Strassman recently gave his first talk in 5 years at the National Psychedelic Symposium hosted by the Psychedelic Club at CU Boulder. Scroll down to watch the video and learn more about his book.
In 1984, Strassman led a research project that established the first known function of the pineal gland hormone melatonin in humans.
Strassman states on his website, "In 1990, I began the first new human research with psychedelic, or hallucinogenic, drugs in the United States in over 20 years. These studies investigated the effects of N,N-dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, an extremely short-acting and powerful psychedelic. During the project's five years, I administered approximately 400 doses of DMT to 60 human volunteers. This research took place at the University of New Mexico's School of Medicine in Albuquerque, where I was a tenured Associate Professor of Psychiatry.
I was drawn to DMT because of its presence in all of our bodies. Perhaps excessive DMT production, coming from the mysterious pineal gland, was involved in naturally occurring "psychedelic" states. These states might include birth, death and near-death, psychosis, and mystical experiences.
The DMT project was founded on cutting-edge brain science, especiallythe psychopharmacology of serotonin. However, my own background powerfully affected how we prepared people for, and supervised, their drug sessions. One of these was a decade-long relationship with a Zen Buddhist training monastery.
When his decades of clinical psychiatric research and Buddhist practice were unable to provide answers to this question, Strassman began searching for a more resonant spiritual model. He found that the visions of the Hebrew prophets--such as Ezekiel, Moses, Adam, and Daniel--were strikingly similar to those of the volunteers in his DMT studies.
Dr. Strassman explains how his interest in psychedelics began, including the difficulty of entering medical school with the intention of someday doing psychedelic drug research:
Strassman's book, DMT: The Spirit Molecule, has sold over 100,000 copies, has been translated into 12 languages, and is now available as an audio-book. Below is a documentary inspired by the book.
Addiction and palliative care specialist Gabor Maté, M.D., discusses how ayahuasca offers addicts insight into self-destructive behaviors
DMT is the psychedelic constituent of the South American shamanic brew, ayahuasca, first described in Western academic journals in the early 1950s by Harvard ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes
(January 12, 1915 – April 10, 2001), who lived among the indigenous communities who used it for spiritual and healing purposes.
See: Richard Evans Schultes, America's Greatest Ethnobotanist, Discusses the Importance of Plant Medicines
For more on harmala and other alkaloids, see: Alexander Shulgin: Why I Do What I Do
Schultes conducted groundbreaking plant research in the Amazon rainforests in the 1940s. After WWII began, the United States government sent Schultes to the South America to investigate disease-resistant rubber plants needed for war effort and to research curare, a plant medicine that had been as a muscle relaxant since the 1930s. Until then, curare was only known to modern medicine as an Amazon dart poison.
Schultes was one of the first to alert the world about destruction of the Amazon rainforest and the disappearance of its native people.
Strassman and Current Psychedelics Research
In 1991, Strassman's publication in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, Human hallucinogenic drug research in the United States: a present-day case history and review of the process, established
a modern framework from which serotonergic hallucinogens (aka: psychedelics, classic hallucinogens, entheogens) could be researched using human subjects.
Serotonergic hallucinogens found in nature include psilocybin, DMT, and mescaline.
The first indication being pursued (now in Phase II trials) is the use of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy to treat anxiety associated with cancer diagnosis. Researchers are located at Johns Hopkins University, NYU, UCLA, the University of New Mexico, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Small but successful pilot studies have been completed for the treatment of nicotine addiction and alcoholism. Ayahuasca is being studied for the treatment of depression and is already being used to change self-destructive behaviors of inmates in Brazil.
Recent population studies using data from the U.S. National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that hallucinogen use predicts reduced recidivism among substance-involved offenders under community corrections supervision. Another study using NSDUH data showed that U.S. adults with a history of using nonaddictive psychedelic drugs had reduced likelihood of psychological distress and suicidal thoughts, plans, and attempts. DEA Schedule I status of serotonergic hallucinogens is a major barrier to research.
Author Peter Hendricks states in latter study above, "Given the regulatory difficulty associated with administering classic psychedelics to humans, population-based survey studies represent one means for examining the relationships of classic psychedelic use with mental health and suicidality. What population-based survey studies sacrifice in internal validity afforded by experimental methodology, they gain in external validity provided by large samples, minimal inclusion and exclusion criteria, and assessment of subjects in real-world settings."
Roland Griffiths, PhD, Addiction Pharmacologist, Psychedelics & Spirituality Expert, Recipient of the 2015 Nathan B. Eddy Award from the College on Problems of Drug Dependence , Speaker at TedMed2015: Breaking Through
Epidemic of Death: American Mental Health and Substance Abuse
Two of Strassman's studies–Dose-response study of N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) in humans. I. Neuroendocrine, autonomic, and cardiovascular effects and Dose-response study of N,N-dimethyltryptamine in humans. II. Subjective effects and preliminary results of a new rating scale–were published in the Archives of General Psychiatry (now JAMA Psychiatry) in 1994.
Since 1996, Dr. Strassman has explored models for the DMT effect focusing primarily on the Old Testament concept of prophecy.
DMT and the Soul of Prophecy
Strassman stated in a vodcast, "The reigning model of the neurobiology of spiritual experience is that of neurotheology, a bottom-up model proposing that the brain responds with a reflex to various stimuli, resulting in the change in consciousness that is retrospectively considered spiritual.
These stimuli include meditation, prayer, fasting, and even psychedelic drugs. The spiritual experience is generated by the brain and generates the impression of communicating with the divine."
Strassman's new top-down model is called theoneurology. In the theoneurology model, it is God who designed the human brain as the agent through which to communicate with us. Divine influence elevates endogenous DMT levels through metaphysical means which, at some point, may be explicated scientifically. Forms of the visions and the voices are intended to transmit certain prophetic information.
DMT: A Religious Model
National Psychedelic Symposium
hosted by the Psychedelic Club
Boulder, Colorado • September 14, 2015
Rick Strassman, M.D.
Psychology of Religion Expert Ralph Hood Uses the 1962 Good Friday Psilocybin Experiment and Roland Griffith's Work at Johns Hopkins to Explain the Neurotheology Model
"I was drawn to DMT because of its presence in all of our bodies. Perhaps excessive DMT production, coming from the mysterious pineal gland, was involved in naturally occurring "psychedelic" states. These states might include birth, death and near-death, psychosis, and mystical experiences." –Rick Strassman
Strassman's most recent book, DMT and the Soul of Prophecy, discusses how naturally occurring DMT may produce prophecy-like states of consciousness and thus represent a bridge between biology and religious experience. From Amazon.com, Soul of Prophecy:
- Reveals the striking similarities between the visions of the Hebrew prophets and the DMT state described by Strassman’s research volunteers
- Explains how prophetic and psychedelic states may share biological mechanism
- Presents a new top-down “theoneurological” model of spiritual experience
Strassman states on his website:
"The first part of the book reviews my DMT research and subsequently launches onto my search for a new, more salient, model. I take the reader by the hand and walk them carefully and patiently through the minefield that the Hebrew Bible and its various notions, especially that of God, is for many educated secular Westerners. I then carefully compare the DMT and prophetic states using excerpts from my clinical notes as well as from the Hebrew Bible.
We hope Strassman's insights may someday facilitate the integration of these sacred medicines with our current means of preventing and treating mental illness and addiction.
Psychiatry and mental health's recent turn toward spirituality–and vice-versa–is also a good sign for the future of psychedelics.
In his book, Shrinks, Lieberman said:
"Perhaps I’m biased, since without psychiatry I might not be alive. As a teenager my depression nearly got the upper hand before I was saved by drugs—a one-two punch of tricyclic antidepressants and tryptamine psychedelics—and I continue to find better living through chemistry.
My trip did produce one lasting insight, though--one that I remain grateful for to this day...I marveled at the fact that [if] such an incredibly minute amount of a chemical...could so dramatically alter my cognition, the chemistry of the brain must be susceptible to pharmacologic manipulations in other ways, including ways that could be therapeutic."
2014-2015 American Psychiatric Association President Paul Summergrad sat with Ram Dass (formerly Harvard psychedelics researcher Richard Alpert)
CNN: Could this be the next medicinal marijuana?
Organizations that Provide Major Funding for Psychedelics Research
Heffter Research Institute:
International Ctr for Ethnobotanical Education, Research, & Service (ICEERS):
Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS):
The Beckley Foundation:
than Placebo, Meditation & Psychedelic Psychotherapy Better than Overprescribing
Pew: Millennials increasingly are driving growth of ‘nones’
Religion's Simplest Form: Roots of the R-word and the Key to its Revival