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Welcome to the World’s 1st DMT Trials into Depression

welcome-to-the-worlds-1st-dmt-trials-into-depression

As research into medical psychedelics heats up, more drugs have been brought into the spotlight for medical testing. The FDA is pushing for research and products with MDMA and psilocybin in the US, and over in England, the world’s 1st DMT trials into depression have begun.

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What is DMT?

DMT – N,N-Dimethyltryptamine, is a hallucinogenic compound that can be found in nature in many plants like Psychotria viridis and Banisteriopsis caapi. It is processed into a white powder that can be vaporized or smoked, brewed into a drink like ayahuasca, snorted like cocaine, or even injected. It has been used as a medicine, and in spiritual applications, for thousands of years. DMT trips can be as short as 30-45 minutes, or as long as 4-6 hours when taken as ayahuasca.

Evidence of DMT use has been found going back at least 1,000 years in the Sora River valley in southwestern Bolivia with the finding of a pouch which contained both DMT and harmine. Together they imply the use of ayahuasca (a psychedelic tea made from the combination of Psychotria viridis – which produces DMT, and Banisteriopsis caapi vine – which produces MAO inhibitors which keep the DMT from breaking down, allowing for the longer trip time.)

Like many psychedelic drugs, DMT acts on serotonin receptors, particularly the 5-ht2a receptor. It acts as a non-selective agonist at most/all receptors. Serotonin is a hormone that’s known for mood stabilization, happiness, well-being, anxiety levels, and feelings of depression. It also plays a big role in communication within the nervous system, and to help regulate basic functions like eating, digestion and sleeping. Too little serotonin has been associated with depressive disorders, and too much is often associated with excessive activity in nerve cells.

Preparation phase– In this first stage, the doctor and patient get to know each other, which is important because the relationship between the doctor and patient can affect the psychedelic session. This phase generally involves talk therapy sessions where the patient’s issues can be identified and flushed out, and the patient can be prepared for the following phase. Preparation can involve behavioral directives for the experience, like explaining to the patient they should open a door if one appears in his/her experience, or to go up to a scary creature to ask questions rather than run away, as a way to encourage a patient to deal with difficult situations instead of avoiding them.

Psychedelic phase – In this phase, the patient is given a psychedelic, and then experiences their trip while their doctor gives them general guidance, with little or no analysis at this time. The session can last as long as 8+ hours as it must last as long as the drug. It’s usually carried out in a space that looks and feels comfortable to the patient. In testing, the space is usually set up to look like a living room. These sessions have two doctors present, likely for safety reasons as the patient is being put in an altered state of mind. This phase varies greatly depending on the methods used by the particular doctor. But at all times during this phase, the patient is attended to by their doctor.

Integration phase – This phase occurs soon after the psychedelic phase and can be done in one or multiple sessions, much like the other phases. The doctor facilitates this session, and helps the patient make sense of their experience. To process what happened during the session, to gain some kind of positive value from it, and to integrate an understanding between the psychedelic experience and their issues in reality.

World’s 1st DMT trials for depression

Most of the studies in the 1900’s revolved around testing LSD for use with alcohol addiction. In today’s world, there is growing interest in several compounds. The new trend can be seen clearly in the US (FDA) Food & Drug Administration’s push to get some of these compounds tested and brought to market. In 2017, the FDA designated MDMA as a ‘breakthrough therapy’ for PTSD, and in 2019 it made the same designation for psilocybin from magic mushrooms for major depression.

According to the FDA, the ‘breakthrough therapy’ designation is meant “to expedite the development and review of drugs for serious or life-threatening conditions…” So it suffices to say, that legal or not, there is a growing pressure even within the US government to get these drugs to market.

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Beth Edmonds