DMT as a Therapy

The use of hallucinogenic drugs as a therapeutic treatment in clinical research on depression has aroused renewed interest (Berman et al., 2000; Aan het Rot, 2010; Buchborn et al., 2014), as well as on disorders obsessive-compulsive (Moreno and Delgado, 1997), the psychological consequences of terminally ill patients (Grof et al., 1973; Grob et al., 2011), inmate recurrences (Hendricks et al., 2014) and substance use disorders, especially alcohol (Bogenschutz et al., 2015) as well as tobacco (Mangini, 1998; Krebs and Johansen, 2012). Most of these studies have examined the use of LSD, psilocybin or ayahuasca in place of DMT alone.

In the history of the use of “remedies” containing DMT, ayahuasca is perhaps the best known medicine (Dos Santos et al., 2011; Alonso et al., 2015; Pic-Taylor et al. , 2015). Long-term use of ayahuasca has been shown to produce measurable changes in the brain, such as differences in median brain structures determined by MRI studies (dos Santos et al., 2016a, b) . Although it is still believed by some that the effects may not appear to have therapeutic value, long-term users of ayahuasca (> 10 years) have shown a reduction in their level of negative emotions (Santos et al. , 2007). Long-term use of ayahuasca has also resulted in a marked improvement in depressive symptoms, without concomitant mania or hypomania, up to 21 days after a single dose (Osório et al., 2015). These data demonstrate the antidepressant effects of DMT.

DMT has been shown to exert anti-anxiety / antipsychotic properties at the trace amino acid receptor (TAAR) and others have suggested that possible positive symptoms seen in schizophrenia may be mediated by the effects of endogenous DMT (Cakic et al., 1991). 2010; Grammenos and Barker, 2015). Many researchers have proposed using DMT in addition to psychiatric treatment, a proposal that goes against the principles of the transmethylation hypothesis.

Frecska et al. (2013) suggested that DMT could be involved in important adaptive mechanisms which could also be a promising tool for the development of future medical treatments and it was suggested that DMT could be useful to treat drug addiction, inflammation or even cancer. However, at this stage, the data necessary to support such proposals have not been presented.

At present, there is little evidence to support the use of DMT for therapeutic purposes, particularly by administration. The claimed therapeutic effects of DMT in association with harmala MAOIs, such as in ayahuasca or pharmahuasca (Ott, 1999), are of interest, but present a complex set of data preventing understanding of the contribution of each component. There is a renewed interest in the use of hallucinogens in psychotherapy and DMT should certainly be among the drugs in the psychiatric pharmacopoeia. Any proposal to continue down this path will require more than the current body of scientific evidence. Federal and national laws should be amended to facilitate the manufacture and use of such compounds and to make the necessary research possible. Steven A. Barker

Steven A. Barker