With Covid-19 and global lockdowns anxiety and depression are on the rise and everyday people need accessible solutions. Is the psychedelic drug DMT (the long name is dimethyltryptamine) one of those ways to alleviate depression? Researchers in the UK are keen to find out.
DMT is a chemical that occurs in many plants, animals and in the human body, too. Indigenous cultures in the Amazon and elsewhere have used it in plant medicine ceremonies for possibly hundreds of years, both for healing and the visionary experience it can reveal.
Science believes that DMT is close to a neurotransmitter, or a fundamental chemical threaded throughout nature. It’s thought it’s produced in the lungs and other areas of the body, and when it peaks it can induce feelings and a profound visionary experience, qualities that have led it to be nicknamed “The Spirit Molecule.”
So what happens on DMT? Indigenous people in South America drink DMT in ayahuasca brews, and Western psychonauts (explorers who use psychoactives to explore inner and outer reality) smoke the chemical. Many believe DMT may be the key to unlock the soul from the body.
People have reported a sense of euphoria, an altered sense of time, hallucinatory visions and a sense of connection to other realms and beings.
That western medical science is now supporting patients into these spaces testifies to the healing potential of the “mystical effect” of substances like DMT.
It acknowledges that many western ailments like depression and anxiety cannot be effectively treated without facing the root causes: disconnection and the need for spiritual meaning.
Recent science has also shown that psychedelic substances like DMT have the potential to help regrow new brain cells in adults (a process called ‘neurogenesis’) and can increase the health and well being of the brain overall.
Currently the UK trials have two distinct parts. Scientsts are giving DMT to healthy patients to evaluate the effects, and in a world’s first, plan to then administer DMT to patients experiencing Major Depressive Disorder.
Patients will be injected with an intravenous dose of DMT whilst supported by two therapists in a one hour clinical session. Carol Routledge, the chief scientific officer of Small Pharma, told the BBC, “We believe the impact will be almost immediate, and longer-lasting than conventional antidepressants”.
Researchers hope that the temporary changes in brain pathways will open up a window of opportunity for therapy to reset patterns that underpin depression.