Dimethyltryptamine – The Spiritual CompoundIn Biotechnology
N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is a naturally occurring psychedelic compound of the tryptamine family. DMT is found not only in several plants, but also in trace amounts in humans and other mammals, where it is originally derived from the essential amino acid tryptophan, and ultimately produced by the enzyme INMT during normal metabolism. The natural function of its widespread presence remains undetermined. Structurally, DMT is analogous to the neurotransmitter serotonin (5-HT), the hormone melatonin, and other psychedelic tryptamines, such as 5-MeO-DMT, bufotenin, and psilocin (the active metabolite of psilocybin).
Many cultures, indigenous and modern, ingest DMT as a psychedelic drug, in either extracted or synthesized forms. When DMT is inhaled or consumed, depending on the dose, its subjective effects can range from short-lived milder psychedelic states to powerful immersive experiences, which include a total loss of connection to conventional reality, which may be so extreme that it becomes ineffable. DMT is also the primary psychoactive in ayahuasca, an Amazonian Amerindian brew employed for divinatory and healing purposes. Pharmacologically, ayahuasca combines DMT with an MAOI, an enzyme inhibitor that allows DMT to be orally active.
DMT occurs naturally in many species of plants often in conjunction with its close chemical relatives 5-MeO-DMT and bufotenin (5-OH-DMT). DMT-containing plants are commonly used in South American Shamanic practices. It is usually one of the main active constituents of the drink ayahuasca, however ayahuasca is sometimes brewed without plants that produce DMT. It occurs as the primary psychoactive alkaloid in several plants including Mimosa tenuiflora, Diplopterys cabrerana, and Psychotria viridis. DMT is found as a minor alkaloid in snuff made from Virola bark resin in which 5-MeO-DMT is the main active alkaloid. DMT is also found as a minor alkaloid in bark, pods, and beans of Anadenanthera peregrina and Anadenanthera colubrina used to make Yopo and Vilca snuff in which bufotenin is the main active alkaloid. Psilocin, an active chemical in many psychedelic mushrooms, is structurally similar to DMT.
The psychotropic effects of DMT were first studied scientifically by the Hungarian chemist and psychologist Dr. Stephen Szára who performed research with volunteers in the mid-1950s. Szára, who later worked for the US National Institutes of Health, had turned his attention to DMT after his order for LSD from the Swiss company Sandoz Laboratories was rejected on the grounds that the powerful psychotropic could be dangerous in the hands of a communist country.
DMT during various stages of purification in an illegal drug laboratory in Los Angeles
DMT can produce powerful entheogenic experiences including intense visuals, euphoria, even true hallucinations (perceived extensions of reality). DMT is generally not active orally unless it is combined with a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) such as a reversible inhibitor of monoamine oxidase A (RIMA), for example, harmaline. Without an MAOI, the body quickly metabolizes orally administered DMT, and it therefore has no hallucinogenic effect unless the dose exceeds monoamine oxidase’s metabolic capacity. Other means of ingestion such as smoking or injecting the drug can produce powerful hallucinations and entheogenic activity for a short time (usually less than half an hour), as the DMT reaches the brain before it can be metabolized by the body’s natural monoamine oxidase. Taking a MAOI prior to smoking or injecting DMT prolongs and potentiates the effects.