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  1. Phungushead
    Dimethyltryptamine is a psychedelic substance produced naturally in animals and plants. It resides in the brain of every human. When smoked or injected, DMT, as it's commonly known, is powerful and immersive, though generally short-lived.

    View attachment 24449 Over the course of five years, Dr. Rick Strassman dosed 400 volunteers with DMT at the University of New Mexico. The study was the first in the United States since the ’70s in which subjects were given psychedelics. Getting the project off the ground required a coordinated effort between Strassman, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

    Research began in 1990. At 8 a.m., the volunteers would meet up with Strassman. The doctor administered all of the injections himself, then sat with his test subjects as they underwent the DMT experience. The drug kicks in almost instantly, he says, within a couple of heartbeats. The peak comes after only two minutes, then people start coming down. Within half an hour, volunteers began to feel normal again and were able to drink tea and answer questions. They'd talk for an hour or so and then head home around 10 a.m.

    Strassman also tested to see if people develop tolerance to DMT when it's injected repeatedly. He would give good-sized doses to the same person four times over the course of a morning, spaced about 30 minutes apart. "It was just as intense every time,” he says. “That was pretty remarkable."

    After the study was over, Strassman participated in an ayahuasca ceremony in Brazil, which is completely legal in that country, he is sure to note. Ayahuasca is an infusion that includes a DMT-containing shrub. It mostly just made him sick, he says.

    Strassman's interest in the subject ignited when he was an undergrad contemplating the relationship between brain chemistry and consciousness. It was the late ’60s, and psychedelic drugs and meditation had become part of the subculture. "That got me thinking about some common biological denominator that might underlie the brain's experiences of both of those states," he says.

    View attachment 24450 Since the study, he's become interested in the content of the psychedelic trip, he says, the information it contains. He's read the Old Testament and noticed striking similarities between the reports of his subjects and the reports of prophets in the Bible. "The interactive quality, the colorful quality, the moving quality—it was quite relational as opposed to unitive." He's working on a book that will psychedelicize the Old Testament, which could be published this year.

    He’s surprised that his study still has as much traction as it does. Every year, his original book DMT: The Spirit Molecule sells more copies. "More people are becoming interested in DMT, rather than less." In total, he’s sold 100,000 copies, and it’s been translated into 12 languages.

    Strassman spoke with the Alibi about the results of his DMT study, alien abduction and the Old Testament.

    Some describe your work as an extension of Timothy Leary's research. Do you see it that way? Was that an inspiration?

    It's completely different on a number of counts. One is that Tim loved being in the public eye, and I don't. So that's one difference. Tim was using LSD, and LSD is about an eight- to 12-hour experience. DMT is quite short. Tim was studying these drugs for either spiritual or therapeutic effects. Mine was purely psychopharmacology. We just gave the drug and watched what happened. We collected a lot of blood and gave a lot of questionnaires. We checked blood pressure and heart rate and pupil diameter.

    Did you ever hear from Leary about any of your work?

    Tim was in Santa Fe for a talk in the early 1990s, and I was living in Tijeras at the time. Someone called and asked if I wanted to meet Tim. It was in the middle of the week. I wasn't that interested in meeting him, to tell you the truth. So I passed.

    We never really corresponded on the phone or on email or that kind of thing. But I learned from his mistakes. He wrote a pretty interesting autobiography called Flashbacks. I looked at that really carefully and I thought, OK, Tim did this and look what happened to him. So I'm not doing that.

    One of the things Tim did is he studied undergraduates. They're young. There's a lot of competition and clique formation among the undergrads and grads at Harvard where Tim studied. It's kind of like you were in or you were out. I didn't study any undergrads. I only studied one grad per department so there wasn't jockeying for position.

    Were your colleagues at UNM initially skeptical of your idea?

    No, not really. They were quite supportive. If I had just come in cold to UNM and said, "Here I am. I want to give psychedelic drugs to people," it may have been a problem. But I had been there a number of years. I had gotten grants. I had written papers. I had climbed the academic hierarchy, kept my nose clean, and people trusted me. I was a good scientist. They said, If you want to do this, fine. Just stay out of the newspapers.

    What did you discover?

    I found that DMT reliably caused people’s consciousness to enter into an apparently freestanding independent universe made out of bright light—intensely colored, intensely saturated bright light. It was quite reliable in doing this. Consciousness of the volunteer in that state was also disembodied. The experience to the volunteer felt as if they no longer had a body, and they were just pure consciousness entering into this world of light.

    Also, it was quite a common occurrence and reported by volunteers that they encountered beings made of light who were sentient, intelligent and interacted with volunteers. Those were probably the most common things that we found. I was expecting near-death experiences to be more common, but they were quite rare. I was expecting mystical states, like the Buddhist enlightenment experience, to be quite common, and they were quite rare.

    What would another round of experiments look like today?

    I don't know about any more DMT studies. I just gave so much DMT.

    It would be interesting to compare the experiences of people on DMT that have had an encounter with alien abduction experiences. There was a striking amount of overlap between some of the reports of my volunteers and people who claim having been abducted. That would be cool, to give DMT to them and ask them to compare the two states.

    I think it would be interesting to give DMT to scientists who are doing studies with parallel universes and string theory and dark matter and things like that. I do speculate at the end of the book that that could be the location of this other state, this freestanding, apparently independent state. I think it would be interesting to get their opinion on what this seems like to them based on all of their thinking and their computer models.

    Do you see therapeutic potential in psychedelics?

    Oh yeah, for sure. That's ongoing right now. There's a study out of Hopkins a few years back causing mystical experiences with psilocybin. There was a study a few years ago by UCLA, giving psilocybin to the terminally ill, and it was quite helpful.

    There are some alcoholism studies using psilocybin that are either underway or close to being started. There's quite a few studies of ayahuasca being helpful with psychological problems and substance abuse problems.

    What do you think of the legal status of DMT?

    It's fine. It's Schedule 1. It's an incapacitating drug. I think there ought to be a new schedule created for these drugs—like Schedule 1A or something—where they're still quite restricted but you can use them either in clinical research or in specialized psychotherapeutic settings if you've been properly trained in supervising them.

    Since writing DMT: The Spirit Molecule, have you had any new insights into the nature of the substance?

    I think I'm more comfortable as thinking of it as a mediator between physical and spiritual processes. By spiritual, I don't mean new age, I more mean things which are occurring out of our consciousness most of the time. With the aid of DMT, you can access things which were previously invisible. Those could be the contents of dark matter. I'm OK calling spiritual worlds dark matter. It's stuff we can't normally see which is still exerting an influence on us.

    V.21 No.4 | January 26 - February 1, 2012

    By Marisa Demarco


  1. Metomni
    I've always really respected Dr. Strassman, and this is exactly why. If Leary had been as observant and respectful of certain societal measures and done his research more like Strassman, we could very easily be looking at a completely different society today in regards to public opinion of drug use. I find his observation that 1) people who claim to have been abducted and 2) scientists studying dark matter and string theory should try DMT to be very intriguing as well and agree with him on that count.

    I had never thought about it, but it would be interesting (assuming there aren't actually alien abductions) if the people who think they've been abducted simply have different brain chemistry where more DMT is released while they are sleeping than a normal human. Psychopharmacological research such as he performed is really the only way to prove or disprove this and to be honest if we treat night terrors in children, I feel it is only fair to treat people with this condition as well if it is negatively impacting their lives.

    Also, Einstein was one in a trillion, we can't expect scientists to just figure string theory, or dark matter, or parallel dimensions out with a snap of the fingers. Maybe something like a dose of DMT really would be that light bulb and they would be able to advance science much faster than otherwise possible. Seems like a /really/ interesting case study could be done here over the next 10-20 years, but it just takes so many resources for something such as that.

    Lastly, the idea that spirit worlds are dark matter is a staggering idea. A staggering idea that rings true, but as of now is unsubstantiated. I wonder what sort of studies could even probe into that idea.

    Anyway, great article.
  2. Doctor Who
    After Reading DMT & the Spirit Molecule... the book was not at all what I expected. I'm now thankful for that. I began this book hoping (probably like most entheogen-enthusiasts) for an authoritative, glowing affirmation of the power of entheogens to expand our consciousness and improve our society, and a rallying call to drag this socially criminalized taboo back under the clinical microscope for scrutiny. 24 hours later, I put the book down- truly amazed at the ride I had just taken. First and foremost, the subject matter is extraordinary- clinical investigations using high doses of intravenous DMT. (WOW!) Owing to this fact alone, much of this book reads like out-of-this-world fiction, which is highly entertaining and immersive, and because of the incredible improbability of the research's existence in the context of the omnipresent "Drug War" and an increasingly oppressive government, following Dr. Strassman's progression from the historical and personal seeds of interest, through the labyrinth of paralyzing bureaucracy, and ultimately out the tip of a syringe into a volunteer's arm leading to mind-blowing highs and the resultant repercussions... this format of a journey added immensely to the book's readability and ability to pull the reader in. Finally, this book is above all things honest. While it's clear that Dr. Strassman began as a bit of an idealist (as does the reader, no doubt), he objectively assesses events as they unfold and ultimately leads the reader to his critical and forward-thinking understandings about entheogens and the potential for renewal of clinical studies, especially those with tangibly positive ramifications. I enjoyed this book thoroughly, and it caused me to critically evaluate my own preconceptions about clinical psychedelic research. The only disappointment I had was that Dr. Strassman fell far short of providing convincing evidence that DMT is indeed the "Spirit Molecule." While his theories are reasonable and testable, there was little in the form of evidence supporting his connections between DMT and the pineal, and ultimately DMT and the "mystical experience" which seems to overcome individuals during periods of intense bodily stress (such as at death) or during intense introspection, such as cultivated by religious/meditative practice. Considering the title of the book and my assumption that the brunt of it was dedicated to purely scientific elucidation of Dr. Strassman's theories (indeed I had a hard time stomaching the "new-agey" feel of the words "spirit molecule" interchanged indiscriminately with "DMT" throughout the book, especially since it was made clear in the first few chapters that the pineal/DMT/"spirit" molecule theory was interesting but unproven)- Still I would give this Book a five-star rating***** In short: a great read. Highly recommended. PEACE!
  3. dnb_coqui
    I have to say, next to LSD DMT is my favorite compound ever. Two of the three gifts from the cosmos I will do 'till I pass on. I've actually thought of ensuring that I have all three of my favorites, Pot, L, and Deemsters, somewhere safe in case I ever find myself in a death bed. Because I would like to go out like that. That's how i roll. It would be nice, but with my luck some tree is going to fall on me or some cop's going to shoot me saying he thought I had a weapon. Rick is awesome. I really admire humans that continue to educate the world regardless of retaliation from the global empire.
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