Dynamics of Early DMT Research
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A lot of interest centered around supporting Dr. Rick Strassman's psychopharmacological research in the 1990's. Over 60 participants administered the psychedelic drug DMT during this experimental research phase. Second to experimentation in the 60's this was the first federally funded experimental research by the United States government. Dr. Rick Strassman confirmed a lot about the psychotropic properties that originate with DMT, scientifically known as Dimethyltryptamine. This drug has long been consumed by indigenous Amazonian cultures in the form of the an Ayahuasca tea, which is extracted from the Banisteriopsis caapi vine in South America.
Strassman has stated that a lot of people supported the project both on a private level and with the government funding. The most difficult part of the entire experiment was getting clinical grade DMT to the volunteers, said Strassman. It took the majority of the researcher’s time just getting the extracted plant compound and measuring out the proper dosages. Another difficult thing Dr. Strassman said he ran into was, that even with his high standing academic credentials and biological research work in the 80's, he was turned down by 19 of 21 medical schools in which he had applied for the research. Overall the main issue was getting the Food and Drug Administration to talk with the Drug Enforcement Agency in order to open up communications in giving the go ahead on the experiment.
The DMT experiment lasted from between 1990 and 1995, with scientists administering DMT to 60 volunteers with nearly 100 doses of DMT over this extended period. It was to be a straight forward psychopharmacology dose study, with no outrageous claims, and Dr. Strassman said it was to be kept simple. Strassman knew he could get permission from authorities that would oversee the project if done in a scientific manner, all under safe conditions to administer the chemical and record precise data on the drug’s effects. Strassman said the dosages could be measured so that people wouldn't be killed during the process, nor would they become mentally insane, or revert to notions of further substance use. Strassman has noted that in the 1960's a great hysteria was created and put a bad stigma on these drugs. He knew this was one of the most important things to avoid in his experiments with DMT, so he sought to make it purely research oriented for the future of medicinal discovery and its effects on both humans and animals.
Dr. Rick Strassman's study reported correlations between both humans and lower animal forms in the way these psychedelic drugs work on the brain. Creating a unique measurement process, Strassman quantified the various aspects of the DMT experience and has stated that these refined measurements allowed the researchers to get numerical data on the stages and subjective nature of the psychedelic agent. The numerical data was a breakthrough, but the written documentation of the volunteer’s subjective experience during their time under the effects of the drug showed much more. Effects of DMT on the participants were similar to the reports described by people who have had near death experiences as well as those who have had deep meditation practices – Spiritual experiences were a common theme. Strassman saw this correlation between spiritual experiences without psychedelics and spiritual experiences on them as a sign that they must be closely related to a common biological function in the brain. At one time, Strassman compared the psychedelic state of DMT to the state of Buddhist enlightenment, but he suggested that the psychedelic state may be more similar to the visions found in Western spiritualities.
The traditional eastern art practices of meditation and the Buddhist state of enlightenment have been said to leave individuals with a sense of emptiness, a state without form or thought, having no contents, feelings, or even body to feel sensations. Volunteers reported that their experiences were highly interactive and relational to beings of light (spiritual guides) that consisted of light. These beings had questions and answers, magical properties that were passed back and forth between the two, as well as maintenance of the self by spoken words and intellectual exchanges between the person and the being.
Dr. Strassman explained that the consistency of his reports, being both strange and similar in detail, was one of the most remarkable findings of the DMT experiments. “At first I was startled by people’s strange stories about the experience,” Strassman has said, “Yet, year after year they became more consistent.” This suggested that perhaps an alternate reality may exist.
- Brandon Petty