Last month researchers released a new study on the hallucinogen DMT (or dimethyltryptamine) that provided fresh survey data on the phenomenon of DMT users experiencing and encountering sentient ‘entities’ while tripping. Scientists believe the findings could help to better understand near-death experiences and alien-abduction experiences, as well as develop treatments for mood and behavioral disorders.
The study involved surveying over 2,000 DMT users, the majority of whom claimed to have had positive encounters and even emotional exchanges with beings they felt were advanced and benevolent. Most of the users, upon coming down from the drug, felt the beings were real and not manufactured solely by a hallucination.
The survey produced the following additional data: 99% had an emotional response and of those, 58% believed the entity they encountered also had an emotional response and the feeling was overwhelmingly positive, though some reported instances of fear; 81% of respondents felt the ‘entities’ were real; and two-thirds believed they had received “a message, task, mission, purpose, or insight from the entity encounter experience.”
The study adds more anecdotal corroboration that the DMT psychedelic experience is unique from other drugs.
First discovered as a psychoactive agent by Hungarian psychopharmacologist Stephen Szara in the 1950s, DMT is a psychedelic compound of the tryptamine family. It’s the only psychedelic that is found both in nature and produced naturally by the human body. Because its chemical structure strongly resemble neurotransmitters, particularly serotonin, some refer to it as ‘nature’s serotonin.’
As an endogenous chemical, produced naturally by the human body, it has also been referred to as the “brain’s own psychedelic.”
In the early 1990s, psychiatrist Rick Strassman conducted some of the first human DMT trials and was shocked by a trend he saw. There was a significant prevalence of patients who described their DMT experience some sort of contact or communication with interdimensional entities.
The patients strongly believed they had entered some kind of realm where intelligent “beings”, “entities”, “aliens”, “guides”, or “helpers” were working. Though they appeared differently for different people – sometimes as reptiles, spiders, geometric shapes, stick figures, etc. The common thread for most of the patients was that DMT did not produce a hallucination but rather acted as a kind of biological portal to a different dimension or level of reality that we normally can’t see.
These entities appeared in different ways for different people, but most often as “clowns, reptiles, mantises, bees, spiders, cacti, and stick figures.”
Legendary ethnobotanist and writer Terrence McKenna, who experimented with many different psychedelics, became a major advocate of DMT. Between 1967 to 1994, McKenna smoked DMT 30 to 40 times.
In an interview in The Archaic Revival (1992) Mckenna said:
“It was really the DMT that empowered my commitment to the psychedelic experience. DMT was so much more powerful, so much more alien, raising all kinds of issues about what is reality, what is language, what is the self, what is three-dimensional space and time, all the questions I became involved with over the next twenty years or so.”
He describes the DMT experience as a hyperdimensional reality that can not be described or “downloaded” by human language, “a fundamentally different order than any other experience this side of the yawning grave.”
“What arrests my attention is the fact that this space is inhabited — that the immediate impression as you break into it is there’s a cheer. […] You break into this space and are immediately swarmed by squeaking, self-transforming elf-machines…made of light and grammar and sound that come chirping and squealing and tumbling toward you. And they say, “Hooray! Welcome! You’re here!” And in my case, “You send so many and you come so rarely!”
McKenna, a famously eccentric though revered social philosopher, was fully convinced DMT established a portal between humans and one or more of the following: extraterrestrials, entities in a parallel dimension, dead humans, or humans from the future.
A surprising number of other scientists and medical professionals have agreed with this. Though he did not form a definitive conclusion, Rick Strassman, who later went on to write the popular book DMT: The Spirit Molecule (which inspired the popular eponymous documentary), studied the release of DMT in the brain at the moment of death and during dreams. Ultimately, his research left him confused and overwhelmed.
Dovetailing with his research into Zen Buddhism, he stated:
“I worked through various models’ methods of understanding the DMT volunteers’ experiences, and found them wanting. The Buddhist psychological model didn’t comport with the data – the “more real than real” element of volunteers’ experiences (Buddhism proposes these phenomena are all generated by the mind, rather than “real” observations of external reality); [this] did nothing to suggest a satisfactory evolutionary explanation for the presence of DMT in the human body.”
Pharmacologist and medicinal chemist Dr. David Nichols said he could not discount the possibility that DMT really does grant some kind of extra-dimensional contact.
“There are probably conscious, sentient beings that don’t look like life as we recognize it,” Strassman said in an interview, “that maybe exist at some level of existence that we don’t have any awareness of. The universe is 95% dark matter/dark energy; we don’t even understand what gravity is. So the possibility that there are intelligences that exist at some other wavelength or in some other dimension or some other frequency I don’t think is out of the realm of possibility at all.“
Of course not everyone believes these hallucinations are anything more than powerful archetypes.
In 2004, author James Kent, who wrote Psychedelic Information Theory — Shamanism in the Age of Reason, wrote that “humans across all cultures have alien and heavenly archetypes embedded in their subconscious, and psychedelic tryptamines can access the archetypes with a high level of success.”
Kent embarked on his own immersion journalism adventure with DMT and tried to extract information from the ‘entities’ that otherwise would not have been available to him. He said he could not.
So is DMT just a particularly powerful hallucination generated when the brain has its visual processing system hijacked by a tryptamine or is Mckenna right when he says it allows the user to access an alternate reality where there’s a “raging universe of active intelligence that is transhuman, hyperdimensional, and extremely alien”?
The new study provides some interesting data that, though anecdotal, suggests that DMT provides the user with an “ontological shock” that may be able to rewire negative psychological patterns.
The researchers write in their paper that “it is possible that, under appropriate supportive set and setting conditions, DMT could show promise as an adjunct to therapy for people with mood and behavioral problems (e.g. depression and addiction).”
Recent research on DMT by Brazilian scientists additionally “suggest[s] that classic psychedelics are powerful inducers of neuroplasticity, a tool of psychobiological transformation that we know very little about.”
Future research, therefore, could help get DMT removed from the list of Schedule 1 drugs, where it currently sits alongside heroin and marijuana.