5-MeO-DMT: The God Molecule

The God Molecule: Explore the uniquely modern history, mind-opening effects, and healing potential of one of the world’s most intense psychedelics.

Amazingly, 5-MeO-DMT (5-methoxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine) trip reports describing having made a blistering bee-line for the blissful, love-dyed, omnipresent white light at the center of the cosmos, are surprisingly not uncommon. 

This short-acting serotonergic psychedelic, found naturally in the venom of the Sonoran Desert Toad (Bufo Alvarius), is said to reliably induce a mystical-type experience beyond the boundaries of any specific religion, spiritual practice, or dogmatic ideology in most if not all the people curious or desperate enough to consume it.

The word “ineffable” is often bandied about in psychedelic circles to express the extreme nature of 5-MeO-DMT-induced realms of universal interconnectedness. Plain, boring, old ordinary adjectives simply fail to do the so-called “God Molecule” experience justice. 

As a consequence of its mysterious mind-altering properties, and some glowing endorsements from high profile celebrities, including Mike Tyson, who claims that the God molecule dramatically changed his life, 5-MeO-DMT is gaining popularity as a tool for spiritual exploration and emotional healing.

An increasing number of retreats promising transformational journeys to wholeness are popping up at an impressively rapid rate. However, as is the case with all psychedelic use, there are risks involved, and they mustn't be understated.   

Discovery of the God Molecule

Before being found in nature, 5-MeO-DMT’s chemical relative, DMT (N, N-Dimethyltryptamine), was first discovered synthetically in the 1930s by a German-Canadian chemist named Richard Manske. DMT, not to be confused with 5-MeO-DMT, which is approximately 15-20 times more potent in humans, is the psychedelic compound present in the Amazonian psychedelic brew, ayahuasca

Until DMT’s synthesis, the only compound structurally and experientially similar to it was the psychedelic alkaloid, bufotenin (5-HO-DMT), which had been isolated from the skin secretions of the common European toad (Bufo Bufo) by Austrian chemist Hans Handovsky in 1920. Handovsky’s discovery was quite extraordinary considering the relatively primitive nature of neuroscience at the time, inspiring Japanese chemist Toshio Hoshino to become the first person to synthesize bufotenin in 1935.

A year later, when Hoshino was making derivatives of bufotenin with his colleague Kenya Shimodaira, he also became the first person to synthesize the God Molecule — 5-MeO-DMT. 

5-MeO-DMT has since been discovered in a variety of plants and some species of fungi. It was also isolated as one of the psychoactive compounds present in the seeds of the Anadenanthera peregrina tree used to prepare Yopo, an entheogenic snuff that is blown into the user’s nostrils using pipes made from bird bones or bamboo. 

Interestingly, some research suggests that 5-MeO-DMT may even be synthesized in the pineal gland and retina of humans after it was identified in urine, blood, and cerebrospinal fluid

The Psychedelic Toad: Bufo Alvarius 

A quantum leap in 5-MeO-DMT research came in the 1960s when an Italian chemist named Vittorio Erspamer, famous for first identifying the indispensable neurotransmitter, serotonin, excised an entire parotoid gland from a dead Sonoran Desert toad to analyze its viscous, milky-colored venom.

Erspamer’s single-minded devotion to extracting psychoactive substances from animals was duly rewarded when he isolated 5-MeO-DMT, becoming the first person to discover 5-MeO-DMT in Bufo Alvarius.

Irvine Page, a physician whose research would shape our modern understanding and treatment of hypertension and cardiovascular conditions, would later remark: “Erspamer must be recognized as one of the most productive and gifted investigators in the field.”

High praise indeed from a notoriously critical physician of significant repute. 

Smoking Toad Venom: A New Phenomenon 

Many psychedelics are the subject of either fabricated or completely made up stories of traditional indigenous use, and, unfortunately, 5-MeO-DMT is no different. Multiple versions of a story are spun about ceremonial use among indigenous communities, yet there seems to be no compelling evidence to back up such claims. 

What can be said with a degree of certainty, however, is that indigenous populations were most certainly not using isolated 5-MeO-DMT, but were most likely using imperceptible amounts in combination with considerably higher doses of bufotenin and other chemicals.

The use of Bufo alvarius venom and synthetic 5-MeO-DMT remained unclear until a comprehensive pamphlet, authored under the pseudonym ‘Albert Most’, was published in 1984.

Thanks to the investigative tact of Hamilton Morris, chemist and creator of the delightfully engaging docuseries, Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia, in which he tracks the history, chemistry, and social impact of influential psychoactive drugs, Ken Nelson, an artist, conservationist, and independent researcher from Denton, Texas, revealed himself as the real Albert Most.

Through trial and error, Nelson developed the practice of smoking dried Bufo alvarius venom as a means of consuming 5-MeO-DMT. 

Therefore, relatively speaking, this is a very new medicine. Before 2019, the only previously published analysis of 5-MeO-DMT was from 1965. As a result, next to nothing is truly understood about this fascinating substance.

Due to the short history of smoking Bufo derived 5-Meo-DMT, there is no tradition associated with its use, nor a lineage of ancestors passing down generations of knowledge on best practice. Some users are eager to assign an indigenous history to it, because, in the words of Hamilton Morris, speaking at the 2019 World Bufo Alvarius Congress, “it is uncomfortable to imagine that this is something we brought into the world.”

Uncomfortable as it may be, it is our responsibility to construct a culture around this powerful medicine.  

Therapeutic Efficacy of 5-MeO-DMT

The scant investigation of 5-MeO-DMT’s therapeutic potential conducted thus far is suggestive of some clinical efficacy, demonstrating positive long-term effects on anxiety, depression, and alcohol-use disorder, as well as improving satisfaction with life and mindfulness-related capacities

So, how does the God molecule heal people?  

Well, it reliably induces a uniquely mystical experience characterized by total obliteration of one’s sense of self or “ego” accompanied by profound feelings of love, euphoria, and a paradigm-shifting sense of being a part of something far more significant than oneself — I guess it’s not called the God Molecule for nothing. 

In a recent appearance on the Psychedelic Spotlight podcast, founder and CEO of Tandava Retreats, Joël Brierre, described smoking 5-MeO-DMT as like “throwing a grenade into the subconscious mind”, causing its gates to suddenly spring open. This chemical reaction allows suppressed mental material, which had hitherto been too scary or too elusive to safely access, to project explosively towards the forefront of one's consciousness for candid confrontation. 

The unique subjective effects of a 5-MeO-DMT experience, and the consistency with which it occurs, are what separate the God molecule from other psychedelic medicines. These cardinal characteristics, in conjunction with the cascade of functional connectivity changes that occur simultaneously, undoubtedly play a central role in the compound’s reported life-transforming capabilities and therapeutic efficacy.

For the experience to be positive, however, participants must be ready and willing to surrender to its pull, letting go of everything they think they know about themselves and reality.

5-MeO-DMT: The Importance of Set and Setting

Naturally, such an outlandish experience can be destabilizing and blindingly confusing for our limited everyday minds to interpret. This is where the importance of set and setting come into play.

Once suitability to work with the medicine has been established, participants’ mental state going into the experience, and the physical and social environment in which it is to take place, become fundamental to positive outcomes. A nurturing environment, a good mindset, and the setting of intentions can be the difference between awe-inspiring bliss and psychological turmoil. 

Also, facilitators must be centrally involved and have a comprehensive understanding of the process.

Supportive preparatory sessions help to engender the level of comfort required for participants to safely engage in what could be one of the most unnerving and/or profoundly cathartic psychic journeys of their entire lives.

The medical experience can quickly fade too if visions, sensations, or revelations are irresponsibly neglected or improperly integrated. To prevent this from happening, integrative therapy and mindfulness practices such as meditation, yoga, journaling, and breathing exercises can be employed to unpack the experience, construe the ineffable, and promote successful assimilation of insights.

Amid growing concerns regarding the conservation of Bufo alvarius, several trailblazing biopharma companies are synthesizing pharmaceutical grade 5-MeO-DMT. This is likely to expand access to future clinical trials and treatments for the growing number of suffering souls yet to find a medicine that works.

5-MeO-DMT can have tremendous healing effects. That being said, it is crucially important that safety protocols are meticulously adhered to if facilitators and therapists are to avoid potentially doing more harm than good.

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