Actualizing the impossible

L. Brown

Colloquially known as the “businessman’s trip,” N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is known for its lunch-break-size: a 15-minute duration that launches consumers into vivid alien worlds. Some say it’s among the most literally hallucinogenic of all the psychedelics, others say it’s a portal to reach otherwise inaccessible depths of reality. In 2016, two veteran researchers, Dr. Rick Strassman and Dr. Andrew Gallimore, proposed a theoretical method to safely extend the experience beyond its normal length. In July 2017, Boulder’s own psychedelic psychotherapist Daniel McQueen set out to see just what that theory was made of.

It’s a far-out proposition, not only because DMT is internationally prohibited but because it’s notoriously difficult to get the credentials, support and funding to overcome legal and regulatory hurdles. McQueen appears unphased. With decades of academic, professional and personal work in psychedelic experiences he’s become adept at actualizing the impossible. You might say his job is to pull at seemingly intangible threads of profound psychedelic insights and weave them into waking reality.

And so far, his progress on project DMTx is almost entirely in the realm of the tangible. Thanks to advice he got from Dr. Strassman, McQueen is focusing on the practical details of his project.

First of all, he’s acquiring a team of highly qualified and credentialed collaborators including business and accounting consultants, a medical advisor, a research specialist, several psychonauts, a legal team and media, event and fundraising support.

Importantly, he is still looking to recruit a medical doctor, the one who will ultimately administer the DMT, and for that he is exploring many options. Specifically, he’s interested in working with a doctor already involved in ketamine-assisted psychotherapy for two reasons. First, the targeted infusion pump technology being used with ketamine is similar to that proposed to administer the DMT experience. And second, both substances are psychedelics and so administration experience in one could translate to the other.

McQueen and his growing team are also currently exploring three legal avenues to pursue the research. One option is to seek FDA approval to perform the research here in Boulder, which, due to regulatory and bureaucratic infrastructures, is a lengthy and expensive prospect. Another option is to seek legal means to perform the research in a different country, one that has less restrictive prohibitions. The final option is to perform the research under religious pretenses in a country in which DMT is legal for religious purposes.

The latter is likely the easiest and quickest route, but it risks delegitimizing the scientific aspects upon which the project rests. Unlike the ongoing “psychedelic renaissance” now hurdling over regulatory obstacles by hypothesizing the therapeutic and medicinal benefits of substances like psilocybin and MDMA, DMTx is not overtly positioning the substance for such uses.

Instead, the team is looking at the research as “exploratory” — a vague term they are hoping covers a lot of territory.

McQueen says the primary interest of most in the psychedelic community now supporting the project is to learn about ourselves from DMT experiences.

“In DMT experiences, people have what feel more real than unreal encounters with other beings and entities,” McQueen says. “Whether that’s objectively real or not is a legitimate question, but even if it weren’t real in a physical sense, it is still telling us a lot about human nature and the complexity of the inner psyche. If we can prolong that phenomenon then we might be able to bring back information about the nature of consciousness and a deeper understanding of what these encounters really mean.”

Of course, McQueen is intrigued by these ideas, but his personal interest is decidedly less introspective and more globally ambitious. He’s interested in the broad societal, even evolutionary, implications of using DMT to explore the incredibly complex problems we face today.

“Psychedelics have a really amazing track record of being used in innovative ways by experts in science and technology who have come up with world transforming technologies and solutions,” McQueen says. 

“Once we determine that extended-state DMT is safe and can be predictably stabilized and maintained, theoretically we could train such an expert working with an incredibly complex global problem and offer this experience as a way to help them reevaluate it, look at it from a different angle and receive guidance from the highly intelligent but subconscious aspect of self that might contain critical answers.”

If DMTx reaches its fundraising goal of $120,000, then McQueen projects commencing the study as early as 2020. But between now and then there is a lot of work to be done. In addition to recruiting and fundraising, the team is hosting many upcoming community feedback sessions, including an update and celebration this Saturday, Dec. 16.   

On the Bill: DMTx Update and Psychedelic Society Social. 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16, Vali Soul Sanctuary. 6717 Valmont Rd., Boulder,