DMT is a drug many of you will have no doubt heard of. To all intents and purposes, DMT is heavy. In fact, it’s heavy with a capital H-E-A-V-Y.
Having said that, it’s no party drug. It’s not the kind of thing you toke on and have a friendly chat about aliens and the latest Bond movie. This stuff, by all accounts, unwraps the meaning of existence and steadfastly refuses to put the wrapper back on.
DMT is a hallucinogen, but it is way outside of shrooms or even LSD. It is the mother of psychedelics. According to Terence McKenna, a seasoned drug taker who has toured the world talking about the benefits and wonder of hallucinogens, DMT is “the most powerful hallucinogen known to man and science.”
Further on we’ll look at some quotes from McKenna about the way DMT feels, and what he has taken from it, because, quite frankly, it sounds epic, and more than a little bit terrifying.
But first of all…
What The Hell Is DMT?
In its basic form, DMT is N,N-Dimethyltryptamine. It is similar in structure to melatonin (a neurotransmitter involved in sleep/wake cycles) and serotonin (the “happy” molecule). It is a fairly small molecule, which only makes its extreme effects all the more intriguing.
It has been consumed by Amazonians for thousands of years via ayahuasca, but its pedigree goes even deeper than that. The molecule is found in a multitude of plant and animal species, even mushrooms and moulds. It has been lovingly conserved by evolution.
If a molecule is found in identical forms in humans, rabbits, frogs and plants, it means it has been present throughout evolution, so it must do something important. A lot has changed in between plants and humans, but the fact that DMT has remained unchanged for millions or billions of years means it must play a pretty major role somewhere along the line.
The exact work of DMT within the human body is not well understood. It works at a variety of receptors, including many types of serotonin and some dopamine receptors. It seems to play a role in the immune system, too.
The trippy effects of DMT were first scientifically investigated by a Hungarian chemist and psychologist – Dr. Stephen Szára in the 50s. Szára had turned his attention to DMT after his order for LSD from a Swiss company was rejected on the grounds that the powerful psychotropic could be dangerous in the hands of a communist country.
The drug is illegal for recreational purposes in the UK and US. In the UK it is a class A substance. So don’t get any ideas. However, if you are in America and a member of the Holy Church of the Light, you are legally allowed to buy, import and prepare ayahuasca tea. However, I assume you aren’t a member.
What Does DMT Do?
To get the full effect of DMT it must be inhaled or injected (but I’m not suggesting you do, of course). If it is consumed orally it is broken down by enzymes.
The hallucinations generally start within 45 seconds and last 15 minutes or so, and, if the descriptions are to be believed, that will be an intense, life-changing quarter of an hour.
DMT, although it doesn’t seem to be chemically addictive, does have some physical effects. According to Dr. Rick Strassman, an expert on DMT and its experience, says that it slightly elevates blood pressure, heart rate, pupil diameter and rectal temperature. It also elevates blood concentrations of a number of psychoactive naturally occurring compounds.
As for its role in the human (and mammalian) brain, the jury is out. Some believe it has a role in dreams, others think it might be involved in high-level sensory processing and perhaps works as a neurotransmitter.
Some believe that DMT’s release from the pineal gland (where it is created and found in abundance) might explain near death experiences.
Yeah, But What Does It FEEL Like?
McKenna, and others who have given DMT a bash, all report meeting strange creatures on their trip. They refer to these beings as “machine elves.” Also referred to as “fractal elves,” these funny friendly little chaps are theorised to be part of the alien abduction experiences that so many report. Could it be that DMT released whilst you’re half asleep and half awake causes such an experience? Possibly.
Another thread that runs through many of DMT user’s experiences is a lack of words to describe the experience. The trip appears both fleetingly dreamlike, and solidly real. Human language seems unable to handle the intensity, strangeness and otherworldliness. If LSD takes you to another level, DMT takes you up and over that level and back down the other side with bells on.
First Hand DMT Accounts
Terence McKenna, who I briefly mentioned above, first took DMT in the 1960s. Over the next thirty years he would smoke this orange, waxy substance 30-40 times.
He was a regular LSD consumer and no stranger to hallucinogenic and other brain-skewing drugs. McKenna was a bright chap who had multiple degrees and specialised in ethnobotany and shamanism.
In short, McKenna understood what it meant to be two sheets to the wind on a very deep level, but even he was blown away by the insights and confusion that DMT brought in spades. When comparing DMT to LSD in an interview in 1992 he said:
“DMT was so much more powerful, so much more alien, raising all kinds of issues about what is reality, what is language, what is the self, what is three-dimensional space and time.”
According to him, and other people who have experienced the drug, the first toke puts a coloured edge on things. After the second toke a yellow/orange “chrysanthemum” appears, filling your entire sense of self. The third toke breaks you through the chrysanthemum to the sound of “crackling flames” into some kind of odd realm that sits outside of everything you’ve ever known. This place is sometimes referred to as “the dome.”
And once inside this miraculous throbbing internal landscape, things get pretty weird, as McKenna explains in a lecture:
“What arrests my attention is the fact that this space is inhabited—that the immediate impression as you break into it is there’s a cheer. […] You break into this space and are immediately swarmed by squeaking, self-transforming elf-machines…made of light and grammar and sound that come chirping and squealing and tumbling toward you. And they say ‘hooray! welcome! you’re here!’”
But despite the madness, you seem to see a hold of your senses. He goes on to say:
“And the weird thing about DMT is it does not affect what we ordinarily call the mind. The part that you call you—nothing happens to it. You’re just like you were before, but the world has been radically replaced—100%—it’s all gone, and you’re sitting there, and you’re saying ‘Jesus, a minute ago I was in a room with some people, and they were pushing some weird drug on me, and, and now, what’s happened? Is this the drug? Did we do it? Is this it?’”
He also talks of a special love which flows over the taker of DMT. It’s not like brotherly or sisterly love, it’s not necessarily an erotic thing. It’s like an entirely new sort of love that washes through your whole being. Sometimes it can feel sexual though:
“…often it’s very erotic, although I’m not sure if that’s the word. But it’s almost like sex is the surface of which this is the volume. And I’m a great fan of sex; I don’t mean to denigrate it. I mean to raise DMT to a very high status.”
In about 5% of cases, according to McKenna, the magic elves convince you to try speaking in their language. Apparently, your mouth “flies open and this language-like stuff comes out” but the “tones are surfaces, shading, colours, insets, jewels, and you are making something.” The elves “go mad with joy.”
And then, as swiftly as you arrived at the dome, the elves back away into the distance and you slowly regain your grasp of the boring old world around you. Sadly, or perhaps for the best, the whole experience erases itself from your memory as quickly as it has arrived.
Some wonder whether DMT might play a role in dreams because of this rapid ebbing away. McKenna says:
“There is a self-erasing mechanism in it. I have the feeling that you find out something there that is so contra-intuitive that you literally cannot think of it sitting here. So as you go from there to here, there comes a moment where it slips below the surface of rational apprehensibility.”
What Are The DMT Elves?
McKenna had some ideas about the DMT elves. He didn’t think they were hallucinations, he was convinced they were based in some kind of reality, somewhere along in the multiverse:
“If an extra-terrestrial wanted to interact with a human society, and it had ethics that forbade it from landing trillion-ton berrelium ships on the United Nations plaza—in other words if it were subtle—I can see hiding yourself inside a shamanic intoxication.
You would say, ‘Let’s analyze these people. Okay—they’re kind of hard-headed rationalists, except they have this phenomenon called “getting loaded” and when they get loaded they accept whatever happens to them, so let’s hide inside the load and we’ll talk to them from there, and they’ll never realise that we’re of a different status than pink elephants.’”
Beings In A Parallel Continuum
“Call it fairyland, call it the Western Realm—whatever you like—but you don’t go there in starships. You go there through magical doorways which are opened via ritual and things like that. That is a possibility as well. Certainly human folklore in all times and places—except Western Europe for the last 300 years—has insisted that these parallel domains of intelligence and organisation exist.”
“These things…have a very weird relationship to human beings. First of all, they love us! They care for some reason. Whoever and whatever they are, they’re far more aware of us than we are aware of them.
Witness the fact that they welcome me. So is it possible that at the end of the 20th century, at the end of 500 years of materialism, reductionism, positivism, what we’re about to discover is probably the least likely denouement any of us expected out of our dilemma—what we’re about to discover is that death has no sting.”
Perhaps they are:
“Humans from some extraordinarily advanced future world where human beings are now made of language and are only two-and-a-half feet tall, so I would put it rather far in the future.”
DMT? Ermm…No Thanks
McKenna warns that DMT should be taken seriously, and having read what he, a seasoned pro, has to say about it, I can see why:
“This has to be taken seriously. In other words, the ‘it’s only a hallucination’ thing—that horse shit is just passé. I mean, reality is only a hallucination for crying out loud, haven’t you heard? So that takes care of that… What we’ve got here, folks, is an intelligent entelechy of some sort that is frantic to communicate with human beings for some reason.”
The whole experience sounds absolutely immense. At the same time, it sounds pretty darned terrifying. I think I will leave the exploration of this parallel plane to people who have a more solid grasp of reality than I do. I fear I might never come back.