DMT: The Spirit Molecule
a new documentary written and directed by Mitch Schultz
The following statement about the film’s background is from producer Dr. Rick Strassman.
DMT stands for N,N-dimethyltryptamine. A chemical relative of serotonin and melatonin, it is a powerful short-acting psychedelic substance. Scientists first discovered its presence in hallucinogenic Amazonian plants in the 1940s, and European scientists determined its mind-altering properties in the 1950s. The heyday of DMT research occurred in the 1960s, after researchers found it to exist in mammalian body fluids, including those of humans. These findings led to a flurry of studies attempting to determine DMT’s role in mental illness. Many dozens of humans received DMT in scientific studies—both normal volunteers and psychiatric patients—but human DMT research ended in the early 1970s once legal restrictions on all psychedelic drugs took effect.
My interest in the role of mind-altering substances in spiritual experience led me in the mid-1980s to study the pineal gland, a brain organ of great significance within esoteric religious physiological systems. Failing to find any profound psychoactivity of melatonin, I turned my attention to DMT as a potential “spirit molecule”—a naturally made compound in the human body with psychedelic effects mimicking, in some ways, spiritual experience.
My study occurred at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine in the early 1990s and was the first new human research project with these drugs in more than 20 years. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Drug Enforcement Administration approved the study, and both the Scottish Rite Foundation and the National Institute on Drug Abuse provided funding. I based the study on the notion that understanding what DMT does in humans, and how it does it, would provide critical confirmation of the major advances in brain science with these drugs that had been taking place in lower animals over the intervening two-decade hiatus of human studies. Specifically, this work would reopen the door to a fascinating field of inquiry that had ended primarily because of sociological rather than scientific concerns. In addition, a research project with DMT would provide insights into the biology of consciousness and unusual mental states, as well as into the mechanisms of action of a potential drug of abuse.
The project utilized strict clinical psychopharmacology guidelines and recruited only normal volunteers who were psychiatrically and medically fit as well as having had previous psychedelic drug experience. We studied nearly 60 volunteers, who received a total of 400 administrations of various doses of intravenous DMT during the study. The setting was the clinical research unit of University Hospital at UNM, where volunteers were constantly and carefully monitored during their sessions. Effects began within a few heartbeats, peaked at one to two minutes, and resolved within 20 to 30 minutes. For most of these volunteers, their DMT sessions were the most intense spiritual and psychological experiences of their lives, as one might sense from their descriptions in the video clip.Producer/director Mitch Schultz’s love of film, art, music and storytelling fueled his path from an early age. His extensive experience in film, broadcast and interactive media includes work for Ghost Robot, Synthetic Pictures and a variety of television projects. He has a BS in radio-television-film from the University of Texas at Austin and an MFA from the Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film and Television at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Producer Dr. Rick Strassman is clinical associate professor of psychiatry, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, and president and cofounder of the Cottonwood Research Foundation. His groundbreaking book “DMT: The Spirit Molecule” (Park Street Press, 2001), on which this documentary is based, has sold 95,000 copies and has been translated into 11 languages. His newest work, “The Soul of Prophecy: What It Is, How It Works and Why It’s Our Birthright,” will be published by Park Street Press in 2012. In it, he presents the notion of Old Testament prophetic states as having the spiritual properties of the psychedelic experience and offering an alternative to East Asian religious and indigenous shamanism models. “DMT: The Spirit Molecule” was released in October 2011 through Warner Bros. and Gravitas Ventures; it is currently present in more than 100 million homes. To preview and buy the film on iTunes, click here; to see it via on-demand video, click here. Credits: Written and directed by Mitch Schultz; Craig Garansuay and Justin Corsbie, executive producers; Andrew Lee, Mitch Schultz and Rick Strassman, producers; original music by David Schommer of EarthRise SoundSystem; David Hobizal, visual effects designer and supervisor; CG animation by Scott Draves and The Electric Sheep; Matt Ehling, director of photography; featuring interviews with Marlene Dobkin De Rios, Alex Grey, Stanislav Grof, Graham Hancock, Dennis McKenna, Ralph Metzner, Dale Pendell, Daniel Pinchbeck, Huston Smith and many others. Film clip © Spectral Alchemy; text © Rick Strassman. For permission to reuse, email the filmmakers at info [AT] thespiritmolecule [DOT] com.