A study has found that most people who regularly use the psychedelic drug DMT develop beliefs in a higher power such as God, according to a new study by Johns Hopkins University.
An online survey of more than 2,500 people undertaken by researchers from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine revealed that after taking DMT—nicknamed the “the spirit molecule” for its ability to create deeply spiritual experiences—58 percent of respondents said tripping on DMT had triggered a belief in divine beings and powerful supernatural entities.
The study, published in the new issue of Journal of Psychopharmacology, aimed to better understand the weird experiences people have on DMT—called “entity encounter experiences”—and how they impacted their outlook. The survey was shared globally on websites such as VICE and is the largest questionnaire looking at DMT entity encounters to date. The results were published by some of the pioneers in modern psychedelic research: Davis, Roland Griffiths, and Matthew Johnson, who run Hopkins’ new Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research.
Respondents to the study, who had taken DMT on average 14 times, described bumping into an array of what they could best describe as aliens, spirits, angels, demons, gnomes and fairies. Most of these creatures, said respondents, were sentient and benevolent, with many described as “sacred.” Less than 15 percent reported “judgmental or malicious” creatures.
Meeting these entities seemed to rattle people enough to make 80 percent of them admit the drug had completely altered their fundamental concept of reality. The study found the DMT experience ranked as “one of the top five or single most personally meaningful, spiritually significant, or psychologically insightful experiences of [respondents'] lives.”
DMT, or _N,N-_dimethyltryptamine, is often described as one of the most powerful hallucinogens on Earth, burying people in a distorted, dreamlike condition that is ineffable, or too extreme to describe using words. It often resembles a near-death experience, and similar to being pronounced dead on a hospital bed and zapping back to life, many folks walk away from a DMT trip with a newfound spiritual outlook.
In the study, most people reported positive outcomes of getting high on DMT. Around 90 percent reported improved life satisfaction and wellbeing, while around 80 percent reported finding meaning and purpose following their experience.
Almost 70 percent of people said they received some kind of message, task or insight from the entities they rubbed elbows with. Some were given predictions about the future or told the day they would die. Some were shown a way out of addiction. Others were told “love is the answer to everything" or “we are all connected, all one.” Some were even told they are God.
“It’s possible that the metaphysical shock from questioning one's worldview occasioned by these vivid, unusual experiences may play an important role in the enduring positive life changes in attitudes, moods and behavior they inspire,” wrote Alan K. Davis, the study’s lead author. “We need to do more research in order to understand how these entity encounters exert positive changes in people’s lives.”
Some dispatches were ominous, such as predicting Earth’s destruction due to human greed. Others verged on incoherent rambling, such as, “The lower vibrational humans are going to be phased out and replaced” or “We shall continue to look outwardly and find multiple universes, the multi-multi-trans-dimensional-matrix of a multi-universal multi-verse which is a never-ending fractal of infinite complexity.” Sounds dope, whatever you’re talking about.
Less than five percent reported any negative or undesirable changes. However, for some, trippy encounters made them stop believing in God. One in ten reported that the experience made them atheist and 16 percent agnostic.
Whatever, or whoever, people are meeting in the DMT zone, these life changing appointments, described by psychedelic ethnobotanist Terence McKenna as “machine elves from hyperspace”, are very short in real time. While a smoked DMT experience can feel like many lifetimes, curiously, the effects leave as quickly as they come, peaking in just a few minutes and evaporating in less than half an hour. For comparison, an LSD trip can last 12 hours or more.
Some of the descriptions in the Hopkins research overlap with what others have said about alleged UFO abductions, religious prophecy, and near death experiences.
“A breakthrough DMT trip is highly likely to grant an audience with some rather weird intelligent lifeforms,” said Andrew Gallimore, a neurobiologist who has studied DMT. “However, until now there have been almost no formal analyses of the different types of entities users meet in the DMT space, nor of their frequency.
“Encounters with intelligent entities is one of the defining characteristics of the DMT experience. Reports of ‘gods,’ dwarf or elf-like beings, insectoids, and other strange creatures, can be traced back to the very earliest studies with the drug in the 1950s … It seems that, if you do happen to come across an entity during a DMT trip, it’s more than likely to be a friendly one,” Gallimore said.
Despite being one of the classic psychedelics and one of the main ingredients in the increasingly popular South American indigenous brew ayahuasca, there’s a lot we still don’t know about DMT, especially why it encourages people toward spiritual openness or why many users report encounters with non-human beings.
DMT is chemically similar to the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, as well as LSD or “acid,” but the effects are very different. When crystals of DMT are smoked or vaporized, the user is launched into a kaleidoscopic hallucination where time and space are warped like an Alex Grey painting. This so-called “blasting off” or “breakthrough” often results in encounters with autonomous beings that sometimes impart “messages” telepathically or via thoughts.
“That we have the capacity and are biologically predisposed for these experiences with psychedelics suggests that this may be an evolutionarily conserved process in which we are wired to detect sentient others. Historically, such a predisposition would have a significant survival value in hostile environments,” wrote one of the study’s authors, Roland Griffiths. “Finding out why we have these experiences and how people interpret them may lead us to a better understanding of the human condition and how we perceive reality.”
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.