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Does DMT Model the Near-Death Experience?

The authors of a current examine (Timmermann et al., 2018) argue that what folks expertise below the affect of DMT offers a mannequin of what folks endure throughout near-death experiences. Though there are broad similarities between the 2, there are additionally main variations that the authors don’t handle. DMT experiences and NDEs could overlap as a result of they share sure widespread options related to altered states of consciousness. Nevertheless, claiming that DMT fashions near-death experiences tremendously exaggerates their similarities and overlooks what makes every distinctive.

Hypothesis vs. proof in regards to the function of DMT
Wikimedia commons
Kaleidoscopic geometric patterns are widespread in DMT visions; in NDEs, not so muchSource: Wikimedia commons
Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is a psychedelic drug with putting properties. Though much less well-known than different psychedelics similar to psilocybin or LSD, DMT has turn out to be the main focus of quite a few wildly speculative theories about its function in human expertise. Particularly, Rick Strassman, a psychiatrist who performed analysis on DMT, superior such speculations in his e-book, The Spirit Molecule. (I mentioned a few of these in three earlier posts, right here, right here, and right here.) Strassman claimed that reviews of near-death experiences have a putting resemblance to DMT-induced states. For instance, in each sorts of experiences, folks report a way of “hyper-reality,” i.e. a sense that the expertise is extra actual than atypical life, in addition to emotions of leaving one’s physique behind and coming into an unearthly realm, emotions of bliss, and encounters with a non secular presence of some variety. Strassman speculated that, in occasions of maximum stress, the pineal gland within the human mind produces massive portions of endogenous DMT that set off mystical experiences related to loss of life and dying. Though there’s proof that DMT is produced within the human physique, there isn’t a proof that it’s concerned in near-death experiences. Relating to endogenous DMT, a assessment of 69 research (Barker, McIlhenny, & Strassman, 2012) did present proof that DMT will be discovered within the human physique, e.g. it has been present in blood, urine, and cerebrospinal fluid. Nevertheless, the place it’s produced and what perform it might have stays unknown. One other examine discovered that DMT was current within the pineal gland in rats (Barker, Borjigin, Lomnicka, & Strassman, 2013). It needs to be famous although, that the quantities of DMT present in these research had been extraordinarily minute. Moreover, it appears extremely unlikely that, even when the pineal gland is able to producing DMT, it could be capable to produce the quantity required to set off a psychedelic expertise. One creator (Nichols, 2018) estimated that the pineal gland would want to supply about 25 milligrams of DMT in a couple of minutes for this to happen, but in the midst of a day it usually produces about 30 micrograms of melatonin, which is about one-thousandth of the load of DMT wanted to induce a psychedelic breakthrough. Therefore, producing this a lot DMT appears not possible. Nichols additionally notes that there isn’t a proof that endogenous DMT can naturally accumulate within the mind at excessive sufficient concentrations to supply psychedelic results, as it’s quickly metabolized and can be damaged down as quickly because it was produced. Therefore, endogenous DMT is very unlikely to elucidate near-death experiences.

Parallels between DMT & near-death experiences
Regardless of these issues, the authors of a current examine (Timmermann et al., 2018) examined whether or not DMT induces “near-death kind experiences” that might be comparable in depth to those that have reported precise, naturally occurring near-death experiences. Though the authors didn’t essentially endorse Strassman’s concept, they didn’t present a compelling purpose to suppose that DMT offers a mannequin of near-death expertise past noting that there are particular parallels between them. Of their examine, they recruited 13 volunteers who got DMT and in contrast their experiences to these of a pattern of people that had undergone a near-death expertise, and who had been matched to the DMT group on age and gender. At this level, I need to point out that Robin Carhart-Harris, one of many co-authors of this examine, has produced quite a few research on the consequences of psychedelic medicine that I’d describe as “tantalising.” On the one hand, the subjects investigated and the findings have been genuinely intriguing, but alternatively, they’ve all concerned tiny numbers of members, which makes it troublesome to generalise from the outcomes or take the statistics concerned too critically. That is one other one in all these research – an interesting subject, studied with a tiny pattern. And as soon as once more, the outcomes had been fairly attention-grabbing, however have to be interpreted very cautiously.

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