Feature image ‘Psychonaut’ courtesy of Tetramode.
The last half century has seen humanity take its first, tentative steps into outer space. Initially, through American and Russian astronaut missions into Earth orbit and then to the Moon, though more recently robotic probes have ventured beyond our solar system entirely.
Will the next fifty years, however, see us beginning to methodically explore inner space instead?
That’s the plan of Dr Andrew Gallimore, a computational neurobiologist, pharmacologist, chemist, and writer who has been interested in the neural basis of psychedelic drug action for many years, and who has authored a number of articles and research papers on the powerful psychedelic drug, N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and its effects on the brain and consciousness.
DMT is known for its reality-shifting effect, blasting users almost instantly from the mundane world of our everyday senses into bizarre otherworlds that feel convincingly real. But its effects are also extremely short-lived – the psychedelic is sometimes referred to as ‘The Businessman’s Lunch’, because the entire trip fits within the timeframe of the typical lunch break of a busy executive.
Gallimore has however in recent years proposed a method for keeping people in the ‘DMT space’ for longer periods of time – so that psychonauts can spend more time studying what is going on there – using a similar technology to that used when giving anaesthetic during surgery.
In a recent talk given at the 2019 Breaking Convention (embedded below), he explained both the technology, and his reason for coming up with the idea.
The properties of DMT, these kinds of pharmacological peculiarities that DMT has, reminded me of the pharmacological characteristics that are required for drugs used in anesthesiology. If you want to put somebody to sleep for several hours, what you don’t do is just give them an injection of a long-acting drug, because the drug tends to rise and then begin to fall and it’s very difficult to control.
So what you actually do is inject them with a short-acting drug that is metabolized rather quickly, and use a programmed infusion device…to deliver a controlled rate of a continuous infusion of the drug into the bloodstream and into the brain. It sounds like a very simple idea but of course simple ideas often behind them have rather complex science and that’s the case here.
Gallimore used data from Rick Strassman’s DMT studies in the 1990s – which recorded blood levels of the psychedelic over time after injection – to calculate that a continuous infusion system could work by giving an initial dose of 25mg of DMT (infused over 30 seconds) to bring the individual to ‘breakthrough’, followed by continuous infusion beginning at the 2 minute mark, at a rate of 4.2 mg/min, to compensate for the drug being lost through metabolism and excretion.
“With this protocol in a living human being, you would expect to be able to hold them within the DMT space for as long as you wanted,” Gallimore proclaims.
(For those that might be asking, “hasn’t this guy heard of ayahuasca?” – yes, Gallimore is well aware of the South American shamanic brew. In the talk, he points out that while ayahuasca is a type of ‘extended DMT experience’, the level of DMT over that time is not regulated and kept consistent – there is never a stable concentration of DMT in the brain. Also, the average peak DMT blood concentration after consuming ayahuasca is around 15-18 ng/ml, whereas intravenous DMT using this method is over 100 ng/ml. So ayahuasca is not a suitable substitute for what he is doing.)
DMT Space Exploration
So what is Gallimore’s motivation for creating the technology to enable a ‘persistent DMT state’? He feels the experience is so extraordinary, and suggestive of some ‘other’ space or reality, that he thinks we should study it in detail – but a normal DMT trip is far too fast and intense for that.
The brain is always constructing your model of reality – and [it] essentially learned to construct your model of the world over time.
Now when you’re thrust into the DMT space, this is why within the first five minutes…you’re very disoriented. What I would expect to happen over time, perhaps over several hours, is that it would begin to stabilise as the brain learns to construct a model of that environment. And this would then make the DMT state amenable to proper exploration, and testing.
I imagine teams of various disciplines – mathematicians, anthropologists, psychologists, cartographers, linguists, artists, neuroscientists, physicians, theologians – a variety of people to form this exploration team, the aim being to map and explore this new domain.
And in the far future, Gallimore believes technology will allow us spend really extended periods of time in the DMT realm, by being contained within a capsule that provides nutrition and waste removal for the human body while the mind explores this other, strange world.
“I really do imagine a time when you’re going to lie down in some type of pod, and you’ll enter your journey time, and you’ll set off for the universe next door,” Gallimore says.
And, he jokes with the audience, perhaps the ultimate truth will be revealed: “You could put someone into this machine for days, or weeks, or months, or years…or YOU COULD BE IN ONE NOW!”
Essentially, Gallimore suggests that this technology would be the equivalent of the development of rockets to take astronauts to explore outer space – but in this case, it would take psychonauts into inner space (or wherever the DMT realm resides). He quotes early Soviet rocket scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky: “The Earth is the cradle of humanity, but manking cannnot stay in the cradle forever.”
And the first steps are already being taken says Gallimore – within an official, academic setting – at Imperial College’s Centre for Psychedelic Research. Gallimore notes also that the technology is an integral part of Medicinal Mindfulness’s DMTx project, who are “coming at it from a different angle” (and are recruiting people already).
You can learn more about Andrew Gallimore’s thoughts on psychedelics in his recent book Alien Information Theory: Psychedelic Drug Technologies and the Cosmic Game (available from Amazon US and Amazon UK) – see this essay at Graham Hancock’s website for more information.