From a representative sample of a suitably psychedelic crowd, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who couldn't tell you all about Albert Hofmann's enchanted bicycle ride after swallowing what turned out to be a massive dose of LSD - the world's first acid trip (Hofmann, 1980) has since become a cherished piece of psychedelic folklore. Far fewer, however, could tell you much about the world's first DMT (N,N-dimethyltryptamine) trip. Although less memorable than Hofmann's story, it was no less important. The folklore would come later and reveal itself to be far weirder than anyone could have predicted. A DMT trip is certainly one of the most bizarre experiences a human can undergo and, although six decades have passed since the very first DMT trip, the experience continues to confound and remains fertile ground for speculation regarding its significance and meaning (Meyer, 1997;Luke, 2011;Gallimore, 2013). Of course, it would be extremely Western-centric to ignore the use of DMT by indigenous Amazonians in the ayahuasca brew (Shanon, 2003;Frenopoulo, 2005;Shanon, 2005;Schmidt, 2012) or the cohoba snuff (Schultes, 1984), but it was only after the effects of the pure compound were discovered that its role in these traditional preparations became clear.
There has been a resurgence of interest in DMT in the last couple of decades, largely inspired by the baroque orations of the late psychedelic bard Terence McKenna, who regarded DMT as "the secret"; producing the most intense and bizarre experience a human could have "this side of the yawning grave". Furthermore, although the endogenous production of DMT in humans has been established for several decades (Barker et al., 2012), attracting speculation as to its role in humans (Callaway, 1988;Wallach, 2009;Gallimore, 2013), recent research has provided more definitive evidence for a true functional role in human physiology (Frecska et al., 2013;Szabo et al., 2014). Dr Rick Strassman's groundbreaking study of the effects of DMT in humans (Strassman et al., 1994;Strassman, 1995;Strassman et al., 1996) has been a particularly potent catalyst for speculation regarding the significance of this unique psychedelic. Strassman, a psychiatrist at the University of New Mexico's School of Medicine, recruited 60 volunteers, the majority of whom received more than one dose of DMT by intravenous injection. This study was particularly special in that the subjective experiences of the volunteers took centre stage, with every detail of their trip narratives carefully recorded and many subsequently featuring in Strassman's psychedelic classic, DMT: The Spirit Molecule (Strassman, 2001). Whilst being the most ambitious and extensive study of DMT in humans, it certainly wasn't the first. For that, we'll need to go back a few decades.The first DMT trip
The story begins sometime in 1953. Hungarian physician and chemist, Dr Stephen Szára, was planning a study to investigate possible biochemical factors in the aetiology of schizophrenia (Szára, 1989). News of the remarkable mind-bending effects of Hofmann's new lysergic acid derivative had already spread throughout the European medical community and Szára was keen to procure a small supply to use in his own research. He wrote to Sandoz, the only source of LSD at the time, to place an order. However, Hungary was firmly locked behind the Iron Curtain and Sandoz seemed wary of sending him the potent new drug. His request was politely refused. Szára needed an alternative: ...[Continue reading on Reality Sandwich]