When it comes to the psychedelic scene, 5-MeO-DMT (5‐methoxy‐N, N‐dimethyltryptamine) is a relative newcomer. But its nickname “the God molecule” makes it clear that this is not your typical psychedelic experience. Here’s what you need to know.
Similar to other tryptamine psychedelics such as psilocybin and DMT (N, N‐dimethyltryptamine) as well as ayahuasca (a South American psychoactive tea), it’s known for producing profound, difficult-to-describe experiences. Those who do talk about these experiences use mystical terms. They speak of feeling one with the universe; being outside of time and space; losing bodily awareness; enjoying a sense of connectedness, love, and peace; and experiencing deep psychological healing.
Why 5-MeO-DMT is called the God molecule
What’s different about the God molecule is that it produces these experiences in record time. Initial studies show that a single exposure to this amazing substance can cause rapid and sustained reductions in symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. It also demonstrates anti-inflammatory and immune-system regulation properties (1).
As we see psychedelics making their way into clinical practice to help patients with anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental disorders, there’s growing research and commercial interest in the healing properties of 5-MeO-DMT for the same reasons.
Whilst 5-MeO-DMT is found in various plants and was traditionally used in Central and South America to make psychoactive snuff, it’s also been found in the Sonoran Desert toad (also known as Incilius alvarius or Bufo alvarius).
This large toad, measuring up to 7 inches (18cm), has two glands located behind its eyes. It uses the venom contained in these glands to protect itself from predators. That venom contains 5-MeO-DMT as well as bufotenine (a hallucinogenic substance) and many other compounds.
In 1984 Ken Nelson, a researcher and psychonaut, published a guide to the God molecule under the pen name Albert Most. In it he shared not only the details of his peak experience, but instructions on how to collect, dry, and smoke the venom. Catching and milking the Sonoran Desert toad became so popular that its survival as a species was threatened.
To protect the toads, a synthetic form of 5-MeO-DMT is often used. This is sometimes referred to as the pure molecule or Jaguar (“Jag” for short) (2). Whilst the synthetic version contains only 5-MeO-DMT and not the other compounds found in the natural product, it provides the same benefits and allows for more accurate dosing.
How does it work?
Studies suggest that 5-MeO-DMT has a high affinity for the 5-HT1A receptor. This receptor is involved with serotonin (the “happiness hormone”) signaling. This is different from other psychedelics, whose effects seem to be mediated by the activation of the serotonic 5-HT2A receptor (1).
5HT1A receptors have been implicated in mood regulation and the activity of the autonomic nervous system. This may explain the effects of 5-MeO-DMT. Participants in observational studies have reported powerful mystical experiences, including ego dissolution, alterations in their sense of space and time, intense feelings of love or peace, and even a sense of oneness with the universe (3).
Uthaug et al. (2019) also noted in their study that a single dose of vapor from dried toad secretion resulted in decreased DASS ratings (subjective ratings of depression, anxiety, and stress). The decreases (depression by 18%, anxiety by 39%, and stress by 27%) continued after the session, reaching 68%, 56%, and 48%, respectively, after 4 weeks (3).
In a study by Davis et al. (2018), participants completed a web-based questionnaire. The group reported that their psychiatric conditions improved following 5-MeO-DMT use. This included improvements in depression (77%), post-traumatic stress disorder (79%), anxiety (69%), substance use problems (~63%) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (53%). One-third of the sample (35%−50%) also reported improvements in symptoms related to ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), autism, bipolar disorder, and eating disorders (4).
Researchers are also interested in 5-MeO-DMT due to its potential ability to improve neuroplasticity in the brain, as well as its strong anti-inflammatory effects.
5-MeO-DMT in Clinical Settings
5-MeO-DMT shows great promise for medical and psychiatric use. A few countries have legalized it, but for the most part (including in the United States), people see it as an illegal or controlled substance.
Whilst it’s not the first psychedelic study to help people with mood disorders, its quick onset and short duration make it unusually cost effective.
Vaping and smoking are the most popular ways to take it, though it can also be snorted. Taking it orally, however, does not produce a significant psychoactive effect. (5) Other avenues, including intramuscular injection, are also being explored. Hopefully, one of those will be better suited for clinical use.
As with any psychedelic, the user may or may not have a life-altering experience. The probability is especially high with 5-Meo-DMT because it acts so quickly and intensely. The quality and intensity of the experience may be affected by the technique used, the dosage, the individual’s metabolism, and how ready the person is for the experience.
Without careful preparation, supervision, and integration by experienced guides or practitioners, there’s a real risk of experiencing profound fear; anxiety; intense emotions like sadness; nausea and vomiting; and even reactivation after exposure.
Whilst it seems to have a good standard of safety and healthy tolerance, psychosis has been reported in rare cases.
The Future of 5-MeO-DMT
People use 5-MeO-DMT throughout the world for recreational and spiritual purposes. There’s a growing investment in commercially funded studies due to its potential therapeutic value.
It may not be too long before clinicians can offer 5-MeO-DMT in their practices, especially for depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. It may also be of great value to those near the end of their lives who wish to explore the religious/spiritual aspects of their existence and reduce their fear of death and dying.
There’s little doubt that this substance can have a profound impact on those who take it. Hopefully, the question is when, and not if, 5-MeO-DMT will be accessible to those who need it most.