The Science Behind 5-MeO-DMT: Current Research and Findings

Right now, we could be approaching the pinnacle of 5-MeO-DMT research. As restrictions on psychedelics are beginning to loosen up around the world, researchers are getting more leeway to explore them in a clinical setting. Unfortunately, few studies focus on 5-MeO-DMT – most of the data in these studies is self-reported.

While self-reported evidence does inspire confidence in us, empirical evidence will be more convincing to regulators, and thus permit a greater number of people to work with this incredible medicine. That’s what we look forward to in the near future.

This article from Tandava will help clarify the current research into 5-MeO-DMT and put it into context. As the hosts of 5-MeO-DMT retreats in Mexico, we are always eager to learn new things about the medicine. Furthermore, we often incorporate the lessons from the studies cited in this article into our approach to 5-MeO-DMT.

Why Does 5-MeO-DMT Merit In-Depth Analysis?

5-MeO-DMT, is a naturally occurring psychedelic medicine found in various plants and animals, most notably in the venom of the Bufo Alvarius toad. You can also find it in synthetic forms, which we see as more sustainable since it allows for the administration of controlled doses, as well as avoiding the depletion of toad populations, which are dwindling fast.

What made 5-MeO-DMT famous is its intense and relatively short-acting hallucinogenic effects. In fact, 5-MeO-DMT only lasts about half an hour, a stark contrast to the longer durations associated with other psychedelics. That’s not to take anything away from the experience, however, most who have worked with several psychedelics will describe 5-MeO-DMT as the most intense.

If you work with 5-MeO-DMT you might benefit from its intense psychedelic effects, which often involve a sense of unity, interconnectedness, and profound spiritual or mystical experiences. Some users report these experiences can lead to personal insight, emotional healing, or a greater understanding of the self.

Anecdotal Beneficial Effects Of 5-MeO-DMT

Let’s explore some of these benefits in more detail. While we call these reports anecdotal, we have found that both the studies we mention and the attendees at our retreats corroborate these findings in one way or another.

Increased Connection With Others

After attending a 5-MeO-DMT retreat, many of our past guests have mentioned to us that they feel much more connected with the world around them. Oftentimes, the medicine will walk you through an experience where you merge with a greater consciousness. Some describe this experience as “oneness” or “ego death”, essentially, it makes people realize that everything from plants to animals to people are all related. As you come down from the medicine, you might still feel that oneness within yourself for years to come.

Spiritual Significance

5-MeO-DMT has been around for thousands of years. And many of the people who originally experimented with the medicine used it for ceremonial purposes. To this day, shamans around the world guide people through 5-MeO-DMT from their unique lens.

Moreover, one can adapt just about any spiritual belief to 5-MeO-DMT. The medicine has a tendency to meet you wherever you are. Proper consultation is required beforehand to ensure that you can interpret your experience in a manner that aligns with your values.

Maturity And Personal Growth

We had one guest at our retreat who told us that his 5-MeO-DMT trip was akin to giving birth to himself. He had witnessed the birth of his two children, and this experience gave him a similar change in perspective. Think of all the maturity that could come with having your first child, apparently, 5-MeO-DMT could endow you with a similar degree of enlightenment.

Of course, 5-MeO-DMT is not some sort of magical potion that instantaneously makes you a better person. You might have grand revelations during your first 5-MeO-DMT trip, but it takes a degree of persistence after the fact to apply these lessons to your daily life and complete your objectives. That type of work is called “integration” and we assist all our guests with this work at Tandava, even after you’ve left our retreat center.

Scientifically Studied Benefits

Of course, this is the topic of the whole article. To give you a sneak peek, here are some of the positive mental health changes that can occur after a session with 5-MeO-DMT.

  • Improvements in symptoms of treatment-resistant depression
  • Improvements in post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms
  • Reductions in anxiety

All of these benefits were reported by individuals in small sample sizes, and are not empirical in any sense. But they tend to align with most of the experiences that we’ve heard of.

How Much 5-MeO-DMT Research Has There Been?

From a research standpoint, scientists are increasingly interested in 5-MeO-DMT and other psychedelic substances for their potential therapeutic benefits. Early research suggests that substances like 5-MeO-DMT may be effective for treating a range of mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), often where traditional treatments have failed.

Furthermore, 5-MeO-DMT has been found to induce neuroplasticity – the ability of neural networks in the brain to change through growth and reorganization, which opens up potential new avenues for treating a range of neurological and psychiatric disorders.

5 5-MeO-DMT Studies That Transformed How We Perceive 5-MeO-DMT

Right now, it seems like psychedelic and consciousness research is getting close to a renaissance. With psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin getting more attention from researchers, it’s only a matter of time before they work their way over to 5-MeO-DMT. Especially when you consider 5-MeO-DMT in the context of therapeutic use. Given how unique the 5-MeO-DMT trip is and the massive integration that usually follows, it could make for an excellent tool for psychedelic therapists in the future.

While much of the evidence here is anecdotal, the one thing that the researchers behind all these studies can agree on is that there is significant room to expand on their work.

Davis et al, 2018

The Question

Davis and colleagues at John Hopkins University wanted to explore the potential impacts that 5-MeO-DMT could have on individuals diagnosed with major depressive disorder and anxiety, with an emphasis on those who might have treatment-resistant depression. The researchers sought to understand how the rapid onset of 5-MeO-DMT may correlate with reported improvements in these mental health conditions.

The Study

Hence, the researchers set about constructing a survey to accurately measure the impact of 5-MeO-DMT on the mental health conditions listed. The survey was web-based and anonymous. It included 362 respondents of diverse demographics participating, the majority of which were middle-aged, male, and White/Caucasian.

The survey sought to identify the impact of 5-MeO-DMT when used by these individuals in a structured group setting, with prescribed procedures for dose and administration, along with guided pre and post-session support. This is quite similar to the protocol used in clinical hallucinogen trials.

The researchers asked the participants to discuss their perceived changes in the status of their depression and anxiety post-5-MeO-DMT use. They also asked them if they believed any association existed between these changes and the intensity of mystical experiences, or the personal and spiritual significance attributed to the 5-MeO-DMT experience.

The Results

Among the respondents diagnosed with either depression (41%) or anxiety (48%), a large majority reported an improvement in their conditions post-5-MeO-DMT use (80% for depression and 79% for anxiety). A smaller number reported no change, and very few indicated a worsening of symptoms. The researchers also observed a correlation between reported improvements in depression/anxiety and higher intensity of mystical experiences, which might further strengthen the idea that these improvements can be attributed directly to the medicine.

Not to mention, the intensity of the experience was highly correlated with increased ratings of spiritual significance and personal meaning of the 5-MeO-DMT experience. On the other hand, the intensity of any acute adverse effects, such as challenging physical or psychological experiences during the 5-MeO-DMT session, did not correlate with improvements in depression or anxiety.

While the results of this study were groundbreaking, the researchers still called for further prospective controlled clinical trials to evaluate this subject properly.

Uthaug et al, 2019

The Question

This study took a slightly different approach. Uthaug et al. conducted a study to assess the impact of inhaling vapor from dried toad secretion containing 5-MeO-DMT on cognition. The investigation focused on both sub-acute and long-term effects. The researchers were particularly interested in understanding how this intense psychedelic experience could influence mental health outcomes, including conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder and major depressive disorder.

The Study

The study involved 42 participants who inhaled vapor from dried toad secretion (containing 5-MeO-DMT) at several European locations. Of course, we should note that 42 is an extremely small sample size for this kind of research.

The researchers conducted assessments at three different points: baseline (before inhaling 5-MeO-DMT), within 24 hours post-inhalation, and 4 weeks following the 5-MeO-DMT trip. They asked the participants about various subjects such as satisfaction with life, convergent thinking, mindfulness, and levels of depression, anxiety, and stress.

The Results

In the end, the researchers found that the inhalation of 5-MeO-DMT vapor resulted in significant increases in life satisfaction and convergent thinking immediately after intake, with these effects persisting at the 4-week follow-up. Mindfulness also showed a rising trend, reaching statistical significance at 4 weeks. On the other hand, ratings of depression, anxiety, and stress showed a decreasing trend, becoming significant at the 4-week mark.

Participants who experienced high levels of ego dissolution or oceanic boundlessness during their session had higher life satisfaction ratings and lower depression and stress levels. Thus, the study concluded that a single inhalation of 5-MeO-DMT vapor could induce long-term changes in affect and cognition. They also outlined that there could be potential therapeutic applications warranting further research.

Barsuglia et al, 2018

The Question

This study took a bit of a different route. Barsuglia and colleagues decided to focus on a comparison of 5-MeO-DMT to other psychedelics, including psilocybin. They took the vaporized form of 5-MeO-DMT from the Colorado River Toad and compared the intensity of the mystical experiences to other renowned psychedelics.

The Study

Barsuglia and his team set up their research in a psychedelic retreat in Mexico, where 20 participants were given 50 mg of vaporized bufotoxin, equivalent to a somewhat light dose of 5-MeO-DMT. The entire process, from administration to education about the substance, was done in a carefully controlled environment. Note that a 5-MeO-DMT trip typically lasts around 45 minutes.

Following a period of 4-6 hours post-administration, participants were instructed to complete what the researchers called the “Mystical Experience Questionnaire” (MEQ30). In this case, the participants were instructed to rate various aspects of their acute psychedelic experience numerically.

The Results

In the results obtained by Barsuglia et al., a significant 75% of participants reported having “a complete mystical experience”, as defined by a score of ≥60% on all MEQ30 subscales.

When compared to the effects of a high dose of psilocybin in a laboratory setting, 5-MeO-DMT was found to induce mystical experiences of similar intensity. It is worth noting that the intensity of mystical experiences was reported to be significantly higher with 5-MeO-DMT than with a moderate/high dose of psilocybin. However, the study did not delve into controlled clinical trials regarding the potential medicinal or therapeutic use of 5-MeO-DMT. Further research might be required to evaluate its safety and effectiveness within clinical settings.

Dakic et al, 2017

The Question

Unlike the other studies we’ve mentioned, this one was not anecdotal, but also did not take place directly on humans. This research study aimed to unravel the effects of 5-MeO-DMT, on human brain metabolism. Due to a scarcity of suitable experimental models, understanding these effects had been limited.

In scientific terms, the study sought to analyze the proteomic changes in human cerebral organoids induced by 5-MeO-DMT. By studying the changes in proteins, researchers aspired to enrich their understanding of how the medicine might influence our brains.

The Study

In this groundbreaking piece of research, Dakic and his collaborators utilized shotgun mass spectrometry, an advanced proteomic technique, to investigate the influence of 5-MeO-DMT on human cerebral organoids. The research group used a large-scale approach – a method that doesn’t favor any outcome and covers a lot of data. This was the best way to obtain novel insights into 5-MeO-DMT.

In particular, the researchers wanted to find out if this substance can change the behavior of certain proteins in the brain. These proteins are involved in strengthening memory connections, the growth and development of tiny projections on nerve cells, and stopping brain cells from decaying or dying.

The Results

Dakic et al.’s study made several crucial findings. Firstly, human neural progenitor cells appeared unaffected by 5-MeO-DMT, while human cerebral organoids expressed receptors for the substance. The study showed that 5-MeO-DMT significantly alters the proteome of human cerebral organoids, with 934 differentially expressed proteins out of 6,728 identified. Interestingly, the findings suggested that 5-MeO-DMT leads to the inhibition of the NF-κB signalling pathway, which has implications for inflammation and immunity.

Furthermore, the research provided the first evidence that 5-MeO-DMT modulates proteins associated with long-term potentiation, a critical process for memory and learning. The substance also influenced proteins related to cytoskeletal reorganization and dendritic spine morphogenesis, which play crucial roles in neuron connectivity and synaptic plasticity.

This might all sound a bit complicated. Essentially, these findings imply that 5-MeO-DMT may potentially enhance cognitive processes and exhibit neuroprotective effects. However, more extensive studies are required to fully understand the functional implications of these proteomic changes and their potential therapeutic applications.

Amada and Shane, 2022

The Question

Amada and Shane’s study aimed to explore the potential relationship between psychedelic experiences and well-being in both clinical and non-clinical populations.

The Study

Inspired by emerging research in the field of psychology, their goal was to test a unified model to describe psychedelic experiences and their relationship with mental health that could provide a basis for future longitudinal studies in psychedelic science.

The Results

After controlling for variables such as the duration and frequency of psychedelic use, Amada and Shane found a positive correlation between integration practices and self-actualization characteristics and self-healing. Participants who reported higher levels of integration of their psychedelic experiences also expressed stronger agreement with statements reflecting personal development and self-insight, such as accepting their quirks and desires without shame or apology, frequently feeling gratitude, and feeling a sense of purpose in life.

These findings suggest that post-psychedelic integration practices could significantly contribute to individuals’ overall well-being and personal development. We have known this for a while at Tandava, and as such, we’ve incorporated integration to make it a vital part of our services.

The researchers posit that these practices might not only be beneficial in a clinical context for treating psychiatric conditions but also for non-clinical populations. The implications of these results could be vast, potentially leading to new approaches in both therapeutic settings and personal growth. Further research will be required to fully understand the mechanisms and potential applications of these effects.

Opportunities For Future 5-MeO-DMT Research

Every study we outlined in this article has recommended further research into the field. How could they not? Each study has sample sizes ranging from 40-400 when assessing human participants. If you want anything close to conclusive evidence in this regard, there will need to be studies with a greater number of participants. But beyond that, longitudinal studies will need to keep track of participants over a time span that lasts several years to truly examine the effects of 5-MeO-DMT. A month probably isn’t enough for conclusive evidence.

Recently, the DEA in the United States annulled its plan to regulate synthetic psychedelics. Add in the fact that the US administration is preparing to legalize some psychedelics in therapeutic settings, and we believe that the research landscape might soon change for the better.

As for current research gaps, there are many. We have noticed at Tandava that some 5-MeO-DMT individuals we interview are not entirely suitable for the effects that 5-MeO-DMT tends to produce in people. As such, we’ve employed a rigorous vetting process to ensure that no candidate we approve faces any issue. That said, it would be nice to see a study that tracks the potential for adverse events when taking psychedelics, as well as one that helps us better classify which types of individuals would have a higher potential for these events.

How To Further Educate Yourself On 5-MeO-DMT

While we have never conducted an academic study on 5-MeO-DMT, we have far more experience with the medicine than the vast majority of those who have researched it.

That’s not to take anything away from the scientific method, however, we have every bit of knowledge you might expect from people who have worked for decades with 5-MeO-DMT and other plant medicines. We’ve seen just about any scenario you could imagine. And as such, we’re equipped to deal with the ups and downs of 5-MeO-DMT.

If you’re curious about some aspect of 5-MeO-DMT or our retreats, especially regarding how the medicine might affect you, please don’t hesitate to ask us your burning questions in the contact form linked. We’ll respond to you promptly with the information you’re searching for.