by Jesse Jarnow, The Influence, Waking Times
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by The Influence, and is reprinted here with permission.
Known in drug lore as “the businessman’s trip” for its lunch-break-sized 15-minute duration, DMT (N,N-dimethyltryptamine) is infamous for blasting its users into vivid alien worlds. It’s among the most literally hallucinogenic of all the psychedelics. Now, a pair of veteran researchers have proposed a method to safely extend the experience beyond its short length.
Dr. Rick Strassman and Dr. Andrew Gallimore published their paper in Frontiers in Psychology last month, under the name “A Model for the Application of Target-Controlled Intravenous Infusion for a Prolonged Immersive DMT Psychedelic Experience.” Its implications could turn DMT research on its head, allowing for new scientific (and potentially, medical) insights into the principle ingredient in ayahuasca.
Using techniques borrowed from anesthesiology, the method will regulate the amount of DMT in the body and, more importantly, the brain. Though still untested on no-doubt-willing psychonauts, Strassman and Gallimore’s technology is all but ready for assembly.
Strassman, author of DMT: The Spirit Molecule (2001) and DMT and the Soul of Prophecy (2014) and the world’s foremost clinical DMT researcher, argues that the substance provides access to what users experience as mystical states, comparable to those described in the Hebrew Bible.
Gallimore, a computational neurobiologist, is also a historical scholar of DMT. His overview “DMT Research from 1956 to the Edge of Time” recounts a wide range of possibilities that researchers have offered over the years (including the notion that DMT is a doorway into an alternate universe). Other theories involve its role in human brain at the time of death, as well as countless South American beliefs inseparable from ayahuasca and DMT snuff traditions. Perhaps the only universal experience of smoked DMT is its brevity.
“DMT has a number of pharmacological peculiarities,” says British-born Gallimore, who is also a chemist and pharmacologist, and currently works at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology in Japan.
Besides being nontoxic, he says, “it’s very short acting, and it doesn’t exhibit subjective tolerance with repeated use. This is quite remarkable, because all other psychedelics exhibit very rapid tolerance, so you have to wait for days before you can get the same effect. This lack of subjective tolerance suggested to me that you could use a continuous drip-feed of DMT rather than a bullous injection, which is what Rick used [in his ‘90s studies]. It gets a very rapid peak effect. And that’s fine for the work he wanted to do. But if you want to study the DMT state more thoroughly…”
Both Gallimore and Strassman had come across a 2005 German study that attempted to extend the DMT state, but neither was satisfied with the methodology, the data, nor the results, which seemed to indicate a number of freaked-out volunteers.
“My idea was to think about what anesthesiologists do,” says Gallimore. “It’s a really interesting area of medicine. A lot of modern anesthesiology is based on the pharmacokinetic models of these drugs that allow you to simulate the level of drug in the brain. Using this model, you can actually program an infusion machine, to control the infusion rate of the drug such that the level of the drug remains a constant level within some particular window with some degree of accuracy.”
Recalling that Strassman had collected “pharmacokinetic curves… of DMT in the blood over time,” he contacted Strassman, who is based in New Mexico, and asked if he could use his blood sample data to create the new model. And so their collaboration was born.
“The psychotherapeutic applications of a continuous infusion are appealing,” says Strassman. “This would be an extension of the repeated dose study [detailed in DMT: The Spirit Molecule] where we found that it was extremely useful for volunteers to be able to process what they had just undergone—now in a relatively sober state for the 5-10 minutes of clarity between doses—in preparation for the upcoming session. There seemed to be a progression of themes and content throughout the morning, and working with trained psychotherapists optimized whatever psychological work they were accomplishing during those sessions.”
It’s important, of course, to prioritize study participants’ well-being.
“There clearly need to be safeguards in place,” Strassman says. “One would be the establishment of pre-arranged signals from the volunteer indicating that they wish to come out of the DMT state. In addition, there would need to be built in certain time and dose limits, which would automatically come into play in order to assure that the volunteer is doing all right.”
One exciting possibility of extending the duration is the ability to make MRI scans of the DMT-journeying brain for the first time. With teams at London’s Imperial College recently completing the first ever MRI brain scans involving LSD and psilocybin, it seems likely that DMT might follow…
About the Author
Jesse Jarnow is the author of Heads: A Biography of Psychedelic America (Da Capo, 2016). His most recent article for The Influence was “Seven Discoveries From 1960s Issues of ‘Micro-Gram,’ the Government’s Secretive Drugs Memo.” He tweets at @HeadsNewsand publishes the weekly Heads News bulletin.
**This article is re-printed here with permission from The Influence, a site covering the full spectrum of human relationships with drugs. Follow them on Facebook and on Twitter.**