An intriguing new research study reports that 5-MeO-DMT, a hallucinogenic compound naturally found in the secretions of a rare toad, can produce powerful psychedelic experiences without adverse side effects.
5-MeO-DMT is a tryptamine compound renowned for producing powerful hallucinations and feelings of euphoria. These effects can begin within minutes after consumption, and generally last for an hour or less. This entheogen has been nicknamed “toad” because it is predominantly found in the secretions of the Bufo alvarius toad, although it also naturally occurs in a small number of plants. Traditionally, the drug is used by squeezing the secretions out of a live toad and then smoking them after they have dried, but researchers have also been able to synthesize this compound in the lab.
Interest in the therapeutic potential of 5-MeO-DMT has been growing, thanks in part to anecdotal accounts from psychonauts, shamans, and celebrities. Unlike better-understood entheogens like LSD and psilocybin, the toad trip lasts for an hour or less, making it ideal for psychedelic-assisted therapy sessions, which generally last for 60 to 90 minutes. In the US, relatively few researchers have investigated this compound, but the DEA plans to hand out 2,550 grams of 5-MeO-DMT to scientists who plan to conduct psychedelics research in 2022.
European researchers have already begun to explore the medicinal use of 5-MeO-DMT, though. In 2019, a small Dutch study reported that this unique molecule can improve mood, fight inflammation, and reduce judgmental feelings. This year, a team of researchers from the Netherlands, Germany, and Ireland have kicked off a larger study that will investigate whether 5-MeO-DMT can effectively treat depression.
The initial phase of this new study, which was published last month in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology, is “the first formal prospective clinical study to investigate the safety profile of 5-MeO-DMT and its dose-related effects on states of consciousness.” To conduct the study, researchers recruited 22 healthy subjects and asked them to puff a vape containing assorted doses of GH001, a synthetically-derived version of 5-MeO-DMT.
In the first part of the trial, subjects were randomly assigned to take a dose of either 2, 6, 12, or 18mg of 5-MeO-DMT. Participants' vital signs were monitored during the trip, and after the psychedelic effects subsided, subjects were asked to fill out questionnaires evaluating the subjective effects of their experience. In the second phase, subjects started off with a 6mg dose, but any participant that did not report having a peak psychedelic experience was allowed to take up to three more additional, escalating doses.
During the first part of the trial, researchers found that only a minority of subjects who took single doses of 6 to 18mg of 5-MeO-DMT reported having peak experiences. But in the second stage, when researchers allowed subjects to take additional, higher doses, every single subject was able to achieve a peak experience. The study authors concluded that “individualized dose escalation of 5-MeO-DMT dosing may be preferable for clinical applications that aim to maximize the short-term psychoactive effects to elicit a strong therapeutic response.”
The researchers also found that none of the subjects experienced any psychological or physical side effects after vaping the drug. “As expected, 5-MeO-DMT formulated as GH001 did not elicit any short-term or long-term changes in memory, attention, and cognitive function,” the study explains. “Even 2 hours after the administrations, participants did not perform significantly better or worse compared to baseline or 1 week after administration. These results are in line with the notion that psychoactive effects of 5-MeO-DMT are short-lasting and that cognitive and psychomotor functions quickly return to baseline after administration.”
The study authors concluded that “these findings further attest to the safety profile of pharmaceutical grade 5-MeO-DMT if adequately administered in a controlled setting and suggest the safety of 5-MeO-DMT in relation to day-to-day operations requiring skilled performance.” The positive results of this initial study will allow researchers to move on to the second phase of their research, where they will investigate whether “toad” can really help patients overcome depression.