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There’s Now A Way To Stay In DMT Space Longer

“This is where ancient practices and modern technology come together.”

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DoubleBlind Mag

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Published on
Updated February 28, 2024

DoubleBlind Mag is devoted to fair, rigorous reporting by leading experts and journalists in the field of psychedelics. Read more about our editorial process and fact-checking here.

It doesn’t look like the place for an interdimensional expedition to an alien realm; frankly, it looks more like an ayahuasca ceremony in grandma’s living room. But that’s exactly what’s happening on this bright May day in Boulder, Colorado. 

Karen Rourke lies blindfolded and blanketed on a bed, one arm hooked up to an IV, at the Center for Medicinal Mindfulness (CMM). It’s a homey space where plants spill from windowsills; handmade art hangs above overstuffed couches; and altars, tarot cards, and singing bowls surround mats draped with bright blankets. Music tinkles softly in the background. A team of psychonauts, spiritual leaders, and mindfulness practitioners surrounds Rourke, who has a big job to do. She’s on a mission to explore another world and translate for its otherworldly residents, seeking answers to humanity’s big questions.

Sometimes Rourke speaks as herself; sometimes, she speaks for the entities. “They’re telling me to get out of the way,” she tells Daniel McQueen, the center’s executive director, who holds her hand. As guide and facilitator, he’s helping her navigate the experience and communicate with the entities on behalf of the group. McQueen has just asked a question of their cosmic hosts: How, as a species, do we pivot?

Rourke softens and smiles wide behind her blindfold, placing a hand on her heart. “Through the feeling,” she says. “They’re saying, ‘Go back to the feeling, to the breath, and it will all become clear.’”

What Is DMTx?

At the basic level, DMTx is a technique proposed by neurobiologist Andrew Gallimore and psychologist Rick Strassman, based on the latter’s legendary DMT research. From a chemical perspective, DMT is one of the world’s simplest, most common molecules. But the experience couldn’t be more complex. It doesn’t just alter perception, it immerses users in a completely different world—one described as totally alien, yet eerily familiar. Researchers compare the DMT world to the dream state, yet users and trial participants call the experience “more real than reality.” 

People in DMT space report meeting sentient beings who seem to have known they were coming—eager to show off their world, convey a message, or even examine them. The late psychedelic superstar Terence McKenna called these beings “machine elves”; others say they’re “entities.” Whatever you call them, almost everyone reports feeling some sort of presence in the DMT realm, also known as “hyperspace.” 

READ: Exploring the Cultural and Healing Traditions of the Huni Kuin

DMTx logo
via DMTx.org

Gallimore and Strassman developed a model for DMTx in 2016.  Now, the method has been tested at Imperial and CMM. Like something out of a sci-fi future, DMTx is a psychedelic technology that uses the same approach as anesthesia to extend DMT’s notoriously short trips. The method maintains a stable concentration of DMT in the brain, allowing the person being induced to stay in the DMT world longer: a technique known as “target-controlled intravenous infusion.” As a medical technology, administration is overseen by health care professionals (in other words: don’t try this at home. It is not the same as injecting DMT, which can be done, though it’s less common, and taking anything intravenously comes with risk). 

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Gallimore and Strassman predicted that DMT’s unique characteristics—including rapid onset and seeming lack of tolerance—made it ideally suited to this method of drug delivery. Rather than blasting the person into hyperspace with a “bolus,” or all-at-once, dosage, DMTx uses a programmable infusion machine to deliver variable amounts of the drug, the same way anesthetics are delivered during surgery. 

The first team to successfully complete a DMTx study* was the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London in 2021, led by PhD student Lisa Luan. However, they’ve been doing pilot testing using other methods of ingesting DMT since 2016, guided by Dr. Chris Timmermann, who heads the DMT Research Group—one of the few in the world—and has studied the molecule for seven years. 

Imperial’s approach is clinical, searching for the neural correlates of this indescribable experience. In their trials, participants’ heads are swathed in swarms of electrodes that track brainwave patterns through EEG (electroencephalogram); some are placed into clanging MRI and fMRI machines, which researcher Carl H. Smith, “patient zero” in Imperial’s trials, calls “the worst place to trip.” Yet Imperial’s goals go beyond the scientific to the philosophical, even existential. Timmermann hopes that observing how DMT works in the brain may help us understand not only altered states but the nature of consciousness—and even reality itself. 

READ: DMT to be Researched for Depression for the First Time

AI DMT experience art of fractals and buddhas
AI renderings of a CMM participant’s journey | Courtesy of Daniel McQueen

CMM’s approach is different. At CMM, McQueen says, “we wanted to do the opposite [of a research study]: add as many variables as possible to make it holistic and congruent with the norms of the psychedelic community.” They’ve held an annual DMTx training retreat since 2017, practicing protocols with legal psychoactives. In May 2023, after Colorado’s Natural Medicine Act legalized personal use of the molecule, CMM launched its first DMTx mission with eight psychonauts. Rather than trying to determine what’s “real,” McQueen says, they “trained people to be diplomats … on cultural exchange missions.” Still, they value scientific methods—Gallimore was an early advisor—and on-staff nurses administered dosing. 

After all, the nature of DMTx is interdisciplinary, Gallimore says, “requiring not just neuroscientists and psychologists, but anthropologists, linguists, and experts in communication bringing their own specialties to the table.” Researchers agree: understanding such a strange and complex world requires an equally novel approach.

“This is where ancient practices and modern technology come together,” says Skye Weaver, one of their psychonauts, now a psychedelic facilitator and integration specialist at CMM. Weaver is also a DoubleBlind resident facilitator. “My intention was to create trust, safety, and consent with the Indigenous beings of another realm, and not to approach this from a colonial commodification mindset of ‘what can we extract,’ but ‘how can we [build] relationships?’”

“My intention was to create trust, safety, and consent with the Indigenous beings of another realm, and not to approach this from a colonial commodification mindset of ‘what can we extract,’ but ‘how can we [build] relationships?’”

The Unique DMTx Experience 

People have used psychedelic technologies since the dawn of our species—from a potentially psychedelic beverage served in Stone Age rituals to the mind-altering sacrament consumed in the Mysteries of Eleusis to ayahuasca. DMTx is just the latest innovation. 

Ayahuasca is a traditional Amazonian brew where harmine alkaloids in the vine mix with DMT-containing foliage to make the psychedelic properties of DMT orally bioavailable, allowing for much longer trips. For this reason, DMTx journeyers draw some comparisons to ayahuasca and high-dose mushroom journeys, since the chemical makeup of psilocybin closely resembles DMT. (The late educator and high-dose psilocybin explorer Baba Kilindi Iyi described meeting beings around the “interdimensional campfire.”)

Alexander Beiner, an early Imperial psychonaut, author, and co-director of the Breaking Convention psychedelics conference in England, describes the DMTx journey as similar to ayahuasca but “clear, clean, concise, and visually stunning: 4K-crisp.” A key difference is that the DMT experience unfolds within DMT’s totally unique, completely alien, and seemingly freestanding world—an ethereal and kaleidoscopic space that feels like an entry point to another existence.  

Yet participants from both Imperial and CMM remained lucid enough to “switch” between worlds, communicating with both entities and human facilitators. Weaver says she retained full agency, even when passing on messages, “less like I was channeling and more like a cosmic game of telephone,” and she and Rourke said the entities welcomed them enthusiastically.

Perhaps that’s to do with the approach itself. Other methods of ingesting N,N-DMT—smoking or vaping is most common, but it can also be snorted or injected—deliver a trip of less than 20 minutes where users are blasted into hyperspace. They spend the whole time, as Terence McKenna said, trying not to “give way to amazement,” then tumble back out before having a chance to adjust to their surroundings. With DMTx, they’re eased in and out of the world gently. 

The Imperial studies saw heart rates spike in the first few minutes, which is normally the entire length of a DMT trip, but with DMTx, their vitals had a chance to stabilize. Weaver describes it as relational, somatic, and peaceful, “not a jarring experience at all, even going into or coming out of it.”

At CMM, the beings communicated to explorers that they much prefer DMTx to other ways of entering the space, even offering help. “We felt like they were teaching us how to do it better, down to dialing in the infusion rates, so we could have a future conversation about other things,” McQueen says. 

READ: How the Shipibo Came to Be the Most Common Group Serving Ayahuasca to Foreigners

AI renderings of a CMM participant’s journey | Courtesy of Daniel McQueen

Besides, Gallimore says, it’s just good manners: “It’s not particularly respectful to take a couple of lungfuls of DMT, burst into the world, look around wide-eyed, pant and go, ‘that’s amazing,’ then bugger off again.” 

Form Over Content

Technology can either bring us closer or further away from ourselves, each other, and our environment. Whatever is happening in this alien world, the two groups are exploring how to make DMTx not an alienating technology, but a collective medicine. 

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If approached with intention, Beiner says, psychedelic technology such as DMTx can help people develop skills that can be actively applied to create positive change across society, from education and policy to interpersonal interactions. Rather than just doing something “because the entities said so,” he specifies, it’s about embodying the qualities cultivated through navigating its rollicking, adaptive landscape. In many ways, Beiner adds, it’s a perfect testing ground for navigating our rapidly changing world, including our relationships with A.I. entities.  

But only if approached carefully. Challenging, even terrifying experiences are not uncommon with DMT. Even relatively positive ones can be destabilizing because of the trip’s overwhelming nature, especially for people using unsupervised and/or without adequate preparation and integration. “We get a lot of emails from people who use a lot of DMT, some of which are expressing unhealthy expeditions and overuse,” McQueen says. Part of the wisdom he hopes can come from DMTx is “learning how to distinguish a real transpersonal phenomenon from something that is deluded or fantasy.”

Here, Timmermann suggests, we can look to Indigenous, philosophical, and contemplative traditions for guidance. When it comes to psychedelics, set and setting shapes the trip. That includes the culture the person grew up with, and is living—and journeying—within. “A big part of the experience is determined by cultural factors,” he said during an event at Oxford College in February 2023. “A trick of the DMT space is that it makes you feel like what you’re seeing is authentic, [but] people tend to forget that our ordinary perception is filled with traps and assumptions about what is real.” 

The key is not taking things too literally, he added, “not trying to understand so much the contents of the experience, but the structures, forms, [and] fundamental properties.” He encourages working with facilitators steeped in Indigenous, philosophical, or contemplative traditions to help people “examine [their] experiences with a critical eye.” 

Some Indigenous cosmovisions—for example, the Shipibo in the Amazon and Aztecs in the Andes—speak of an onion-like layer of reality that lies on top of this one, always present but only observable when our perception is altered. Meanwhile, Aztec philosophy describes everything in the universe as made of teotl (pronounced “tee-oht”), an energy-in-motion that is constantly changing forms, weaving everything in the universe together in a “fabric,” like an interdimensional quilt. 

It squares eerily with what some DMTx users report. “The entities said they were made out of the fabric of reality, and they were emerging out of this fabric to communicate with us,” McQueen says. Smith described a “mesh” that both he and the entities were made of, but they were simultaneously constructing. He was also taken repeatedly to a “healing center” where the beings cured indeterminate ills and delivered “upgrades” to body and soul, mostly through telepathy.

But Imperial’s clinical setting played a role: Smith says the entities he encountered were flummoxed by the medical technology. He describes having to calm a frantic crowd of entities who asked if he was dying, baffled by the electrodes, IV, and MRI machine, exclaiming: “We’re supposed to be scanning YOU!” 

READ: Can Psychedelics Rekindle Ancient Animism in Modern Society?

AI renderings of a CMM participant’s journey | Courtesy of Daniel McQueen

They also didn’t care for his repeat visits, working on him only begrudgingly. On one journey, he returned to the same landscape that was jam-packed with entities two weeks prior, and there wasn’t a single one in sight. Timmermann also reported some participants getting “locked out,” a phenomenon reported by citizen users of DMT.

For Smith, the entities were so flustered, they cut straight to “the big reveal: you’re immortal,” he says. But “there are very different modes of existence [here],” he adds, and by staying in the DMT space longer, “it enables both you and them to learn more about life and death.”

DMTx—A World of Interpretation 

But is any of this actually real? That’s open to interpretation. For some, entities are conscious beings from another dimension. To others, they’re merely the conjurings of a creative brain on a powerful drug. To Beiner, “entities encountered in the DMTx experience seem to be ontologically real and intertwined with consciousness,” challenging neuroscientific reductionism and raising questions about the nature of that conscious experience.

Gallimore says the DMT space might be an “autonomous psychic complex” that has developed its own consciousness, like the collective unconscious proposed by psychologist C.G. Jung, where the entities would represent what Jung called the archetypes: universal patterns of human thought and behavior. 

To find out, Imperial’s teams are examining the ways the brain “deconstructs and constructs worlds of experience” under DMT, says Timmermann. They’ve observed brainwave patterns similar to those during dreaming, where the mind freely wanders through time, space, and memory untethered to the physical world. It’s different in waking life, where the reality we experience is “checked” by the sensory data coming from our environment (for example, the laws of gravity).

Our brains navigate the dream world using a model of the waking world. The big question, says Gallimore, is whether the brain builds its model of the incredible DMT space as if it’s a world that’s being dreamt—or one that’s being sensed, a conundrum Imperial is examining. If it ends up looking like a model of a sensed world, the sensory data would have to come from somewhere. 

Gallimore is open to hyperspace being entirely a product of the mind—or a physical place, something with massive potential implications. “The independent verification of the existence of intelligences that aren’t from this universe,” he says, “and the fact that we could communicate with them … using a simple plant alkaloid, would be the most profound discovery, in my opinion, in the history of humankind.”

“It becomes a process of interdimensional diplomacy. … It has to be a two-way relationship, reciprocated in some way.”

Smith has observed similar brainwave patterns in people doing intonation exercises at the Great Pyramid in Egypt; they’re also mirrored in near-death experiences. But the scientists are the first to admit that nobody really knows what the hell is going on with DMT. Then again, the same can be said for consciousness. Timmermann hopes DMTx research can shed light on both. 

After all, people tend to accept they were dreaming when they wake up, but “after the [DMT] trip is over,” Gallimore said at Oxford College in February 2023, “people are still utterly, 100-percent convinced—even though they know they took a powerful psychedelic drug—that there’s no way this was just a hallucination.” 

Gallimore wants to test whether they exist outside participants’ minds—for example, by giving the entities math problems. If they’re real, “you’re no longer just dealing with visions, … but other living, conscious, intelligent beings, just as unable to deny their existence as we are unable to deny ours,” he says. “It becomes a process of interdimensional diplomacy. … It has to be a two-way relationship, reciprocated in some way.”

Weaver says that DMTx itself is reciprocity. During her journey, she says, the entities expressed gratitude that we’d discovered the method. “It’s been really jarring for us to just pop in and out while smoking DMT,” she says. “This is what consent looks like to them.”

Become more human

Technology can tear us apart, stealing attention and tantalizing people with an artificial world where many get lost. But it can also bring us closer, giving platforms to the marginalized, connecting us with loved ones, and opening people to new ideas. Whether or not the DMT realm and its entities are ontologically “real,” researchers and participants say, it can be used to navigate our own world with more skill and grace, and potentially solve our biggest crises—or it can become another instrument of alienation. 

For some psychonauts, DMT’s immersive nature is a means of escaping 3D reality. Others seek to “transcend” the body, using psychedelics and other technology to expand biological abilities; some even envision plugging permanently into the DMT world, Matrix-style. Gallimore wants to explore automated feeding and, er, evacuation tubes for extended trips. “For me, if you’re using psychedelics to escape the human experience, it’s missing the point,” Smith says.

“They said everything you need is already here. Our work is to find our peace, learn to listen, and open our innate abilities.”

He sees DMTx as an “interbeing technology”—a term coined by late Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh to explain the interconnection of all things in the Universe—meant to connect us more deeply with the world around us, including nature and each other. He favors a “hyperhumanist” approach: to use DMT not to transcend our humanness or somehow “outgrow” it, but become more human. 

Beiner experienced a “teaching presence” that confronted him with personal issues he had been avoiding. It told him that “before you can see aliens, you have to deal with your relationship issues.” The journey to collective healing, he adds, often begins at the personal level. 

“There’s the idea that if enough individuals go through a personal transformation of raising consciousness, there will be a saturation point that leads to systemic change,” Beiner says, but the idea that personal growth will save the world is too simplistic for such a massive task. What matters is how we implement the teachings of the space. “DMTx experiences give us a lived experience of a new way of being and seeing the world, especially navigating complexity, contradiction, nuance, and intensity, which are all aspects of modern life that have been dialed up massively in the last 20-30 years.”

However, he cautions that the other side of the “more flexible, playful approach” DMT can bring is paranoia, delusion, and conspiracy theories. Narcissistic tendencies can also be inflamed through DMT. Everyone emphasizes the importance of integration in grounding the experience. Indeed, Smith’s journeys contained a moral element, with the entities communicating that we should “live well; we’re here for a short time.” 

For Rourke, one of the biggest takeaways was that we’re never alone, and there is power in coming together; the entities want us to explore group tripping and work together as a species, she says. 

After all, if we are to address collective challenges, it’s our only choice. The entities themselves communicated this to Weaver. 

“They said everything you need is already here. Our work is to find our peace, learn to listen, and open our innate abilities,” she says. “Instead of us taking the medicine and being transported elsewhere, it’s about being able to receive what’s always present.”

*A German research group, TK, was technically the first to employ DMTx, but there were problems with the methods and their results were never published.

**Name has been changed to protect the source’s anonymity.

OPINION

In an OpEd for DoubleBlind, neuroscientist and DMT researcher Zeus Tipado argues that DMT space is a creation of our brain. “Pay attention to the language used to argue for the existence of DMT creatures,” he writes. “It’s science fiction vocabulary to describe our reality. Point to where a ‘portal’ exists in nature. Show me pictures of ‘aliens’ in a biology book.”

Loved this article on DMTx? Don’t forget to check out some of our guides on safe(r) tripping.

Wondering how to vet your psychedelic guide? Author Michelle Janikian walks you through how to get references, ask critical questions, and, most importantly, follow your gut.

“Challenging journeys are uncomfortable. They hurt like hell,” writes Dr. Erica Zelfand. “Traumatic journeys are a serious injury to the nervous system and psyche.” Zelfand walks you through the steps for recovering from a bad trip.

If you want to know how to trip sit, learning how to “hold space” can determine the difference between a transformative trip and a challenging one. Here’s how to do it.

Correction

This article previously listed Alexander Beiner, as co-founder of the Breaking Convention psychedelics conference. His correct title is “co-director.” We regret the error.

DoubleBlind Magazine does not encourage or condone any illegal activities, including but not limited to the use of illegal substances. We do not provide mental health, clinical, or medical services. We are not a substitute for medical, psychological, or psychiatric diagnosis, treatment, or advice. If you are in a crisis or if you or any other person may be in danger or experiencing a mental health emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency resources. If you are considering suicide, please call 988 to connect with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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