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Decoding the Difference Between 5-MeO-DMT and N, N-DMT

The article Decoding the Difference Between 5-MeO-DMT and N, N-DMT was originally published on Microdose.

Some of the more perplexing and intriguing psychedelics…



The article Decoding the Difference Between 5-MeO-DMT and N, N-DMT was originally published on Microdose.

Some of the more perplexing and intriguing psychedelics are N, N-DMT and 5-MeO-DMT. Both are fast-acting, strong, and strange. How exactly these compounds fit into a paradigm of medical (or even recreational) use is a puzzle that might take some thinking outside the box to solve.

N, N-DMT is known for otherworldly encounters with elves and is attributed to some of the effects of ayahuasca. 5-MeO-DMT’s reputation orbits around “the toad,” commonly known as  Bufo alvarius and for its ability to trigger ego dissolution and spiritual experiences. While there are similarities between the two compounds, it’s important to understand that N, N-DMT and 5-MeO-DMT have significantly different effects and possible potential.


What is N, N-DMT?

When people use the term “DMT,” it typically describes N, N-DMT or N, N-dimethyltryptamine. N, N-DMT carries a bit of a mystique, being dubbed “The Spirit Molecule” through the work of Rick Strassman, whose research in the 90s with synthetic DMT arguably sparked the current wave of psychedelic enthusiasm.

DMT’s subjective experience is rapid, extremely visual, and overwhelming to process. The sensation of total disconnect from one’s body is sometimes described as entering “hyperspace,” a realm populated with intense visions, “machine elves”, and other communicative aliens. As strange as that all sounds, N, N-DMT’s effects have caught the attention of researchers and psychedelic companies.

N, N-DMT is being investigated for the potential for neurogenesis and neuroprotective effects, which is being investigated for stroke victims. The compound is also being studied for stimulation of sigma-1 receptor, linked to anti-inflammatory, immunomodulation and neurogenesis, sparking interest in treating neurodegenerative diseases. Ayahuasca has been associated with improvements in depression, anxiety, and addiction.


What is 5-MeO-DMT?

5-MeO-DMT is 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine and is chemically similar to N, N-DMT but with the addition of a 5-methoxy group. Intramuscular is an option for administration, and the compound has a history of use in South America dating back thousands of years in the form of a snuff commonly called “yopo” today made from psychoactive beans (Anadenanthera peregrina.)

While 5-MeO-DMT and N, N-DMT have similarities — short duration, extremely altered states from typically vaporized material but psychonauts agree — the experiences are not the same.

5-MeO-DMT tends to differ from N, N-DMT with its ability to create ego dissolution, feelings of unity with the universe, an experience that words typically fail to describe, often simply summed up with “God” or “non-dual.” No matter what belief system or language is used, an often intensely transcendental encounter leaves a profound impact, which researchers have correlated to positive outcomes.

5-MeO-DMT has not received the same attention as its cousin N, N-DMT, although it is also theorized therapeutic effects are also connected to sigma-1, immunomodulation, and neurogenesis. But to date, DMT territory, in general, is not as well traveled, at least in the western world.


DMT rick strassman


What is the Difference Between 5-MeO-DMT vs N, N-DMT?

The descriptions of effects and outcomes are indeed similar on paper — so why are folks so adamant 5-MeO is different? To better understand the nuance, we talked to Dr. Malin Uthaug, a 5-MeO-DMT expert and post-doctoral researcher at the Imperial College of London.

Dr. Uthaug answered honestly that we aren’t sure about the differences between how 5-MeO and N, N-DMT work inside the brain and body just yet. However, Dr. Uthuag’s Thesis has given her a unique perspective on the topic after she observed many ayahuasca and 5-MeO-DMT ceremonies in European neo-shamanic settings,  coming to the conclusion that the psychedelic experience itself was creating improvement in well-being and affect.


5-MeO-DMT as a Somatic Amplifier

Another feature that Dr. Uthuag observed repeatedly in the underground is the potential for 5-MeO to trigger powerful physical and cathartic releases for ceremony participants.

Dr. Uthuag explains, “5-MeO seems to be more of a somatic amplifier, meaning that it brings you in contact with your body.” This feature is less pronounced with N,N-DMT, and Dr. Uthuag explains that it’s possible the overwhelming visions of N, N-DMT could be distracting, “but with 5-MeO, you’re zooming in on all these things going on in one’s body.”

Dr. Uthaug notes how experts on trauma and somatics, like Peter Levine treat these kinds of somatic experiences as activation of repressed emotions or memories. She adds that while more research is needed, it’s possible that a somatic amplifier could produce an opportunity to “shake things off and reset the nervous system.”


A Note About 5-MeO-DMT
the miraculous Sonoran desert toad, also known as Bufo Alvarius

Holistic Approach to Psychedelic Research

Decoding exactly how 5-MeO-DMT can connect people to a transcendental state while inducing somatic releases is tricky. However, the search has to start somewhere, and Dr. Uthuag is designing what she calls “holistic research” of 5-MeO-DMT at the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia.

The program will involve the intramuscular injection of 5-MeO with brain imaging alongside the collection of saliva and blood samples to determine biomarkers while compiling data from surveys and interviews. Dr. Uthuag describes the study as the “whole package” seeking to run correlations between physiology, psychology, biology, and brain activity.

The current approach to studying psychedelics is focused on the mind and neuroscience, but Dr. Uthuag wants to understand if “the body is tripping too.” She mentions the serotonin receptors in the gut and how ayahuasca has been used for gut problems. In fact, microbiome research was slated to be included in her study, but the cost made that option prohibitive.


5-MeO-DMT and Interdisciplinary Research

While 5-MeO is a fascinating topic, Dr. Uthaug isn’t convinced we should be saying psychedelics have therapeutic potential just yet. She reasons that “there’s no magic bullet” and “the work needs to be done by you.”

“I think that the field as it is now is only scratching the surface of what we know about psychedelics and healing and what it means to thrive and optimize in life. And so this is why I think a holistic approach to studying these molecules is definitely needed.”

She questions, too, citing Dr. Gabor Mate’s Myth of Normal, whether we really need psychedelics or if a great deal of the problems people are seeking relief from are lifestyle issues and a crisis of “emotional constipation.”

Part of the potential of psychedelics is their ability to act as a catalyst for change, and Dr. Uthuag says people “need it both inside and with somatic discharge, like crying, trembling or screaming, so there’s an emotional component to it as well. I think we need both.”

She expresses regret that the body and even spirit have been largely thrown out of the modern healing approach. What is needed is looking at a larger societal picture through a holistic and multidisciplinary lens to put psychedelics in perspective.

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