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Exploring Extended-State DMT Trips

What happens during stretched-out “Spirit Molecule” experiences?

Damon Orion

The philosopher Alan Watts described the DMT experience succinctly: "Load universe into cannon. Aim at brain. Fire!" 

Nobody who has had a full-release DMT trip will accuse Watts of overstating. You could say DMT is the TNT of psychedelics: In mere seconds, it delivers an overwhelming explosion of color, sound, geometry and information, often leaving the journeyer’s most beloved paradigms in a smoking heap of rubble. 

For those unfamiliar, DMT (not to be confused with 5-MeO-DMT) is a compound native to mammalian brains and to several kinds of plants. When extracted from an external source or synthesized in a lab, it can be smoked (or, less commonly, injected) for a mind-bogglingly powerful effect. 

Because the DMT trip is simultaneously so intense and so brief (five to seven minutes in Earth time), it can be incredibly difficult to process, to the point where sometimes the entire takeaway is, "WTF was that?!

That’s where DMTx comes in.

Stretching the Limits of DMT

Psychiatrist/professor Rick Strassman gave DMT the nickname “The Spirit Molecule” in honor of its penchant for inducing mystical experiences. His book DMT: The Spirit Molecule, as well as the documentary movie of the same name, brought his astonishing research on the effects of this tryptamine to mass awareness.  

In collaboration with Dr. Strassman, neurobiologist/pharmacologist/chemist Andrew Gallimore developed the model and technology for extended-state DMT experiences (DMTx for short). By way of an IV-drip, the DMT state can be stretched out far beyond the usual duration. As opposed to the usual “quickie,” the experience can last for several hours … or, theoretically, even days. 

Dr. Gallimore, also the author of Reality Switch Technologies: Psychedelics as Tools for the Discovery and Exploration of New Worlds, says he and Strassman originally created DMTx in the hopes of allowing DMT levels in the brain to stabilize, making the experience more navigable. By all signs, they hit the bullseye. 

“What we know so far is that, certainly, the intensity of the experience does stabilize,” Gallimore explains. “That doesn't mean, of course, that what [DMTx journeyers] actually subjectively experience is stable—I don't expect that to be completely stable, as if you're walking around your apartment—but hopefully that it would be easier to establish, to orient yourself within the space over time.” 

What an Elongated, Strange Trip It’s Been 

Out of several research groups that are now exploring the potential of extended-state DMT experiences, a team at Imperial College London has gone the furthest in implementing the technology that Gallimore and Strassman created. These researchers recently oversaw a series of half-hour DMT sessions among 11 volunteers. 

The results showed that, at least in this case, protracted DMT journeys aren’t physically or psychologically overwhelming. The study also found that, unlike with other psychedelics such as LSD or psilocybin, the ego (or, if you prefer, one’s sense of individuality) remained intact even at the highest dosage. 

“All of your fears and anxieties and everything is still there, which makes it more startling,” Gallimore notes. “Losing your ego and your sense of self can be a good thing in some ways—there's no one left to be scared! So it was nice to see with this new study that these kinds of subjective experiences and comments from people like [ethnobotanist and psychedelic advocate] Terence McKenna have been borne out by the actual quantitative measures of ego dissolution in that DMT state.” 

A discussion between some of this study’s researchers and participants can be found here

Encounters with the Other During DMT Trips? 

Arguably the most interesting feature of the “breakthrough” DMT experience is the phenomenon of entity contact: more-real-than-real visions of otherworldly beings. On first impression, that might sound like sheer, glue-your-lips-together, whack-a-doodle-doo insanity … until you experience it for yourself. 

The perception of non-human life forms during DMT trips is too widely reported to ignore. For example, nearly half of the participants in this study claimed to have encountered entities during the DMT flash. Adding an extra question mark to the WTF, descriptions of certain beings in the DMT space are oddly consistent across the board, to the point where the most commonly perceived entities are now being cataloged

Rather than speed-dating with the entities, DMTx may afford psychonauts a chance to commune at length with the jesters, machine elves, insectoid aliens and other such critters from hyperspace that frequently turn up in reports of DMT trips. 

“People often describe being dragged back out of this space just as they’re starting to orient themselves, get over the initial shock of the experience and actually begin to establish some kind of communication,” Gallimore offers. “I think the early signs are that this should be a much more effective way of establishing communication with these beings.” 

Unsurprisingly, the Imperial College study found that entity encounters during extended DMT trips increased in accordance with dosage. With the highest doses, reported entity contact was most pronounced at approximately the 10-minute mark. 

One Small Step … 

As Gallimore said in a conversation with four of the participants in the Imperial College study, “This is a start of a very long journey.” 

Now that proof of principle has been established, the gates are open for inquiries into what can be done in the DMT space. The possibilities are endless: How can the architecture of this weird, fascinating world be explored and mapped? How can we bring information back from extended DMT expeditions? How can DMTx be used for problem-solving? Are there health benefits to be reaped from all this? How can visitors best communicate with whatever intelligences may reside in these alien landscapes? How can DMTx shed light on the nature of consciousness? 

And so on … unto infinity. 

As DMTx study subject Anton Bilton said in the online discussion mentioned above, “NASA might be spending billions sending rockets to space; what we’re doing in this little experiment is probably far greater in terms of understanding the nature of our existence.”  


Damon Orion is a writer, musician, artist, and teacher based in Santa Cruz, CA. He has written for Revolver, Guitar World, Spirituality & Health, Classic Rock, High Times and other publications. Read more of his work at damonorion.com



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