Researching DMT

Hosted byRichard Syrett

Researching DMT

About the show

Host Richard Syrett welcomed psychiatrist Dr. Rick Strassman, who talked about his research with psychedelic compound DMT and how naturally occurring DMT may produce prophecy-like states of consciousness and thus represent a bridge between biology and religious experience. After first being discovered in psychedelic plants in the late 1940's, he said, researchers learned that DMT could also be found in the bodily fluids of humans. While the purpose of DMT in the human body remains a mystery, Strassman noted that it "appears to be actively transported into the brain using the brain's energy" which is an attribute only exhibited by compounds that are required for normal brain functioning, suggesting that DMT plays a critical, albeit unknown, role in the human body.

Although DMT was a "pretty obscure drug compared to LSD" in the early years of psychedelic research, Strassman observed that this changed once researchers realized that the compound was created naturally within the human body. That discovery, he said, led to numerous studies into the possible role of DMT in psychosis and schizophrenia. However, after the drugs "escaped from the laboratory" and people began using them for recreational purposes, the government passed the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which put an end to studies on the effect of DMT in humans. This moratorium lasted until 1990, when Strassman was allowed to perform the first new research on the mysterious compound's influence on the human mind and body.

Regarding the potential connection between DMT and religious experiences, Strassman recalled how, while reading the Bible, he noticed that the descriptions of heavenly encounters by "prophetic figures" seemed remarkably similar to the experiences recounted by the volunteers in his study of the drug. As such, he theorized that elevated levels of DMT in the human brain may be the cause of the Biblical events which depict fantastic visions, sounds, and encounters with ethereal entities. Since the stimulus for elevated DMT levels remains a mystery, Strassman proposed a concept called theoneurology, where divine forces are "communicating to humans using the brain" via the psychedelic compound.

Predator Drone

In the first hour, Richard Whittle, Verville Fellow at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C, discussed the evolution of the Predator drone. He explained that rudimentary unmanned aerial vehicles were actually first developed during World War I, but the technology did not truly take hold until advancements in design allowed for drones to remain in the air for long periods of time. According to Whittle, the decision to arm the Predator drone arose after the CIA managed to locate Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan in 2000 and sought to eliminate the terrorist mastermind. In the ensuing years, he marveled, the U.S. military has gone from having 82 drones in 2001 to more than 10,000 craft of varying sizes and purposes.


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