From 1990 to 1995 Dr. rick Strassman conducted Dea-Approved clinical research at University of New Mexico in which he injected sixty volunteers with DMT, one of the most powerful psychedelics known, His detailed account of those sessions is an extraordinarily riveting inquiry into the nature of the human mind and the therapeutic potential of psychedelics. DMT, a plant –derived chemical that is also manufactured by the human brain, consistently produced near-death and mystical experiences. Many volunteers reported convincing encounters with intelligent nonhuman presences, especially "aliens." Nearly all felt that the sessions were among the most profound experiences of their lives.
Strassman’s research connects DMT with the pineal gland, considered by Hindus to be the site of the seventh Chakra and by Rene Descartes to be seat of the soul. DMT: The Spirit Molecule makes the bold case that DMT naturally release by the pineal gland facilitates the soul’s movement in and out of the body and is an integral part of the birth and death experiences, as well as the highest states of meditation and even sexual transcendence. Strassman also believes that alien abduction experiences are brought on by accidental releases of DMT. If used wisely, DMT could trigger a period of remarkable progress in the scientific exploration of the most mystical regions of the human mind and soul.
A native of Los Angeles, Rick Strassman holds degrees from Stanford
University and Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University
Dr. Strassman took his internship and general psychiatry residency at the
University of California, Davis, Medical Center in Sacramento, and received
the Sandoz Award for outstanding graduating resident in 1981. He spent the
years as a tenured professor at the University of New Mexico, performing
clinical research investigating the function of the pineal hormone melatonin
He also began the first new U.S.-government-approved-and-funded clinic
research with psychedelic drugs in over twenty years.
Dr. Strassman has published thirty peer-reviewed scientific papers
and serves as a reviewer for several psychiatric research journals. He
has been a consultant to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, National
Institute on Drug Abuse, Veterans' Administration Hospitals, Social
Security Administration, and other state and local agencies. He currently
practices psychiatry in Taos, New Mexico, and is Clinical Associate
Professor of Psychiatry in the UNM School of Medicine. Dr. Strassman’s
In 1990 I began the first new research in the United States in over twenty
years on the effects of psychedelic, or hallucinogenic, drugs on humans.
These studies investigated the effects of N,N-dimethyltryptamine, or DMT,
an extremely short-acting and powerful psychedelic. During the project's
five years, I administered approximately four hundred doses of DMT to
sixty human volunteers. This research took place at the University of New
Mexico's School of Medicine in Albuquerque, where I was tenured Associate Professor of Psychiatry.
I was drawn to DMT because of its presence in all of our bodies. I
believed the source of this DMT was the mysterious pineal gland, a tiny
organ situated in the center of our brains. Modern medicine knows little
about this little gland's role, but it has a rich "metaphysical" history.
Descartes, for example, believed the pineal was the "seat of the soul,"
and both Western and Eastern mystical traditions place our highest spiritual center within its confines. I therefore wondered if excessive pineal
DMT production was involved in naturally occurring "psychedelic" states.
These might include birth, death and near-death, psychosis, and mystical
experiences. Only later, when the study was well underway, did I also
begin considering DMT's role in the "alien abduction" experience.
The DMT project was founded on cutting-edge brain science, especially that which dealt with the psychopharmacology of serotonin. However,
my own background, which included a decades-long relationship with a
Zen Buddhist training monastery, powerfully affected how we prepared
people for, and supervised, their drug sessions.
DMT: The Spirit Molecule reviews what we know about psychedelic
drugs in general, and DMT in particular. It then traces the DMT research
project from its earliest intimations through a maze of committees and
review boards to its actual performance.
Although all of us believed in the potentially beneficial properties of
psychedelic drugs, the studies were not intended to be therapeutic, and
so our research subjects were healthy volunteers. The project generated a
wealth of biological and psychological data, much of which I have already
published in the scientific literature. On the other hand, I have written
nearly nothing about volunteers' stories. I hope the many excerpts I have
included here, taken from over one thousand pages of my notes, will provide a sense of the remarkable emotional, psychological, and spiritual
effects of this chemical.
Problems inside and outside of the research environment led to the
end of these studies in 1995. Despite the difficulties we encountered, I
am optimistic about the possible benefits of the controlled use of psychedelic drugs. Based upon what we learned in the New Mexico research, I
offer a wide-ranging vision for DMT's role in our lives and conclude by
proposing a research agenda and optimal setting for future work with DMT
and related drugs.
The late Willis Harman possessed one of the most discerning minds to
apply itself to the field of psychedelic research. Earlier in his career, he
and his colleagues administered LSD to scientists in an attempt to bolster
their problem-solving skills. They found that LSD demonstrated a powerfully beneficial effect on creativity. This landmark research remains the
first and only scientific project to use psychedelics to enhance the creative process. When I met Willis thirty years later, in 1994, he was president of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, an organization founded by the
sixth man to walk on the moon, Edgar Mitchell. Mitchell's mystical experience, stimulated by viewing Earth on his return home, inspired him to
study phenomena outside the range of traditional science that nevertheless might yield to a broader application of the scientific method.
During a long walk together along the central California coastal range
one day, Willis said firmly, "At the very least, we must enlarge the discussion about psychedelics." It is in response to his request that I include in
this book highly speculative ideas and my own personal motivations for
performing this research.
This approach will satisfy no one in every respect. There is intense
friction between what we know intellectually, or even intuitively, and what
we experience with the aid of DMT. As one of our volunteers exclaimed
after his first high-dose session, "Wow! I never expected that!" Or as
Dogen, a thirteenth-century Japanese Buddhist teacher, said, "We must
always be disturbed by the truth."
Enthusiasts of the psychedelic drug culture may dislike my conclusion: that DMT has no beneficial effects in and of itself; that rather, the
context in which people take it is at least as important. Proponents of drug
control may condemn what they read as encouragement to take psychedelic drugs and a glorification of the DMT experience. Practitioners and
spokespersons of traditional religions may reject the suggestion that spiritual states can be accessed, and mystical information gained, through
drugs. Those who have undergone "alien abduction," and their advocates,
may interpret my suggestion that DMT is intimately involved in these
events as a challenge to the "reality" of their experiences. Opponents and
supporters of abortion rights may find fault with my proposal that a pineal
DMT release at forty-nine days after conception marks the entrance of the
spirit into the fetus. Brain researchers may object to the suggestion that
DMT affects the brain's ability to receive information, rather than only
generating those perceptions. They also may dismiss the proposal that
DMT can allow our brains to perceive dark matter or parallel universes,
realms of existence inhabited by conscious entities.
However, if I did not describe all the ideas behind the DMT studies,
and the entire range of our volunteers' experiences, I would not be telling
the entire tale. And without the radical proposals I offer in an attempt to
understand volunteers' sessions, DMT: The Spirit Molecule might have, at
Best, little effect on the scope of discussion about psychedelics; at worst, the book would reduce the field. Nor would I be honest if I did not share my own speculations and theories. Which are based on decades of study and listening to hundreds of DMT sessions. This is why I did it. This is what happened. This is what I think about it.
One morning in December 1990, I gave both Philip and Nils an injection of a large dose of intravenous DMT. These two men were the first
people in the study to receive DMT, and they were helping me determine
the best dose and manner of injecting it. They were our "human guinea
Two weeks earlier, I had given the very first dose of DMT to Philip. As
I will describe, the intramuscular injection, into his shoulder, didn't give
completely satisfactory results. We then switched to the intravenous route,
and Nils received the drug that way for the first time a week later. Nils's
reaction indicated that the dose we gave him was too low. So today Philip
and Nils were going to receive substantially higher doses of intravenous
It was hard to believe we really were giving DMT to human volunteers. A two-year process of obtaining permission and funding, which I
felt would never end, was finally over. Attaining the goal never seemed as
likely as the continual struggle to do so.
Philip and Nils both had previous experience with DMT, and I was
glad they did. About a year before starting our study, they had attended a
ceremony in which a Peruvian folk healer gave all participants ayahuasca,
the legendary DMT-containing tea. The two men were enthusiastic about
this orally active form of DMT and were eager to smoke pure DMT the
next day, when a member of the workshop made it available. They wanted
to feel its effects in a much more immediate and intense manner than the
tea form allowed.
Philip's and Nils's experiences smoking DMT were typical: a startlingly
rapid onset of effects, a kaleidoscopic display of visual hallucinations, and
a separation of consciousness from the physical body. And, most curiously,
there was a feeling of "the other" somewhere within the hallucinatory world
to which this remarkable psychedelic allowed them entrance.
Their prior experience with DMT was a very important aspect of bringing them in as the first volunteers. Philip and Nils were familiar with the
effects of DMT. Even more crucial, they were familiar with the effects of
smoking the drug, which would help them gauge the adequacy of the two
different administration methods I was considering, intramuscular (IM) or
intravenous (IV), in reproducing the full effects of the smoking route. Since
recreational users of DMT usually smoke it, I wanted to approximate as
closely as possible the effects as they occur when taken in this manner.
On the day Philip received the first dose of DMT by the intramuscular route, I already was thinking ahead. Perhaps the 1M method might be
too slow and mild compared to smoking the drug. What I had read about
IM DMT suggested it took up to a minute to start working, substantially
longer than when it was smoked. However, since all but one of the previously published human research papers on DMT reported giving it
intramuscularly, I was obliged to begin this way. This older literature suggested that the dose I was to give Philip, 1 milligram per kilogram (mg!
kg), about 75 mg, probably would be a moderately high dose.
Philip was forty-five years old when he began participating in our
research. Bespectacled, bearded, and of medium height and build, he
was an internationally known clinical psychologist, psychotherapist, and
work hop leader. He was soft-spoken but direct, and he elicited great
affection from his friends and clients.
At the time, Philip was beginning a divorce that would become especially long and difficult. His life had been marked by many deep changes,
losses, and gains, and he seemed to take the good and the bad with the
same equanimity. He liked to say that the title of his self-help best-seller
would be Surviving Your Life.
At least five years had passed since I last gave an IM injection of any-
thing to anyone, and I was nervous about administering the first dose of
DMT this way. What if I missed? The last time I gave such an injection, I
probably had been giving the antipsychotic drug haloperidol to an agitated
patient with psychosis. These patients often had their arms and legs tied
down by psychiatric orderlies or the police beforehand, to make sure their
disorganized and frightened behavior didn't end in violence. This also kept
the patients' arms in a relatively stable position for my injection.
I tried remembering the confidence with which I previously gave IM
hots, since I had performed hundreds in the past. The Secret was to think
of the syringe as a dart. We were taught in medical school to pretend you
were throwing this dart into the rounded deltoid muscle of the shoulder,
or the gluteus maximus muscle of the buttocks. A single, fluid motion,
lightening the pressure just as the needle pierced the muscle through the
skin, usually produced excellent results. We practiced on grapefruits.
Philip, however, was neither a grapefruit nor an acutely psychotic
patient delivered up to me for involuntary tranquilization. He was a professional colleague, friend, and research volunteer on equal footing with
me and my staff. Philip was to be the scout. Cindy, our research nurse,
and I were to remain at "base camp," to hear about where he went after
Practicing my technique in the air, I walked down the hall and entered Philip's room.
Philip lay in bed; his new girlfriend, Robin, sat nearby. The cuff of a
blood pressure machine was loosely wrapped around his arm. We would
check his heart rate and blood pressure frequently throughout the session.
I explained what was going to happen: "I'll wipe your shoulder with
Some alcohol. Take as much time as you need to collect yourself. Then I'll
inject the needle into your arm, draw back to make sure I'm not in a blood
vessel, and then push in the plunger on the syringe. It might sting, or it
might not. I don't really know. You ought to feel something in a minute or
less. But I'm not sure what that something will be. You're the fir t."
Philip closed his eyes for a moment as he prepared to venture into
unknown territory, worlds only he would perceive, leaving us behind to
look after his life functions. He opened his eyes widely to briefly gaze at
us one more time, then closed them again, took a deep breath, and on his
exhalation said, "I'm ready."
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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