This article was originally published on Reality Sandwich, and appears here with permission.
Found throughout the plant and animal kingdoms, DMT, or N,N-dimethyltryptamine holds the reputation of being one of the strongest serotonergic psychedelics. As opposed to the manufacturing of LSD, DMT can be made from widely available precursors without a professional organic chemistry background. This is done via a relatively simple extraction process from several DMT-containing plants, namely Mimosa hostilis and Acacia confusa. Although uncommon in a clandestine setting, synthetic manufacture of DMT starts from either indole or tryptamine.
WHEN WAS DMT FIRST MANUFACTURED IN A LAB?
The indigenous use of DMT in ayahuasca brews and cohoba snuffs dates to the pre-Columbian era. But the Western world wasn’t introduced to the spirit molecule in a scientific setting until the 20th century. N,N-DMT was first synthesized in 1931 by the Canadian chemist Richard Helmuth Frederick Manske. He made DMT, along with several other carboline compounds, by chemically modifying the tryptamine molecule. He described its chemical properties and structure, but the compound was ultimately shelved without knowledge of its psychoactivity.
Scientific interest in psychedelic plants from the shamanic pharmacopeia grew in the years after World War II, particularly in light of the discovery of serotonin and LSD. In 1946, the Brazilian chemist Oswaldo Gonçalves de Lima isolated DMT from the bark of Mimosa hostilis, a South American tree used to create psychedelic snuffs. Then, in 1955, American analytical chemists M.S. Fish, N.M. Johnson, and E.C Horning isolated and identified DMT in a closely-related tree that’s used to make a psychedelic snuff called yopo.
Discovery and Confirmation of Psychoactivity
The hallucinogenic effects of DMT were confirmed the next year by a Hungarian chemist named Stephen Szara. Szara synthesized DMT in his Budapest laboratory using a recently described synthesis published by M.E. Speeter and W.C. Anthony.
After synthesizing 10 grams, Szara conducted a self-experiment, first orally (the inactive route without an MAOI) to no avail, and later, successfully by intramuscular injection. After documenting the effects, he went on to recruit 30 volunteers for the first study on DMT’s effects in human subjects.
Unsurprisingly, Szara’s volunteers describe features of the DMT experience, such as entity contact, that closely resemble motifs in the trip reports from the volunteers in Rick Strassman’s research. Strassman’s research occurred more than thirty years later at the University of New Mexico. It helped to catalyze the psychedelic renaissance that we find ourselves in today.
THE DMT MOLECULE AND CHEMICAL STRUCTURE
DMT is an indole alkaloid found in a wide variety of plants and animals, including in trace amounts within the human body. Similar to psilocybin and psilocin, DMT is a member of the tryptamine family of hallucinogens. All tryptamines share the core structure of a double ring system attached to …