Much of the discussion surrounding endogenous DMT is in regards to the classical “Near Death Experience” (NDE). This usually occurs in the form of a traumatic event such as a car accident or a heart attack. While there are thousands of documented cases of NDE’s in which people have reported experiencing visual phenomena, this is extremely small compared to the reported transpirations of deathbed visions.
“Deathbed Visions” (also known as “DBV’s”) is the term used to describe “hallucinatory” phenomena that patients experience in the days and hours leading up to their transition (death). These patients are usually terminally ill or simply passing due to advanced aging. The number of reported DBV’s now and throughout history are in the hundreds of millions across the world as a significant percentage of people appear to experience “hallucinations” prior to their departures.
In the book, “Visions, Trips, and Crowded Rooms: Who and What You See Before You Die”, the author David Kessler interviews various nurses and doctors who have consistently witnessed DBV’s. It appears as though there is a consistency in terms of the stages of DBV’s as many patients begin to display symptoms such as staring up at far corners of the room. Eventually the symptoms progress into describing seeing deceased loved ones (most commonly their mothers). As death draws nearer some patients even describe being surrounded by many deceased people (some which they fail to recognize). Immediately preceding the moment of death some patients even appear to reach upwards with their arms as if reaching out for something. The nurses and doctors who were showcased in the book stated that DBV’s were a very common occurrence although the medical community had no explanation for them.
The general theme in the book outlined the fact that DBV’s provided great comfort to the dying patients. Their “hallucinations” allowed them to transition into death with much less fear and anxiety than they had been experiencing prior to their “visions”.
It’s interesting to note that endogenous DMT/5-MEO synthesis has been acknowledged by the scientific community for 50+ years. For whatever reason, the medical community has not integrated this knowledge as a hypothesis for DBV’s. Being that DMT/5-MEO has been classified as a hallucinogenic compound and DBV’s are labeled as “hallucinations” it would appear to be a logical starting point when discussing the biochemical causes of the phenomena. As far as I’m aware, “science” has yet to identify an additional endogenous hallucinogen other than the DMT(s).
(“Before embarking, he’d looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life’s partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them. “Steve’s final words were: ‘Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.’” – From The Guardian regarding Steve Jobs’ final moments of life.)
A 2016 article in Scientific American discussed the effects of the hallucinogen psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”) in addressing anxiety, depression, and the fear of death in terminally ill cancer patients. A formal study took place at Johns Hopkins University in 2015 in which 80 patients with life-threatening cancer were administered one full dose of psilocybin. Approximately 80% of these patients reported significantly less anxiety and fear of death immediately following the study as well as 6 months after their initial survey. The formal results can be read in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
A 2009 review in the American Journal of Hospice & Palliative Care would discuss DBV’s and their role in terms of a peaceful death and terminal restlessness. It was noted that peaceful deaths had a high correlation with the occurrence of DBV’s. Terminal restlessness was associated with a lack of DBV’s. The prevalence of terminal restlessness appeared to coincide with the occupation of the patient’s pertaining to fields with rigid frameworks such as math, science, and language. It was proposed that certain regions of the brain were more developed due to certain occupations affecting the experiences nearing the time of death.
A 2016 study in the journal Palliative and Supportive Care would carry out a survey of 133 healthcare professionals in Brazil regarding the occurrences of DBV’s (in this study it’s called End-of-life experiences (ELE)). 70% of them recalled a DBV amongst their patients within the past 5 years with 88.2% of the experiences being related to “visions of dead relatives collecting the dying person” and 80.2% being “visions of dead relatives near the bed providing emotional comfort”. It was noted that the DBV’s didn’t seem to be influenced by religious or spiritual beliefs.
A 2016 study in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management would conduct a nationwide survey in Japan regarding DBVs. The survey was sent to 3964 family members of cancer patients who had passed away. There were 2221 responses which were analyzed with 463 reports of DBV’s prior to death. It was found that DBV’s were significantly more likely to occur in older patients, female patients, female family members, family members other than spouses, more religious families, and families who believed that the soul survives the body after death.
A 2016 study in the Indian Journal of Palliative Care would survey 60 terminally ill patients receiving home care in regards to experiencing DBV’s. The purpose of the study was to compare the occurrence of DBV’s in rural and urban settings in India, where talking about death is considered taboo and also to compare its incidence with the urban population. The results were as follows: 55.5% of rural patients experienced DBV’s while 66.6% of urban patients did the same. A significant finding of the study was that the persons visualized during the DBV’s did not threaten or scare the patient and the known persons visualized were seen as they were in their prime of health.
Unfortunately I have yet to come across any studies regarding DBV’s and any physiological measurements such as EEG or blood samples. It would be definitively useful to compare the brain activity of patients experiencing DBV’s compared to their end-of-life baselines when they aren’t having DBV’s. Similarly blood samples that indicate significantly altered monoamine oxidase activity or hydroxyl radical levels would provide some insight as we’ve discussed this potential relationship to endogenous DMT synthesis in the past.
It’s interesting to note anecdotal reports of subjects who have ingested N,N-DMT, 5-MEO-DMT, and/or Ayahuasca as being much more comfortable with the concept of dying following their experiences. This reverberates the results from the Johns Hopkins psilocybin trial. While exogenous hallucinogens show a remarkable impact on the terminally ill, it appears as though the endogenously produced hallucinatory experiences also have a profound impact on the comfort level of the dying subject.
Unfortunately much of the visionary experiences of DBV’s are largely (and lazily) attributed to a “lack of oxygen” or “the effects of the pain medications” by medical professionals. For a profession that prides itself on utilizing rigorous scientifically grounded analysis to explain occurrences, these generic explanations offer no such rigor whatsoever. For being such a “chemically-driven” industry one would assume that doctors and scientists would be interested in truly understanding the physiological mechanisms of DBV’s and potentially looking at the “Endohuasca” system as a source.
Nevertheless, it seems clear that outside of the sleep “dream state”, DBV’s are the most common “hallucinations” that the general population experiences. It’s interesting to observe the slight discrepancy in the studies cited above in regards to the frequency of reported occurrences based on countries, age, and gender. Regardless, approximately 55 million people are estimated to die every year so if only 20% experience DBV’s that’s still a very significant number. In discussing DBV’s with my “better half”, she stated that after having worked in hospice for over 10 years that the percentage of occurrences of DBV’s was closer to 80 to 90% of all hospice patients. Based on her experience, the unfolding of the visions followed a fairly systematic pattern and had little variation based on ethnicity, social class, or religion.
(Hours before his death, Edison (Thomas) emerged from a coma, opened his eyes, looked upwards and said “It is very beautiful over there.” – from the book Edison: Inventing the Century“)
It’s a bit disturbing to note that in many cases, the family members of the patient experiencing the DBV’s attempt to stop the patient from expressing their visionary states. Even more disturbing is that in many cases, patients are prescribed anti-psychotic medications such as Risperdal in an attempt to stop the DBV’s from occurring altogether. The reason that DMT Quest finds this so disconcerting is based on the unequivocal evidence showcasing the positive emotional effects of DBV’s on patients who are dying. It appears as though the medical community is uncomfortable with “hallucinations” and instead of attempting to help and understand the patient’s experience, they are only helping themselves to not have to deal with the realm of what they do not know. It is an attempt to suppress the symptoms that makes the medical practitioners and possibly family members uncomfortable rather than what makes the patient uncomfortable.
Does anybody else have a problem with this backwards methodology?
*It’s interesting to note that DMT stimulates the 5-HT2A receptor (amongst others) to provide it’s subsequent visionary effects. Risperdal appears to strongly alter 5-HT2A receptor activity which alters the experience of the dying patient. 5-HT2A antagonists have also been observed to effectively block the effects of psilocybin ingestion.
Nevertheless, it’s exceedingly intriguing that there appears to be such a consistency in not only the occurrence of DBV’s but also the beneficial effects for the patient. The question that follows is… are these visions simply “hallucinations” or expansion of the visual spectrum?
At some point down the line… studies will take place that definitively measure the EEG correlates and biochemical fluctuations coinciding with DBV’s. I’d speculate that we would likely see significantly altered EEG activity including increases in gamma wave amplitude signifying a higher level of consciousness. I also speculate that we would see significant upregulation of the Endohuasca system that correlates with the visionary experience. Additional studies involving altered electromagnetic field expansions and biophoton emanation can also be included. These would be considered to be measurable biological coordinates that coincide with the experience but to halt the inquiry there would be rather unscientific by nature.
It still leaves the question… “hallucinations” or expansion of the visual spectrum?
If it’s simply “hallucinations”… much like dreams… why do they exist? If it’s an expansion of the visual spectrum that allows the dying patient to see deceased loved ones, where do the loved ones exist? Assuming that existence continues past the physical body, what’s the point of the human experience? Are there other beings that exist elsewhere in the universe and do they experience similar situations?
DMT Quest believes that death bed visions are a “gold mine” in terms of deriving information regarding not only the afterlife but also the purpose of life itself. Since there is such a consistency and large number of potential subjects to help generate data from, it’s important that the scientific community begins to have “adult” conversations regarding these transpirations. It’s time to grow up from the squirmy feeling a physician gets when their patient stares right through them and describes seeing the departed.
Future studies that involve willing participants to interact strategically with their deceased loved ones would provide fascinating insights that have yet to be uncovered in the modern era. Imagine a study in which 1000 dying patients agree to ask the following questions to their visions of the deceased such as… where do you exist now? Do you stay there all the time? Is there one creator or are there many creators? Does reincarnation occur? What’s the deal with religion and the figures that represent them (Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, etc.)? What’s the biggest flaw in our current mainstream understanding of the universe? What is the purpose of existence? What is life like outside of earth? Are there multiple dimensions or how does it work? What is the purpose for us to know about DMT? Can we access these realms outside of strictly the dying process? Why do we dream at night and what is that experience about? Does Bigfoot exist? What will be the winning lottery numbers on Wednesday?
As you can see… very pressing questions need to be answered.
But seriously… DBV’s are a gold mine for information pertaining to BIG questions about this thing we call life. At some point the data can be cross checked with various people and organizations that claim to access the spiritual realms. Organizations such as the International Academy of Consciousness, The Monroe Institute, “channelers”, psychic mediums, religious scholars, and psychonauts across the world can be integrated into the conversation to build a framework of the cycle of life. It seems as though simply focusing on the physical correlates of the experience to “explain away” DBV’s would be extremely limiting while continuing to perpetuate the scientific naiveness of the afterlife by the medical and general scientific community.
There’s lost of work to be done!
Just to be clear… It’s obvious that there are many differences between exogenous hallucinatory compound ingestion and endogenously induced experiences. However, there is enough overlap in terms of distinct changes in perception and electrical activity in the brain that they can and should be discussed in overlapping conversations.
PS. A 2012 survey in the Journal of Rural Medicine would survey end-of-life caregivers regarding the most common signs and symptoms of impending death. The most frequent sign cited was altered respiratory rhythm specified as “hard breathing” or panting. This would seem to support the notion that endogenous DMT is produced in the lungs (and likely many other places) and is being degraded at significantly suppressed levels levels via the glutamate–hydroxyl radical-monoamine oxidase activity suppression chain of events.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org with any comments or questions. You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.