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Do Orgasms Cause the Release of DMT?

Yes, an orgasm is a psychedelic experience.

DoubleBlind Mag

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Updated May 26, 2021

DoubleBlind // Psychedelic Guides

Do orgasms cause the release of the brain’s natural DMT supply?

The truth is that we don’t know—and it’s worth asking why. The essential nature of orgasms differs very little from a profound psychedelic experience. Both create a holistic moment of oneness in which we “forget ourselves” and transcend our normal sense of duality. Afterward, comes the return to ordinary consciousness, a vantage point from which we can parse what has been experienced. The parallels between these two experiences, and the similar mechanisms of brain chemistry through which they affect us, had been scarcely studied by 20th-century modern medicine. That changed briefly in the Nineties when pioneering researcher Rick Strassman began investigating what he calls “The Spirit Molecule.”

Beginning in 1990, Strassman administered 400 doses of DMT (N, N-Dimethyltryptamine) to about five dozen volunteers during a five-year period. This research was an outgrowth of his earlier research into Melatonin (he was looking into its role as a sleep regulator). DMT occurs naturally in many plants and mammals, and the term “Spirit Molecule” refers to the fact that DMT is produced endogenously by our own bodies. In his book, DMT: The Spirit Molecule, Strassman’s findings suggest that excessive DMT production is involved in naturally occurring “psychedelic” states, including near-death experiences, birth, and mystical experiences.

And which could also include orgasms.

Strassman’s research centered around the pineal gland. This little organ, which is no bigger than the nail of your pinkie finger, is one of the only parts of our brain that is not part of a pair—there is only one. It remained an anatomical curiosity for nearly two thousand years. Prior to modern science, seventeenth-century French philosopher René Descartes (“I think, therefore I am”) guessed its purpose as the origin of introspective thoughts: the seat of the soul.

At first, Strassman believed this tiny gland was also responsible for DMT production. Nowadays, he’s not so sure. “The brain makes DMT, maybe not so much the pineal,” Strassman tells me, 20 years after the publication of his book. “But the brain making DMT is even more significant. Concentrations [of DMT] in the brain are similar to those of serotonin and dopamine, perhaps pointing to a DMT neurotransmitter system. Now that would be interesting to see what that neurotransmitter system regulates.”

Read: Why 2020 is the Year of Psychedelics and Threesomes

In his book, he also writes that “DMT opens our senses to profound psychedelic experiences [and] it is as if…there is a powerful dynamic or tension between the two roles it may play—one spiritual and the other sexual.”

I ask: is this because the brain releases DMT during sexual ecstasy?

“That’s not known,” Strassman replies.

Is sexually-activated DMT production perhaps one of the major motivating factors in reproductive behavior?

“It’s educated speculation,” he says. “We don’t know for sure one way or the other.”

Christopher Timmermann, a Ph.D. candidate at the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London, says DMT is a fascinating molecule for a couple of reasons. The first has to do with history and culture.

“DMT is present in ayahuasca (an Amazonian brew which has psychedelic properties) and in snuffs which have been used for hundreds (if not thousands) of years in different rituals and healing contexts,” he says. “Ayahuasca use is spreading quite strongly in the West at the moment, in both ceremonial and research contexts, the same thing is happening with DMT. They induce potent experiences which people claim have transformed them and their relationships in meaningful ways.”

He goes on to say that complex interactions between different neurochemicals might play an important role in these experiences; another important part of the puzzle is how our engagement with our external environment might shape those interactions. This is similar to Strassman’s conclusion that the spirit molecule is neither good nor bad, beneficial nor harmful in and of itself. Rather, set and setting establish the context and quality of the DMT experience.

Is sexually-activated DMT production perhaps one of the major motivating factors in reproductive behavior?

Let us go to the bedroom, then.

Deep vaginal penetration is required for cervical stimulation—and the resulting orgasms have been described as a “shower of stars” in research by scientist Beverly Whipple, Ph.D, an expert in women’s health and sexual physiology. A cervical orgasm feels like it starts in the pelvis, spreads up through your heart, and then engulfs the whole body. You feel like you’re floating. Your mind is gone. This differs from the other kinds of orgasms we experience—the momentary lightning bolt of a clitoral orgasm, for instance. 

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When a woman can open and relax in the cervical area, she can experience the most powerful orgasm of her life. That’s holistic sex and relationship expert Kim Anami’s views, who uses Taoism, Tantra, and philosophy to coach couples all over the world about how to have better sex.

“The cervix is connected directly to the vagus nerve, going all the way up to the crown chakra,” she says. “However we experience ‘enlightenment’ or spiritual states have a correlation in hormones, neurotransmitters, and biochemistry.”

Physically speaking, the cervix is the gateway of life. Literally. During labor and delivery, the baby is moving through the same parts of a woman’s body involved with sexual pleasure: opening the cervix and moving into the vagina. That we come from women is one thing we all have in common.

Czech psychiatrist Stanislav Grof talks about different levels of consciousness, abstracted from his experiments with drugs, in The Human Encounter with Death (co-written with Joan Halifax) and Beyond the Brain. One of these levels is birth, or the “perinatal level of consciousness” (essentially, memories imprinted in the womb), occurring from conception throughout one’s uterine life up to biological birth. He says the experience of struggling to move through the birth canal, and the sudden relief after propulsion into the world turns out to be close to the experience of death. 

On the Venn Diagram of birth, death, and cervical orgasms, there seems to be quite a bit of overlap with the consciousness-expanding realm of psychedelics, specifically DMT.

On the Venn Diagram of birth, death, and cervical orgasms, there seems to be quite a bit of overlap with the consciousness-expanding realm of psychedelics, specifically DMT.

“When we’re looking at the co-evolution and co-existence of humans and plants, we have a symbiotic relationship,” says Dr. Ivan Casselman, a world-renowned ethnobotanist, analytical phytochemist, and plant geneticist with a focus on psychedelics. “It’s very interesting that DMT is found so plentifully in the plant kingdom and made endogenously in humans. I don’t think we just stumbled into this.”

Casselman says he’s heard stories that each plant sings a different song, and those songs, when you’re aware of them, will guide you and tell you what it’s about and what it needs.

“There is a chance that the indigenous people of the Amazon were so in-tune with their plants that they intuitively knew [how to access their psychedelic properties].” The other story is that they were citizen scientists who added plants together in experimentation, just like scientists do now, and eventually unlocked ayahuasca, among others.

This perspective by Casselman actually brings us to Timmermann’s second reason for his fascination with DMT: It is a doorway into exploring consciousness. “Reports of beautiful fractals, encounters with entities, alien cities and fantastical characters appear over and over,” he says.

In a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, Timmermann investigated the effect that DMT had on brain wave patterns in 13 healthy volunteers. The main findings provided evidence that the DMT state is one that experientially shows similarities to near-death experiences. They observed an immediate drop in alpha waves, similar to what happens when we open our eyes after sleep—except the participants’ eyes were closed. These brainwave patterns indicated that people were “entering other realities or dimensions that feel more real than this reality,” which is quite similar to dreaming.

Read: I Love You—Let’s Trip Together

“These are experiences that present some challenges for the scientific field because we need to somehow account for them,” he says. “Looking into the brain and the mind with higher levels of detail hopefully grants us that opportunity.”

If we indeed are meeting singing plants and otherworldly entities on DMT, transcendent orgasms don’t seem so far-fetched.

Tantra recognizes that sexual excitation and orgasm are intrinsically spiritual, and uses sexual intercourse as a meditative technique. In Strassman’s DMT research, he did his best to recruit subjects with a background in meditation. They seemed, he said, more able to deal with the initial anxiety of the DMT rush. These subjects also helped him compare meditative and drug-induced states of mind.

“DMT release, [which is] stimulated by both deep meditation and intense sexual activity, may result in especially pronounced psychedelic effects,” he writes in DMT: The Spirit Molecule. Sex is therefore put forth not only as a conduit for pleasure, emotional fulfillment, and/or procreation, but also a channel through which to receive messages for the evolution of consciousness.

“DMT release, [which is] stimulated by both deep meditation and intense sexual activity, may result in especially pronounced psychedelic effects.” 

Orgasms by way of the cervix are often described as life-changing. “Because these orgasms can cause a sense of ‘one-ness’ with everything, once you’ve had an experience like this, you no longer think of yourself as separate from all things,” explains Olivia Bryant, founder of Self:Cervix, a leading-edge movement in the field of female sexual empowerment, who educates women worldwide about this power and believes cervical orgasm is where science and spirituality come together. “They can be profoundly spiritual because you are released from your ego and identity. When I’ve had this experience, and for me they are rare, I describe it like a ‘disappearing act’. ‘I’ am no longer there, I experience deep peace and quiet, apparently, my breath stops, and then at some point I come back.”

“From where?” is both the answer and the question.

Bryant suggests that psychedelics can provide a context of knowledge, so that when you have a transcendent experience during orgasm, you can make more sense out of it. Psychedelics introduce the possibility that you are more than just a body with a brain; they can teach us how to surrender into the moment, melt and dissolve the borders of the self, and clear away the emotional tension and trauma preventing us from releasing deeply into pleasure.

When I take this perspective to holistic sex and relationship expert Kim Anami and ask how psychedelics might change our relationship to pleasure, she replies: “Who needs them?”

“Why take [psychedelics] when your body creates them in-house? Your body is an infinite source of pleasure and seeing God is often at the other end of an earth-shattering orgasm, or ten, or twenty,” she says.

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“[Orgasms] can be profoundly spiritual because you are released from your ego and identity.”

Much like psychedelics need to be experienced to be “understood,” the same goes for cervical orgasms. “We’re starting to see a lot of programs and funding to get women into science and try to equal the playing field,” says Casselman. “I think one of the major limiting factors up until this point is that science is still a male-dominated pursuit, especially at the clinical research level.”

The human endeavor to know reality has created two different contexts: that of science, and that of mysticism. Science is a way of explaining things in precise ways using a particular set of tools and rules; theories built by the conscious mind, by thought. Mysticism makes statements about reality that come from beyond the mind, beyond thought.

Translating the psychedelic experience into science is difficult.

“In translating how psychedelics interact with our body and then the outward manifestation of that, which is human performance and mental health, science has to dip into the experience and then act as a translational tool,” says Casselman. “I find the majority of psychedelic researchers are experienced in psychedelics, as well as science.”

What about orgasms, I ask?

“Orgasm is an altered state, and the world would be a much better place if we all had more of them.”

If that’s one potential avenue of progress, perhaps death is the other. As we become more familiar with the process of death, which is both humanity’s loneliest endeavor and most significant pursuit into the unknown, we can also begin to explore the bridges to other states of consciousness, such as orgasms, without vested interest from one gender alone.

Becoming conscious of death is one aspect of accepting life. Only after this equanimous and detached acceptance of both creation and destruction can one experience the whole without the self as an egoic entity. One can then feel communion with the universe and its cycles.

Fittingly, the French term for orgasm is la petite mort: the little death.

“This is what makes [cervical] orgasms life-changing,” says Anami. “The more of these orgasms she has, the more ‘herself’ she becomes. From this place, her whole life begins to flow. This is why the deeper, vaginal orgasms are essential medicine…when a man or a woman is sexually self-actualized, they are a force to be reckoned with.”

Read: Can Psychedelics Make You Fall in Love Faster?

As for Bryant, although she receives floods of responses from women comparing their cervical orgasms to transcendent, psychedelic-like experiences, she says she kept coming up short whenever she consulted the scientific community. “I went to the top researchers of DMT in the world who told me that they’d given up on trying to prove DMT was endogenous in humans because it was too hard to mention, particularly at the moment of orgasm.”

I emailed Timmermann: Is it possible that the brain could release more DMT during sex, therefore, leading to the experience of a transcendent orgasm? And by the way, transcendent in this case is contrasted with immanence, where a god is said to be fully present.

“I couldn’t say that we have the evidence to establish that at all. It could be the case, but we just don’t know yet,” he replied. “That being said, you do hear about reports of people having sensual experiences, which have a sexual character to them during DMT states.”

Some of the bodily effects induced by DMT are the experience of warmth, energy, and vibration in the body, immersive visuals (dominated by fractal geometries and entities), and emotional experiences. He has no idea whether or not these are related to cervical orgasms, as these effects can also happen in the absence of sexual feelings. “Unfortunately we haven’t measured that directly but a few participants did mention that during interviews,” Timmerman said. They also had many participants who did not mention anything of the sort.

In that case, not mentioning sexual feelings could have something to do with cultural conditioning (shame, shyness, fear of judgment, etc). Timmermann and his colleagues have started to do detailed analyses of the reports of participants’ experiences to begin shedding some light on how the experience unfolds in time.

In the words of one woman, who took one of Bryant’s Self:Cervix courses, describing her experience with a cervical orgasm, “Time both expanded and stood still. I understood everything and nothing. I was both God and unborn. The micro and the macro. The purest form of ecstasy and surrender I could ever hope to experience.” Many of those same words are used to describe DMT trips–minus the elves.

Birth, death, and orgasms—all of these great mysteries—may have more in common than we’re ready or able to admit.

Birth, death, and orgasms—all of these great mysteries—may have more in common than we’re ready or able to admit.

“Maybe [orgasms] have not been reported as much because sex has a taboo connotation to it, and the same can happen when sex is associated with DMT and psychedelics in general,” says Timmermann.

If set and setting (your state of mind and who you’re with/where you are) are key tenets of the psychedelic experience, perhaps meditation is a determining factor, too, in how we navigate these otherworldly realms. Orgasms are an accessible form of meditation—and fun to practice.

There are, however, pragmatic limitations in a scientific context.

“You would need to collect blood samples when people are having these experiences to detect DMT levels in their bodies when this is occurring,” says Timmermann. “This might be tricky to do in a lab environment for obvious reasons, but not impossible.”

All things remain possible until proven otherwise. Considering science is the process of discovering what is already there, we rely on it to determine what moves from fiction to fact—and  fund research to direct the focus. If cervical orgasms are anecdotally known to induce mystical experience, but science refuses to look, what else aren’t we seeing? 

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