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:
Psychedelic Research Finds Ego Exists in The Default Mode Network
Researchers studying psychedelics have found themselves in the midst of a scientific renaissance as taboos fade and their work yields profound results. One possibly groundbreaking discovery could be a brain mechanism that seems to be responsible for our ego; the Default Mode Network (DMN). While implications of the DMN’s role during mystical experiences have been inferred in the past, new insights into its precise mechanism explain much more.
Michael Pollan’s latest book titled How to Change Your Mind, in which he, an admittedly skeptical atheist, took a subjective journalistic approach to psychedelic substances by consuming the DMT-containing ayahuasca, magic mushrooms, and LSD. Pollan broke down many misconceptions and fallacies modern society created to instill a fear of substances once believed to have a high potential for abuse and no medical applications.
As it turns out, psychedelic research has revealed a new understanding of normal brain behavior. And one of the most fascinating discoveries shows that the behavior of the DMN during the psychedelic experience might show us how we fall into states of depression, addiction, and unimaginative thought.
So what exactly is the DMN?