Could the brain produce its own psychedelic compound?

“A potent, short-lasting compound that has been found throughout the plant kingdom, DMT can induce the sensation of leaving the body, producing profound changes in sensory perception, mood and thought, when it is administered externally – for instance, when it’s smoked or injected. Those under the influence sometimes compare the episode to the near-death experience, complete with perceived sentient beings who transmit information, often in the form of visual language. DMT is an important ingredient in the increasingly popular Amazonian brew ayahuasca. Its modern history starts with Hungarian psychiatrist Stephen Szára, who began studying its psychopharmacological actions in Budapest in 1956, documenting the short-lived but powerful hallucinogenic effects. Before long, other researchers had shown that DMT, much like the neurotransmitter serotonin, was a naturally occurring tryptamine – produced endogenously, by the body itself. But while researchers were successfully deciphering the purpose of serotonin in the function of the brain, the status of DMT remained notoriously complicated and unclear. ”

“Touring the globe during the 1980s and ’90s, McKenna shared his sometimes studied and other times half-baked opinions on world pharmacopeia. He championed the DMT experience as nothing short of a human ‘birthright’ – as much as ‘our sexuality, our language, our eyesight, our appreciation of music’. Extemporising on the meaning and purpose of endogenous DMT was among his popular subjects. The breakthrough experience associated with ‘heroic doses’, he claimed, could inaugurate visionary experiences intended not for the individual’s psychotherapy but, as he stated in a 1991 lecture at Stanford University, ‘the redemption of the human spirit’. This perspective gave inspiration to an underground community of enthusiasts who came to embrace plants, compounds and practices that purportedly ‘awaken the divine within’.”

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Source: Could the brain produce its own psychedelic compound? | Aeon Essays