Fancy spending a bit more time with the machine elves? Newly released research results offer support for the viability of extended-state DMT trips, by using constant rate infusion of the powerful psychedelic.
DMT (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine) is a tryptamine that naturally occurs in a number of plants and animals, and has been used in various cultures for shamanic/visionary purposes. When ingested via the mouth, DMT is rapidly metabolized in the gastrointestinal system by monoamine oxidase (MAO), so no effects are generally felt from eating or drinking it unless it is combined with taking a MAO inhibitor. The most well-known example of this is the South American brew ayahuasca that contains other ingredients, such as some containing harmala alkaloids , that inhibit MAO. Through this combination, ayahuasca trips last four to six hours.
Alternatively, pure DMT can be inhaled or injected. In these cases, the trip is of a very short duration, often described as being like a rocket trip to another dimension: the effects begin within seconds, reach their peak intensity within two to three minutes, and subside quickly, with the trip being well and truly over within 30 minutes. But in that time, users frequently report a sense of immersion into what is perceived to be another world or dimension, and encounter ‘entities’, ‘aliens’, ‘machine elves’ and various other bizarre presences. These journeys often have a profound effect and are felt to have a realism (if otherworldly) that frequently leads people to revise their beliefs about the nature of reality and consciousness.
This feeling of ‘making contact’ with extradimensional entities, but suddenly being whisked away back to everyday reality by the short duration of the trip, before any real ‘communication’ could take place, has led to a number of proposals to extend DMT trips by using ongoing infusion of more DMT after the first injection of the psychedelic (see for example ‘Researcher develops a machine to allow psychonauts to explore the DMT realm‘). And now, some of the first scientific results from trials on doing this (not by the same researchers as in the linked article) have emerged in a preprint from researchers at Imperial College and other institutions, “Psychological and physiological effects of extended DMT” – and they appear to support the viability of the idea.
In the placebo-controlled study, 11 healthy volunteers (seven male, four female, ranging in age from 26 to 51) received up to four different doses of bolus (initial dose) plus slow-rat infusions of DMT over a 30 minute period. The bolus IV injection was delivered over 30 seconds, followed by a saline flush for 15 seconds. The constant-rate infusion was then started one minute after the beginning of the bolus injection and lasted 29 minutes.
During dosing, participants wore an eye mask and were instructed to keep their eyes closed. Low volume ambient music was played through headphones to ensure psychological comfort. The researchers monitored both the subjective and physiological effects of the drug administration:
Subjective intensity of effects was assessed acutely via experience sampling from 8 minutes prior to 52 minutes after the start of the bolus injection. For this, audio prompts were played through headphones, and participants were instructed to verbally give subjective ratings of the intensity of the experience (from 0 = “no effects” to 10 = “most intense imaginable”). These were collected at -8, -6, -4, -2, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, and every two minutes thereafter, with minute 0 being the start of the bolus injection.
Subjective ratings of anxiety were also collected every four minutes using a similar procedure (from 0 = “no anxiety” to 10 = “most anxiety imaginable”) in order to assess the psychological safety of DMT infusions.
…Heart rate (HR) was measured and monitored from 8 minutes before until 52 minutes after the beginning of the bolus injection with an E4 Empatica wristband.
…Plasma levels of DMT were repeatedly assessed at baseline and 2, 5, 10, 20, 29, 32, 37, 40, 50, 60, 80, 100, 120, 150, and 180 minutes after the beginning of bolus injection of DMT.
Once the acute drug effects had subsided (approximately 30 minutes after DMT infusion had finished), participants also completed the Altered States of Consciousness (ASC) Scale and the Mystical Effects Questionnaire as well as being asked to retrospectively provide ratings of various dimensions of their experience over time such as ‘Immersion’, ‘Entity encounters’, ‘Ego dissolution’, ‘Visual imagery’, ‘Emotional experience’, ‘Auditory hallucinations’, among others.
The results of the trials showed that overall, “participants experienced low levels of anxiety before and throughout dosing indicating that extended administration of DMT was well tolerated”, and that while heart rate peaked very quickly after the bolus IV injection, it then “exhibited significant decreases with respect to baseline within 10 minutes of the start of the bolus injection…showing that longer infusions do not overload the autonomic system.”
At the same time, however, the subjective effects of the DMT trip remained elevated and stable, though tracking on a slight downward slope for the remainder of the infusion – although ‘Entity encounters’ actually increased during the latter part of the infusion on the higher doses (Dose 3 and 4). Interestingly, at the same time, plasma levels of DMT generally increased throughout the infusion, which may suggest that there is a “progressive development of acute psychological tolerance to DMT during continuous infusion.”
See the preprint paper, or click through to the Twitter thread embedded below from the lead researcher, for graphs outlining the various measurements at different dose levels.
In short, based on the results, the researchers concluded that:
The present method is effective for extending the DMT experience in a stable and tolerable fashion. While subjective effects were maintained over the period of active infusion, anxiety ratings remained low and heart rate habituated within 15 minutes, indicating psychological and physiological safety of extended DMT. Plasma DMT concentrations increased consistently starting ten minutes into DMT administration, whereas psychological effects plateaued into the desired steady state, suggesting the development of acute psychological tolerance to DMT.
This study lays the groundwork for further explorations with extended IV infusions of DMT. The extended DMT experience may be valuable to explore further the phenomenology, neurobiology, and clinical outcomes associated with this unique state of consciousness. Furthermore, the successful and flexible extension of DMT administration poses a significant opportunity for the application of DMT in clinical and therapeutic settings.
While the applications of extended-state DMT to neurobiological research and psychedelic therapy are perhaps the most important facet of the research – and the most likely to guarantee ongoing funding and government permits – I can’t help but be excited to hear what sort of prolonged entity encounters participants had during their trips (and will have once the extended state is pushed even further past the 30 minute duration of this particular study).