What Is 5-MeO-DMT – One of The World’s Most Powerful Psychoactive Substances

What Is 5-MeO-DMT – One of The World’s Most Powerful Psychoactive Substances

5-MeO-DMT is a potent, fast-acting, and short-lasting psychedelic compound. Many people regard it as the world’s most powerful psychoactive substance. While it can provide people with profound and life-changing experiences, it is not as commonly used as other classic psychedelics, like psilocybin, LSD, and DMT.

It is worth gaining an understanding of this compound, as its history, effects, and potential therapeutic uses are pretty fascinating. This guide will explore these different aspects of 5-MeO-DMT, as well as compare this compound with other psychedelics.

What Is 5-MeO-DMT?

5-MeO-DMT is a tryptamine psychedelic, which means it is a chemical derived from tryptophan, an essential amino acid. Other tryptamine psychedelics include psilocybin, psilocin, ibogaine, bufotenin, and DMT.

5-MeO-DMT differs from DMT (N,N-dimethyltryptamine), chemically speaking, in that the former is derived from the latter. You can see this based on 5-MeO-DMT’s full scientific name: 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine.

Where Can You Find 5-MeO-DMT?

5-MeO-DMT is a natural psychedelic compound. It often comes from many plant species and, most notably, one species of toad: Incilius avarius (or the Sonoran Desert Toad).

You can find the Sonoran Desert toad in arid and semiarid parts of the Sonoran Desert, in northern Mexico and the southwestern United States. Areas in the United States where it lives include the lower Colorado River and parts of California, New Mexico, and Arizona.

The Sonoran Desert toad secretes toxins (mostly steroids) from glands in its skin as a defense mechanism. The toad’s venom also contains the psychoactive substances 5-MeO-DMT and bufotenin.

It is common for people to use 5-MeO-DMT that has been extracted from this type of toad. This involves squeezing their glands and catching the spray on a piece of glass. When dried, the venom forms flaky crystals on the glass, which you can then collect for use. Vaporizing the dried venom destroys the toxins but not the 5-MeO-DMT.

Synthesizing 5-MeO-DMT

However, it is also possible to synthesize 5-MeO-DMT. And some psychedelic advocates argue that users should prefer the synthetic version over the toad-derived one for several reasons. Tim Ferriss stresses that the Sonoran Desert toad is under multiple threats, including climate change, rapid urbanization, and overcollection. Ferriss points out that synthetic 5-MeO-DMT is both affordable and scalable. As he puts it, “Why put an at-risk species in the gristmill?”

In 2019, Hamilton Morris attended the World Bufo alvarius Conference (WABC) in Mexico City (here it should be noted that the scientific name of this toad has been changed from Bufo alvarius to Incilius alvarius).

Speaking at the conference, Morris encouraged attendees to choose synthetic 5-MeO-DMT over the natural variety, based on the negative effects associated with harvesting toad secretions. He stated at the conference: “I don’t think there is a good sustainable way to milk these toads especially if this material keeps gaining popularity at the rate that it is.”

The History Of Use

The use of 5-MeO-DMT by psychonauts and as an entheogen only really began in the 80s. In 1983, an author, using the pseudonym Albert Most, published a pamphlet titled Bufo alvarius: the psychedelic toad of the Sonoran Desert. This pamphlet contains a variety of information on the toad, including where it lives, how to identify it, how to extract its venom, and the effects of vaporizing its venom.

The identity of the author was, for a long time, never uncovered. In the first episode of season two of Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia, which explores the chemistry and societal impacts of drugs, Morris explores the use of the Sonoran Desert toad’s venom. He interviews a man named Alfred Savinelli, who claims to be Albert Most. However, Morris later discovers he was misled in the interview. This was not the author of the pamphlet.

In the first episode of season three of the docuseries, Morris uncovers the true identity of Albert Most: a reclusive man living in Denton, Texas, named Ken Nelson.

Before the publication of this pamphlet, there was no known history of people smoking the toad venom. As Morris remarks:

“There is absolutely no evidence of B. alvarius smoking before the publication of Ken Nelson’s pamphlet [in 1983], the evidence for any form of indigenous use of B. alvarius is highly speculative and I find none of it convincing. B. alvarius is the only species that has been found to contain 5-MeO-DMT. The smoking of B. alvarius venom among Seri people appears to be a modern practice that is almost universally attributed to outside influences.”

In 2020, Morris published an expanded and updated version of Nelson’s 1983 pamphlet.

The Rising Popularity Of 5-MeO-DMT

While not as commonly used as substances like LSD or psilocybin, 5-MeO-DMT is growing in popularity, as Morris underlines. Psychedelic retreats now offer an experience with the compound. You can find many 5-MeO-DMT retreats in Mexico, for example. There are even hotels in Mexico that give people the opportunity to smoke the toad venom.

Celebrities have also come out in the open about their use of 5-MeO-DMT, including Mike Tyson, HGVT’s Christina Haack, Hunter Biden, and former NFL player Eben Britton. The journalist and author Michael Pollan also described an intense experience with the substance in his highly popular book How to Change Your Mind (2018).

Matthew W. Johnson, a psychedelic researcher at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, states the below.

“The current wave of popularity is really just building on the increased awareness of this compound over the last few decades. The internet has obviously played a huge role.”

David E. Carpenter, a journalist who covers trends in psychoactive substances for Forbes, points out 5-MeO-DMT’s short duration and fast onset is another reason for its growth in popularity.

Carpenter says it appeals to people seeking “a 15-minute session where you experience yourself dissolving into unitary consciousness … rather than a five-to-eight-hour rollercoaster ride on something like psilocybin-containing mushrooms.”

The Effects Of 5-MeO-DMT

As Carpenter mentions, the 5-MeO-DMT experience lasts around 15 minutes. Depending on the dosage, the experience may be shorter or longer than this.

When smoked, the onset can occur within as little as five seconds. The come-up lasts 30-60 seconds. You reach the peak of the experience in 5-10 minutes, with the coming down stage lasting 10-20 minutes. After-effects can persist for 15-60 minutes.

The effects of 5-MeO-DMT come on strong and quickly, often with a loss of physical coordination and control. This is why it’s important to take the compound in the presence of a guide, as they will help ensure your physical safety.

Unlike DMT, 5-MeO-DMT does not often include a very visual experience. The experience involves more of an intense perspective shift, characterized by physical, emotional, and conceptual effects. During the onset, anxiety or excitement may occur. Intense emotions throughout are typical, ranging from extreme fear to euphoria.

It is common for people to experience traveling to a place that is purely white, with no visuals. Users may use terms such as “void” or “nothingness” to describe this place.

Mystical experiences with 5-MeO-DMT are common, including effects such as the following.

  • Ego death (the loss of your sense of self or identity), which may occur quickly after smoking the substance
  • Oneness with the universe
  • Being outside of time and space
  • A feeling of sacredness or the “divine”
  • Intense feelings of love and joy

Therapeutic Uses

Many users of 5-MeO-DMT report that their experiences with the compound have transformed their lives for the better. Scientific research is now beginning to validate some of the claims about 5-MeO-DMT’s therapeutic potential.

First, researchers have found that this potent psychedelic reliably induces mystical experiences. Other researchers have linked the therapeutic benefits of psilocybin to the compound’s ability to induce these types of experiences. By offering a deeply spiritual experience, 5-MeO-DMT may likewise be able to help people recover from mental health conditions like depression.

According to one study, a single experience with vaporizing 5-MeO-DMT can lead to reductions in depression, anxiety, and stress — as well as increases in life satisfaction and mindfulness — after the session and in the long term.

Also, the authors of the study state:

“Participants that experienced high levels of ego dissolution or oceanic boundlessness during the session displayed higher ratings of satisfaction with life and lower ratings of depression and stress.”

A separate study from Johns Hopkins found that the use of 5-MeO-DMT in a ceremonial group setting is associated with decreases in depression and anxiety. The authors found that these improvements were related to the below.

  • The intensity of the mystical effects
  • The extent to which the experience was deemed meaningful and spiritually significant
  • How strongly participants believed the experience contributed to enduring well-being and life satisfaction

In Closing

In a nutshell, then, smoking 5-MeO-DMT can offer an intense mystical experience, with potentially long-lasting benefits. However, this compound, as with any other psychedelic, has its risks.

The experience may feel overwhelming. Some users of 5-MeO-DMT have felt destabilized by the experience, needing significant time to integrate it and feel stable again.

This is why people must use 5-MeO-DMT responsibly. You need to prepare yourself for the experience, use it for the right reasons (it is not a recreational drug), and make sure that you have psychological support both during and after the experience.

Part of responsibly using 5-MeO-DMT, as many psychedelic advocates argue, also involves choosing the synthetic version over the natural one. Even if other compounds in extracts of toad venom change the experience in some way, the synthetic substance can still provide the full mystical experience and therapeutic benefits.

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Sam Woolfe

View all posts by Sam Woolfe

Sam Woolfe is a freelance writer based in London. His main areas of interest include mental health, mystical experiences, the history of psychedelics, and the philosophy of psychedelics. He first became fascinated by psychedelics after reading Aldous Huxley's description of the mescaline experience in The Doors of Perception. Since then, he has researched and written about psychedelics for various publications, covering the legality of psychedelics, drug policy reform, and psychedelic science.

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