Study Finds DMT Induces Trip Similar to Near Death Experience
There have long been anecdotal similarities between Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) and psychedelic trips induced by Dimethyltryptamine, or DMT. Within these experiences there are uncanny parallels, including out-of-body-experiences, traveling down a tunnel toward a white light, meetings with extra-dimensional or divine entities, and a feeling of being at peace. Then upon return to reality, there is often an overwhelming sense of gratitude for simply being alive that lingers indefinitely.
And now a study conducted at London’s Imperial College has been the first to scientifically compare these resemblances.
The study, which was headed by the young impresario of the university’s Psychedelic Research Group, Robin Carhart-Harris, administered DMT intravenously to 13 participants who had prior experience using psychedelics ranging from DMT, to psilocybin and LSD.
Two traits the study tested were the commonly reported ego-dissolution and the mystical or religious experience. To qualify these highly subjective experiences, they used two standardized tests created by colleagues: The Mystical Experience Questionnaire and the Validation of the Ego-Dissolution Inventory (EDI).
In their experiment, Carhart-Harris and colleagues administered a range of doses to participants in a single-blind study over two sessions, of which one session only a placebo was given.
Their results showed that every participant rated their DMT experience above the conventional cutoff for an NDE, essentially ranking the DMT trip higher than the minimum level one might consider an experience to be an NDE. They concluded, “results show that near-death experience phenomena were significantly enhanced following DMT administration.”
Watch this episode of Psychedelica in which we explore the scientific studies being conducted with DMT: The Spirit Molecule:
The theme of death and rebirth is also rife within the ayahuasca experience. The names of the plants used to create the ayahuasca brew contain references to death, while the word ayahuasca translates to ‘vine of the dead’ or ‘vine of the soul.
Not so surprisingly, when Raymond Moody coined the phrase “Near-Death Experience” in 1975, he actually noted the comparisons between NDEs and DMT trips. Today, after four decades of clinical research and a relaxation of certain taboos, the study of DMT has revealed it is an endogenous chemical, produced in varying quantities in the lungs and in cerebral spinal fluid.
When the DMT molecule was studied in a lab by Dr. Rick Strassman – head of the first clinical study to administer DMT in the United States – he found that it minimized neuronal damage from hypoxia, a lack of oxygen in the brain. This discovery led Strassman to entertain the idea that maybe the body releases DMT in emergency situations when the brain’s oxygen supply is dwindling, producing the psychedelic NDE. Could this explain the similarities?
Watch Dr. Raymond Moody discuss Near Death Experiences on this episode of Beyond Belief:
Ayahuasca Study Shows Breakthrough in Resolving Intercultural Conflict
Can plant medicines heal long-standing, sociopolitical conflicts? A new study brought together groups with deep-rooted enmity for each other in an ayahuasca ceremony—could this be the solution for a more peaceful world?
Plant medicines, including ayahuasca and psilocybin from “magic mushrooms” have become breakthrough therapeutic modalities for treating depression, anxiety, and addiction, as taboos around psychedelics fade and scientists study their effects in sanctioned clinical settings. And now a group of scientists from the US, UK, and Israel has begun to look at ayahuasca as a tool for resolving intercultural conflict. By bringing together Israelis and Palestinians for a group ceremony, the researchers looked for signs of reconciliation and intergroup contact between the subjects.
Dr. Maya Shetreat MD, is a neurologist and herbalist specializing in plant medicine and psychedelic-assisted therapy. She had this to say about the recent study…
“We should definitely be able to experience significant shifts in identity politics because we know that psychedelic medicines like ayahuasca or psilocybin have these ego-dissolving properties that change the way our brains see us, see our identity, and perceive us as being separate from one another,” Dr. Shetreat said. “So, theoretically it’s possible that any kind of identity issues, whether it be political or otherwise, could be more in a place of resolution because people can see past differences.”
Results of this recent study proved to be profound, with several participants reporting visions in which they re-lived trauma from the perspective of those from the opposite culture. And in one instance, a participant was able to embody a single experience from both perspectives.
But while these results held significant weight for those involved, how does this translate at a larger scale?
“You know we have to ask the question, is it really necessary for everyone to be in ceremony and go through a psychedelic experience in order to create change? And actually, I think there’s an argument that it doesn’t take that many people, not everybody has to be in that role and enter that liminal space. The people who are called and the people who are motivated to engage with the medicine have those revelations, integrate, take action, and actually lead other people to see those connections that other people might not be able to see,” Dr. Shetreat said.