. Users report access to a completely different plane of consciousness.

Curiously, all DMT trips are consistently reported as taking part in several stages. In the first stage - within the first 30 seconds after smoking - users consistently report a buzzing in the ears and then a distinct sound of 'cellophane being ripped apart' (their sense of reality being torn apart, perhaps!). In the second stage - at around the 1 minute mark - users 'breakthrough' into 'DMT hyperspace'. This is where the real strangeness begins - which can only really be adequately described by the relaying of users own experiences. I won't even try to describe it! All I will say is this stage lasts upto 5 minutes. Thirdly, users then 'return' back to reality where residual visuals and euphoria remain for upto 20 minutes.

But most interestingly of all, users of DMT consistently report contact with entities. Spirits, aliens, even elves and other strange creatures are encountered in worlds that users report seem to be inhabited by other-worldly foreign intelligences. In fact, over 50% of people tripping on DMT report contact with these entities!

The entities are often said to be mischievous or playful. Sometimes 'guiding', 'helping', or offering insights to us.

On top of this a DMT trip involves intense visual halucinations. The phychadelic phenonama of swirling colours, shifting fractals - completely overwhelming the visual field.

The feeling of doing DMT is as though one had been struck by noetic lightning. The ordinary world is almost instantaneously replaced, not only with a hallucination, but a hallucination whose alien character is its utter alienness. Nothing in this world can prepare one for the impressions that fill your mind when you enter the DMT sensorium.

- Terence McKenna

Famous DMT Experiences

Once again, rather than try to explain exactly what a DMT experience is like, here are some actual reported DMT experiences - both from the Strassman experiments and from recreational users who have published online.

"I felt the DMT release my soul's energy and push it through the DNA. It's what happened when I lost my body. There were spirals that reminded me of things I've seen at Chaco Canyon. Maybe that was DNA. Maybe the ancients knew that. The DNA is backed into the universe like space travel. One needs to travel without one's body. It's ridiculous to think about space travel in little ships."

- Sara, a volunteer in Dr Strassman's DMT research

"There was no turning back. After a moment or two I became aware of something happening to my left. I saw a psychedelic, Day-Glo-colored space that approximated a room whose walls and floor had no clear separations or edges. It was throbbing and pulsing electrically. Rising in front of "me" was a podium-like table. It seemed that some presence was dealing/serving something to me. I wanted to know where I was and "sensed" the reply that I had no business there. The presence was not hostile, just somewhat annoyed and brusque."

- Aaron, a volunteer in Dr Strassman's DMT research

"The first thing I noticed was a burning in the back of my neck. Then there was this loud intense hum. It was like the fan at first, but separate. It began engulfing me. I let go into it and then... WHAM!

I felt like I was in an alien laboratory, in a hospital bed like this... A sort of landing bay, or recovery area. There were beings...

They had a space ready for me. They weren't as surprised as I was. It was incredibly un-psychedelic. I was able to pay attention to detail. There was one main creature, and he seemed to be behind it all, overseeing everything. The others were orderlies, or dis-orderlies.

They activated a sexual circuit, and I was flushed with an amazing orgasmic energy. A goofy chart popped up like an X-ray in a cartoon, and a yellow illumination indicated that the corresponding system, or series of systems, were fine. They were checking my instruments, testing things. When I was coming out, I couldn't help but think 'aliens'.

I am so disappointed I didn't talk to them. I was confused and in awe. I knew that they were preparing me for something. Somehow we had a mission. They had things to show me. But they were waiting for me to acquaint myself with the environment and movement and language of this space."

- Dimitri, a volunteer in Dr Strassman's DMT research

"Literally, you are transported into another f***ing dimension. I don't mean like you feel you're in another dimension, you're in another dimension.

There's f***ing complex geometric patterns moving in synchronies order through the air all around you in three dimensional space. It's like they're arteries, but there isn't blood pumping through them, there's light, pulsating light with no boundaries.

And there's an alien communicating with me who looks sort of like a Tai Buddha, except he's entirely made of energy and there's no outline to him. He's concentrating and telling me not to give into astonishment, relax and try and experience this."

- Joe Rogan, comedian & psychedelic pioneer

The DMT Experiments

Dr Rick StrassmanBetween 1990 and 1995, Dr Rick Strassman studied the effects of this extremely short-acting yet intense psychoactive compound using human test subjects. The research generated a wealth of biological and psychological data, much of which was published in scientific journals. So Strassman decided to publish a summation of his works in his book, DMT: The Spirit Molecule

His DMT experiments shone a whole new light on unexplained phenomena such as alien abductions. Strassman managed to reproduce mystical and religious experiences with the psychedelic drug. Skeptics could say, then, that this drug is simply just another hallucinogen. It makes you see things that aren't there. And it explains thousands of historical accounts of paranormal phenomena in one fell swoop.

On the other hand, the experiments confirmed startling information. Volunteers described bizarre visions of alien life forms - even subjects that wanted and fully expected to see angels and fairies encountered other-worldly intelligences.

It genuinely provokes the question: is DMT a door to an alternate reality? Can this drug really be the trigger that facilitates contact with other dimensions or parallel universes?

DMT aliens - really?

The question of DMT and aliens is one that deserves real consideration!

Given that this bizarre drug consistently invokes the same kind of 'entity contact' across its users - regardless of age, gender, language or religion - could there be something to the idea that these entities represent actual beings? 'Aliens' even?

DMT aliens exampleIn fact, many intelligent and sensible people that have taken DMT believe that the entities they encounter are real intelligent beings. The experience of taking synthetic DMT is so intense that many believe it does put them in contact with an alternate reality or another plane of existence.

Let's examine the matter from a rationalist perspective.

We already know that the human mind is capable of inventing intricate universes on the fly. Alternative realities formed of such strikingly detailed worlds that they may encompass thousands of years, spontaneously invented languages - even entire alien civilizations. In fact these experiences can feel just a real as objective reality itself.

This happens to every one of us - in our dreams!

Do you believe that the worlds you travel to in your dreams are real? Or are they simply a reflection of the incredible power of the human mind?

It starts to become such a tricky question to answer that one really has to begin to examine: what is reality?

Much of the argument or theories one way or the other - and as speculated by Strassman himself in his book - come down to the hypothesis that DMT is naturally found in the human brain.

DMT in the brain - fact or fiction?

Is there really DMT in the brain?

There are many websites and online communities that will swear blind that 'DMT is produced in the pineal gland'. In fact, this is a central assertion of Strassman's theories. But is this a fact backed up by scientific studies?

We do know that DMT has been found in the pineal gland of rats. But so far there have been no peer-reviewed studies on humans brains.

However, experimenting on 'rats first' is common practice in our modern world, so it's far from beyond the realm of plausibility that the human pineal gland does indeed produce DMT.

example of DMT in the brain

The theory is a popular one, as many believe the pineal gland to be the 'third eye' of the human mind. And let's be honest, it does bear a striking resemblance to the Eye of Horus in ancient Egyptian culture!

Certainly this tiny gland - about the size of grain of rice - is embedded deeply in the centre of the brain, where it seems to have the best seat in the house. More deeply protected than any other place. It is also the only area of the human brain that is not mirrored on the left and right. It seems apt then that such a central part of brain would play a central and critical role. Could this tiny gland and the DMT it secretes be the secret to human consciousness?

The general theory goes that the substance is released in large amounts from the pineal gland during moments of altered consciousness, such as birth, death and during dreaming. Strassman believes this to be the nature of the spiritual experiences that users report. By somehow activating this natural chemical we are gaining access to the near-death experience and the dream world.

As appealing as this idea is, it remains at this time a theory only. Unproven, yet tantalisingly realistic.

Is DMT the dream drug?

There are some that call DMT 'the dream drug'.

The dream drugAnd this is a website about dreaming after all. Could it be that the dreams states we enter each and every night involve the natural production of DMT during REM sleep?

It certainly seems viable. After all, lucid dreaming has been scientifically proven. There is an eerie similarity between the entities that one can encounter during a lucid dream and the entities one encounters on a DMT trip. Of course, when dreaming, we more readily accept these being as reflections of our subconscious, rather than actual external intelligences.

When we dream, our ability to gain insights from our subconscious that we couldn't otherwise access is undisputed. It could be that smoking DMT is a little like 'dreaming on steroids' and the synthetic injection of chemical takes our insights to the next level.

Of course - I am merely speculating. But the idea is so plausible, that it's not only Strassman who has put forward formal medical hypothesis for the idea.

Dream drug or not, one thing is for certain: DMT begs further research!

The Future of DMT Research

the spirit moleculeDr Rick Strassman plans to continue his DMT research at the newly-founded Cottonwood Research Foundation in New Mexico. His vice president, Dr Steven Barker at Louisiana State University, is already developing a new ultra-sensitive method intended to measure naturally occurring DMT in the body. They hope to prove the existence of DMT in humans and compare normal levels with those found in altered states, under clinical conditions.

Ultimately, Strassman and his team hope to develop a new model for the study of consciousness in the West. They hope to explore the varieties of human consciousness and their genetic, biochemical and physiological bases - finding the best way to apply these states to healing, creativity and the pursuit of greater wisdom.

About The Author

About the author

Chris Hammond - Editor of World of Lucid Dreaming. A natural lucid dreamer since childhood, Chris offers potentially valuable - and possibly entertaining - insights into the world of the human mind. Connect on Facebook, Twitter and the lucid dream forum.