A Short Q&A with Dr. Rick Strassman About the Recent DMT Study

Being that the recent endogenous DMT Study carried out by Dr. Jimo Borjigin and her team at the University of Michigan produced some intriguing results, I thought it might warrant some input from Dr. Rick Strassman regarding the data. This is not a lengthy interview  but offers some commentary from the author of the book, “DMT: The Spirit Molecule“. 

–Begin Interview–

JC: So the recent DMT study that took place at the University of Michigan that you co-authored seems like a pretty important paper. You were one of the first to hypothesize that DMT might act as a modulator of reality… meaning that you mentioned that it was possible that differing levels of the compound either made “normal” reality more vibrant or a bit more dull. The fact that the basal levels of live animals during normal waking moments produced DMT at levels comparable to serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine supports the hypothesis you presented years back. What are your current thoughts on the recent findings?

Strassman: As Jimo notes, and as Steve Barker has been proposing for years, there may be a DMT neurotransmitter system. The implications are far-reaching, but the data remain at the level of just scratching the surface. One of the hallmarks of the DMT experience is the sense of reality of what is apprehended in that state. If, simplistically put, serotonin modulates mood, dopamine pleasure, and norepinephrine excitation, perhaps the DMT neurotransmitter circuits modulate our sense of reality.

JC: That’s a reasonable point it seems. While the recent study wasn’t timely in the sense that DMT levels were not measured immediately following cardiac arrest (0 to 5 minutes), a measurable increase of DMT in the visual cortex was observed. Do you think this provides some evidence that DMT likely modulates the visionary states that some people report during Near Death Experiences?

Strassman: That’s the most tantalizing conclusion one can draw from the cardiac arrest DMT data.

JC: Some people believe that because this study showed that the enzymes necessary to synthesize DMT (INMT & AADC) were found throughout different parts of the brain (cerebral cortex, choroid plexus, and the pineal gland), that the “pineal gland theory” was put to rest. This is a bit confusing since it seems like this study offered the first data (to my knowledge) that the pineal gland of humans contain the necessary enzymes to create DMT. What are your thoughts on this statement of the pineal gland theory and putting it to rest?

Strassman: If you read the discussion carefully, this issue is addressed by suggesting that the pineal generally is geared toward making melatonin and not DMT. That doesn’t mean that the pineal *never* makes DMT, but that in usual conditions, the evidence points to melatonin as the favored product.

JC: What are your more recent thoughts on the DMT lung hypothesis? It was a prevalent one regarding the major site of DMT production in the body based on the concentration of INMT but the recent study cites the seeming necessity for AADC co-localization. Does this essentially place doubt on the long standing lung-DMT hypothesis?

Strassman: It does place doubt on it.

JC: It’s interesting how scientific theories can take hold and ingrain themselves in the industry when repeated enough times. Are there any DMT studies that you’re particularly interested in seeing being carried out in the near future? From what I’ve heard you have some involvement in the extended DMT study where human volunteers will be administered DMT for prolonged periods of time via an intravenous drip. Is this still going to take place?

Strassman: I’ve consulted with the Imperial College group’s plans for the continuous infusion protocol. They’re working out the pharmacokinetics–not easy.

JC: It does seem challenging based on having to carefully control the speed and rate of uptake into the brain as well as monitoring the clearance. One of the aspects I’ve noticed is that while much of the discussion surrounding endogenous DMT focuses on the enzymes that synthesize it, there doesn’t seem to be much mention of endogenous monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI). There does seem to be some research in this field particularly as it pertains to Tribulin that took place in the 90’s and early 2000’s. What are your thoughts on endogenous MAOI’s and the role they play in this complex system?

Strassman: I’ve not followed the endogenous MAO literature for quite some time. The transmethylation theory of schizophrenia adduced putative MAO abnormalities as contributing to the illness.

JC: I believe there’s a study showing consistent hydroxyl radical (•OH) elevation in schizophrenics as well correlating with alterations in MAO activity. What do you think about the soaring popularity of DMT? It doesn’t seem to be dying down at all with famous figures such as Mike Tyson talking about DMT (albeit 5-MEO) and Joe Rogan consistently citing on his podcast. I remember you mentioning that it should be a more popular topic of discussion a few years back. Is it finally reaching the level of notoriety it should be at or does it still have a ways to go?

Strassman: A DMT neurotransmitter system will raise its awareness more, as will the cardiac arrest data. I think one of the reasons it’s not been in the public eye as much as, say, psilocybin, is that DMT doesn’t fit neatly into the “psychedelics as medicine” meme.

JC: Yeah more definitive data in terms of endogenous function could help solidify it’s place in scientific circles it seems. One of the big issues underlying endogenous DMT seems to be it’s lack of funding. While psychedelics such as psilocybin and to a lesser extent MDMA (not a classic psychedelic) have garnered millions of dollars in investment and research dollars, endogenous DMT has received a miniscule fraction by comparison. What do you think it will take to address this situation Rick?

Strassman: I don’t know.

–End Interview–

While Dr. Strassman isn’t actively involved in the field of DMT research these days, his input is still valuable being that he has been immersed in the conversation of endogenous DMT for several decades now. Prior to the data produced within the past 8 years, Strassman hypothesized several things that are likely to be correct such as… the pineal gland producing DMT,  DMT seemingly being a modulator of sorts with differing levels affecting perception, and an upsurge of DMT in the brain during the process of dying. While many readers of his book took some of these hypothesis as fact, the latest data indicates that there is the high likelihood that many of them will be proven as fact once the actual research takes place. Unfortunately, the NIH has not yet allocated the necessary funds to catapult this field in the manner that it should be. This has led to challenges for Dr. Jimo Borjigin and her team whom are actively engaged in endogenous DMT research. If you would like to donate directly to her lab you can do so by clicking here (under the description of her research you can click donate link to provide funds.)

DMT Quest is a non-profit 501(c)3 dedicated to raising awareness and funds for endogenous DMT Research. This specific field of psychedelic research has been underfunded for many decades now. It’s time to take our understanding of human physiology, abilities, and perception to the next level. E-mail me at with any comments or questions. You can also follow us at FacebookInstagram, or Twitter.


(A 2011 Interview Excerpt from the documentary "DMT: The Spirit Molecule")