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DMT is nowhere near as famous as it should be. Everyone knows about heroin and cocaine and stuff, but talk to most people about DMT and they will never have heard about it. Until tonight, I didn’t know too much about it either, but man, is it cool.

It’s tryptamine with two methyl groups coming off the nitrogen on the right, and is structurally similar to LSD and Psilocybin. Drugwise it’s a powerful hallucinogen which can be smoked or injected to produce a crazy high, complete with alien visitations, geometric shapes and funny coloured lights, a freaking huge round-the-world take-three-years-off type trip as this guy describes it (the pictures aren’t great, but some of the stuff he says is freaking hillarious!)

It can also be ingested but is usually metabolised by monooxidase before it is absorbed. In fact, in the Amazon some shamans make a tea which extracts DMT and a monooxidase inhibitor from plants to make ayahuasca – a medicinal brew good for curing both physical and psychological pain and traveling to spirit worlds. I know a few people who have been on ayahuasca journeys, and they swear by them. In the context that ayahuasca is used it’s not just a psychadelic – the ritual that surrounds it and the guidance of a shaman gives a context to the experience that I think is lacking in Western culture.

DMT as a natural compound is actually incredibly ubiquitous and can be extracted from some grasses, wattle and poisonous toads (kiss a frog, see a prince, that kind of thing). And here’s the coolest part – DMT is actually found in the human body, naturally produced as a result of metabolism. Governments aren’t big on spending money on hallucinogen research (unless it’s to prove how bad they are for you), so we don’t know a huge amount about it – oh the humanity! But they did allow one project to research it, Rick Strassman, who went on to write “The Spirit Molecule”.

He says that DMT is released naturally from the pineal gland, which is also called the third eye (really!). Fossils have been found with an opening above where the pineal eye should be, and in modern-day reptiles it senses light and can control pigment changes.


In humans, the pineal gland senses light via the retinas and serves to help establish biorhythms by producing more melatonin when it is dark, and less when it’s light. Strassman believes that it produces DMT to create dreams when we are sleeping, and in large amounts close to death which may account for near-death experiences. It certainly accounts for the fact that many of the effects of hallucinogens are similar to those experienced when dreaming, and what is dreaming, really, but a hallucination you have while sleeping. He also thinks it may be responsible for so-called alien abductions, but I think that’s stretching it a little. Plus I want to believe.

It’s the dream part that interests me most… what makes the difference between dreams and the real world, between hallucinations and reality? If we can experience a different world by taking drugs, doesn’t that imply that our normal perception of it is created by the molecules naturally found in our brain? Is reality just a biologically controlled high which we call reality because everyone experiences it? What is the chemical basis of reality? That’s what I want to know.