The psychedelic world was caught by surprise when boxer Mike Tyson admitted using DMT (5-MeO-DMT) on a dare for the first time in 2017—a powerful psychedelic derived from the venom of the Sonoran Desert toad (and other plant species). Tyson was looking for help with problems in his life at the time. He claims DMT changed everything for the better.
He has now tripped on this strong version of DMT over 53 times, and reportedly has a nursery of Sonoran Desert toads at his ranch in Desert Hot Springs, California.
What Tyson is taking is DMT that 4 to 6 times stronger and more intense than the other plant-based version, N,N Dimethyltryptamine, which is the active ingredient of the psychoactive drink, ayahuasca. There is also a DMT derivative found in certain marine sponges.
It works fast—if smoked or injected, DMT peaks within a few minutes, and is over within an hour.
Lab research is limited, but the first field study of DMT was done in late 2021 with experienced DMT users observed during their non-clinical use of the DMT at home, and later interviewed after their experience. They reported profound and highly intense experiences, including encounters with other beings, and experiences of going into other worlds.
Those intense experiences from DMT—some reportedly akin to alien abduction and near death—are part of the reason that DMT has, until recently, been low on the list of psychedelics researchers. They are trying to figure out the best way to use it for human health conditions, generally working with small groups of people who are experienced using DMT. But as the Tyson story demonstrates, DMT curiosity among the general public is growing. Researchers today are finding more first-time users signing up for studies.
The first human experience with pure DMT was in April 1956, when Hungarian chemist and psychiatrist Stephen Szara self-administered it intramuscularly and reported sensations such as “brilliantly colored oriental motifs and wonderful scenes altering rapidly.”
There have been just a few other studies since the mid-1990s concentrating on the hyperspace effect, and descriptions of the alien entity encounters and descriptions.
But the pace of studies is quickly changing.
Researchers believe that something significant can be done with a substance where people who use it experience “breaking through” to other immersive worlds that are hyper-vivid, intricate and impossible, as well as interacting with other beings such as aliens, fairies, or even clowns.
It is believed that the DMT experience can help increase a person’s worldview, decrease death anxiety, aid the personal connection with oneself—all of which are the positive basic goals of psychedelic research using other substances.
Other studies find that DMT naturally occurs in mammals, and may be made and secreted in the human pineal gland.
There is an expanding list of uses of both N,N-Dimethyltryptamine and 5-MeO-DMT that go beyond mental health issues—from recovering motor and sensory function after a spinal cord injury, to preventing tooth loss, to treating food allergies and even as a “novel rodent control agent” in a study by the National Institutes of Health and Harvard College.
Yale University is studying DMT to treat headaches; Applied Biology Inc., headquartered in Irvine, California, a biotechnology company specializing in hair science, is studying DMT as a topical agent to treat hair loss; Rejoy, also based in Irvine, California, is studying DMT for a topical application treating female sexual dysfunction.
Researchers are intrigued by the stronger version of DMT because it works much faster than psilocybin, making it easier to use as a method to treat depression and anxiety, according to Alan Davis, an adjunct assistant professor in the Psychedelic Research Unit at Johns Hopkins University. “Because 5-MeO-DMT is short-acting and lasts approximately 30-90 minutes, it could be much easier to use as an adjunct to therapy because current therapies usually involve a 60–90-minute session,” Davis said.
Researchers always caution using DMT recreationally or in any uncontrolled setting because of its strong and overpowering effect. But DMT apparently has found its way into the psychedelics underground, with nicknames such as Dimitri, fantasia, businessmen’s trip, businessmen’s special, 45-minute psychosis floating around.
There is still much to find out about DMT, according to a 2018 study about its role and function as a therapeutic. “At present, the data arguing for the use of DMT as a therapeutic, particularly via administration, is thin,” the study stated. “There have been proposals that DMT might be useful to treat substance abuse, inflammation, or even cancer. However, at this point, the necessary data to support such proposals have not been presented and it would be premature to propose that DMT will become commonly used for clinical purposes.”