#137: DMT: Dr. Rick Strassman’s Breakthrough Work With “The Spirit Molecule”

July 15, 2016

Ever heard of DMT (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine)?

It’s a naturally occurring psychedelic made in the body.  Yes, your body is manufacturing trace amounts of DMT right now.  And humans aren’t the only ones making DMT; many plants and animals from rats to sea sponges produce it, too.

And yet, despite its being so pervasive in the natural world, science is still not sure what it actually does.

Intrigued?  You’re not the only one.

Dr. Rick Strassman is something of a legend in the psychedelic research community.  His studies in the early 1990s re-opened a door that had been securely bolted for almost three decades:  studying psychedelic compounds on human subjects.  And he managed to do so with the strongest psychedelic known to man (spoiler alert: it’s DMT).

DMT is so interesting that entire books could be written about it.  And they have been.  Dr. Strassman’s research eventually led to a book, DMT:  The Spirit Molecule, which detailed his studies into DMT and their fascinating results – as reported by the DMT-recipient research subjects.

Stranger Things

Straight off the bat, there are few strange things about DMT:

  • Your brain needs DMT to functional normally.  That’s right — your brain needs a hallucinogen to functional properly.
  • Guess where in your body DMT is synthesized.  Go on, we’ll wait.  It’s… your lungs.  Weird, right?
  • DMT is “an archaic psychedelic.”  The production of DMT is controlled by a very old gene and is even seen in sponges (a primitive creature if there ever was one).

The Experience of DMT

DMT is unusual in other ways.

It’s a unique psychedelic experience due to the short-lived, but intense nature of the trip.  In the first few seconds after taking it, there’s a powerful feeling of speed — a rush — accompanied by a sound like the crinkling of saran wrap.  The room pixelates, and you feel disembodied. Within 30 seconds, you’ve entered “a world of light,” that’s the brightest, most colorful you can imagine.  The light might coalesce into recognizable physical shapes, or you might just have an extreme feeling of ecstasy.  During the peak, you won’t be able to talk.

The trip is profound, but short.  The main peak takes place within just a few minutes.  You’ll start coming back down to earth in 20 – 25 minutes, and after 30 minutes you could theoretically drive a car.

You can take DMT in a variety of ways, including vaporizing it, intramuscularly, and intravenously.  Injecting it intramuscularly results in a slower onset than vaporizing or intravenous injection, with effects taking a few minutes to be felt. Compare this to the 30 seconds intravenous injection takes.

Unlike other psychedelics, you won’t develop any tolerance to DMT, even if you take it every day.  You’ll still respond the same way to the same dose.  By the way, a threshold dose of DMT is 0.2mg, while a high dose is double that at 0.4mg.

How Does DMT Work?

Continuing our theme that DMT is special, it’s the only psychedelic compound that enters the human brain via “active transport.”  This means your brain actually expands energy to move DMT through the blood-brain barrier and into the brain.

Why is your brain so eager to get ahold of DMT?  Well, that’s a mystery, made even stranger that DMT only exists in the body in extremely small, almost untraceable amount.  What’s more, there’s no agreement as to why DMT exists in the human body at all.

PS:  Fascinated by mysteries of your brain?  We are too, so don’t miss our weekly email!

Read Full Transcript
Show Notes
  • 00:00:45

    Introduction to Dr. Rick Strassman

  • 00:02:15

    This Week in Neuroscience: Rats feel empathy for other rats

  • 00:05:45

    The Flynn Effect and a television opportunity for college-age listeners

  • 00:06:43

    Axon Labs turns 1!

  • 00:07:49

    Dimethyltryptamine (DMT)

  • 00:10:14

    The beginning of DMT research

  • 00:12:08

    Commonalities between deep levels of mediation and psychedelics

  • 00:14:01

    The DMT gene

  • 00:16:41

    Where is DMT produced in the body?

  • 00:20:43

    Is DMT the only psychedelic that gets transported over the blood-brain barrier?

  • 00:21:23

    How to get a "psychedelically productive" dose

  • 00:26:26

    The chances that DMT's effects were discovered at all

  • 00:27:58

    The perceptual effects during a DMT trip

  • 00:33:09

    Continuous infusion and repeated dosing of DMT and other psychedelics

  • 00:38:50

    The threshold between a psychedelic and a stimulant-like experience

  • 00:40:23

    What Dr. Strassman and Jesse would like to see next in DMT research and popularizers of psychedelic trip effects

  • 00:46:46

    Dr. Strassman's most recent work and DMT's role in where we "fit" in the universe

  • 00:52:05

    Ruthless Listener-Retention Gimmick: Why Do We Have Smell Receptors Outside Our Noses?


  1. Anonymous says:

    Joe Rogan would like this.

  2. George says:

    There has been someone that might have had an extended trip. This guy claims to have had 24 hour DMT trip intravenously nonstop. Check it out if you’d like

    1. Jesse Lawler says:

      Thanks George. Unless I’m missing something, it looked like that was a “part one” blog entry with no “part two” ever posted… Curious, but left hanging. 😐

  3. TheObserverantOm says:

    Science doesn’t know, because science isn’t open minded. DMT is both a key and a thread. It’s the key to other worlds. And it’s the thread that hold the veil together between all of them.

    1. Jesse Lawler says:

      I’m afraid I can’t let trash-talking science go un-rebutted. “Science” by definition is open-minded to an idea until that idea has been experimentally falsified. This doesn’t mean that all scientists follow this rule to the letter, but it’s the idea that science is founded on — disproving hypotheses and whittling down to what’s left. Progressive whittling gets ever closer to the needle of truth in the haystack of possibility. Disrespecting science on the Internet is fairly unambiguous hypocrisy. Without science, we would have no Internet.

  4. Iamanan Emmanuel says:

    I’m Brazilian and have proudly been taking ayahuasca since I was born. It’s the best healing experience anyone could have.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to top