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Meet 5-MeO-DMT, the 'powerful' psychedelic that improves depression in one hour
A newly studied hallucinogenic substance has shown signs of treating mental health conditions more efficiently than psilocybin.
- A survey study found that around 80 percent of people using the psychedelic 5-MeO-DMT in a ceremonial setting said that their depression or anxiety improved following its use.
- The "mystical" experience of drug trip might allow people to gain unique insight into themselves or their relationships and make positive life changes.
- While the substance is found in the poison of the Sonoran Desert Toad, researchers say there is no reason to disturb the toad because the synthetic version of 5-MeO-DMT is identical in its effect.
A new, powerful — yet still relatively rare — hallucinogen called 5-MeO-DMT has made its way into United States psychedelic circles, and research is backing its use as an effective treatment for certain mental health conditions.
Said to be up to six-times more intense than its sensationalized cousin DMT, researchers have found strong evidence to suggest that 5-MeO-DMT could be used to treat anxiety, depression, and addiction more efficiently than psilocybin.
What is 5-MeO-DMT?
5-MeO-DMT, is an extremely potent natural psychedelic found in certain plants and the poisonous secretions of the Sonoran Desert Toad, also known as the Colorado River Toad. It can also be made synthetically in a lab.
Typically, the experience a person has after ingesting 5-MeO-DMT, a schedule 1 classified substance, is described as feeling unified with the universe or some holy, transcendent "other." The perception of bright colors and recursive patterns are often associated with the experience. It can also lead to extreme nausea and confusion days after ingesting it.
Assistant Professor at Ohio State University Alan Davis, who is also affiliated with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at John Hopkins University, has conducted two large-scale survey studies examining the use of 5-MeO-DMT in the general population and in a specific ceremonial group in the United States.
Despite reports dubbing it the "hottest new psychedelic" among trend setters in the United States, Davis's research has found that the drug is still rare, and most people are using it for psycho-spiritual endeavors rather than for recreation. Typically, he says, it is used in a ritualistic setting with a specific process similar to what might be done during an ayahuasca ritual.
And, he emphasizes, it definitely isn't a party drug.
"This is a very potent and powerful psychedelic substance that usually has an onset within seconds and a person is completely incapacitated," he says. "They are completely in a whole different realm of consciousness for 20 to 60 minutes."
Research in Treating Anxiety and Depression
In a survey study of 362 adults, Davis found that when administered in a ceremonial group setting with a knowledgeable facilitator, approximately 80 percent of people said that their depression or anxiety is improved following the use of 5-MeO-DMT.
According to Davis, this is likely because of the type of "mystical" experience one has on the drug trip, which allows the person to gain new, novel insight into themselves or their relationships through a shift in consciousness.
"This information, these experiences, seem to be really powerful and profound and they seem to help people to change, and to make different choices in their life," says Davis.
Interestingly, this fits in with research on other psychedelic substances such as psilocybin, which has also been found to have significant anti-depression and anti-anxiety effects. One of the major downsides to the potential use of psilocybin in a clinical setting is that the psychedelic experience lasts four to six hours. Tacking on an extra hour before to get ready and after to ensure the patient is ready to be discharged, psilocybin would mean a whole day of treatment. That will add up to a very expensive session if it is eventually approved for public use, according to Davis.
"One of the interesting things about 5-Meo-DMT is that the duration of effect is anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes," says Davis. "You can start to imagine a world where if this was a medication, you could actually have someone there for more of a standard psychotherapy time frame and have an entire psychedelic healing experience."
Because this treatment could more easily be scaled into our current mental health care, it would likely be more accessible to people who might benefit from the treatment. Currently, Davis is working with a larger team on creating a clinical trial with the aim to eventually look at the administration of the drug in a laboratory setting.
Although Davis's team has heard of potential risks involved with use of the drug, in part because of instances of it being mis-administered, he says that the data indicates that in the right setting where facilitators pay proper attention to people's well-being, users are having mostly positive experiences.
Leave the Toad in Peace
Image Source: BioBlitzEmily / Flickr
As far as researchers know, the only animal on Earth that produces the chemical compound is the Sonoran Desert Toad, although it is also found in some plant species.
But the mystical psychedelic association with the toad has facilitated an ecologically harmful market for the amphibian's poisonous secretions. This has led researchers to strongly condemn the practice of harvesting the toads for the compound.
According to local Tucson naturalist Robert Villa, the toad produces is milky white poison as a defense mechanism, so there is no humane way to obtain it. People in the Sonoran Desert region, where the toad is native, have noticed a decline in the amphibians' numbers likely due to the psychedelic community's demand for 5-MeO-DMT.
"Traumatizing an animal (or plant) for personal benefit is fraught with ethical dilemmas," Villa wrote in an email.
Faced with other threats to its habitat, the psychedelic blackmarket is one more problem the Sonoran Desert Toad doesn't need. Davis stresses that there is no need to disturb the toads or their environments at all.
"What we've been able to show is that the synthetic version is no different in terms of the intensity or the positive effects of taking it compared to the toad," says Davis. In fact, he found that most of the people he surveyed in his study were using the synthetic version of the drug.
- Scientists Dose "Mini-Brains" with Psychedelics to Understand How ... ›
- DMT study investigates the ‘entities’ people encounter while tripping - Big Think ›
Northwell Health is using insights from website traffic to forecast COVID-19 hospitalizations two weeks in the future.
- The machine-learning algorithm works by analyzing the online behavior of visitors to the Northwell Health website and comparing that data to future COVID-19 hospitalizations.
- The tool, which uses anonymized data, has so far predicted hospitalizations with an accuracy rate of 80 percent.
- Machine-learning tools are helping health-care professionals worldwide better constrain and treat COVID-19.
The value of forecasting<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTA0Njk2OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMzM2NDQzOH0.rid9regiDaKczCCKBsu7wrHkNQ64Vz_XcOEZIzAhzgM/img.jpg?width=980" id="2bb93" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="31345afbdf2bd408fd3e9f31520c445a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1546" data-height="1056" />
Northwell emergency departments use the dashboard to monitor in real time.
Credit: Northwell Health<p>One unique benefit of forecasting COVID-19 hospitalizations is that it allows health systems to better prepare, manage and allocate resources. For example, if the tool forecasted a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations in two weeks, Northwell Health could begin:</p><ul><li>Making space for an influx of patients</li><li>Moving personal protective equipment to where it's most needed</li><li>Strategically allocating staff during the predicted surge</li><li>Increasing the number of tests offered to asymptomatic patients</li></ul><p>The health-care field is increasingly using machine learning. It's already helping doctors develop <a href="https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2020/06/09/dc19-1870" target="_blank">personalized care plans for diabetes patients</a>, improving cancer screening techniques, and enabling mental health professionals to better predict which patients are at <a href="https://healthitanalytics.com/news/ehr-data-fuels-accurate-predictive-analytics-for-suicide-risk" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elevated risk of suicide</a>, to name a few applications.</p><p>Health systems around the world have already begun exploring how <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7315944/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">machine learning can help battle the pandemic</a>, including better COVID-19 screening, diagnosis, contact tracing, and drug and vaccine development.</p><p>Cruzen said these kinds of tools represent a shift in how health systems can tackle a wide variety of problems.</p><p>"Health care has always used the past to predict the future, but not in this mathematical way," Cruzen said. "I think [Northwell Health's new predictive tool] really is a great first example of how we should be attacking a lot of things as we go forward."</p>
Making machine-learning tools openly accessible<p>Northwell Health has made its predictive tool <a href="https://github.com/northwell-health/covid-web-data-predictor" target="_blank">available for free</a> to any health system that wishes to utilize it.</p><p>"COVID is everybody's problem, and I think developing tools that can be used to help others is sort of why people go into health care," Dr. Cruzen said. "It was really consistent with our mission."</p><p>Open collaboration is something the world's governments and health systems should be striving for during the pandemic, said Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's president and CEO.</p><p>"Whenever you develop anything and somebody else gets it, they improve it and they continue to make it better," Dowling said. "As a country, we lack data. I believe very, very strongly that we should have been and should be now working with other countries, including China, including the European Union, including England and others to figure out how to develop a health surveillance system so you can anticipate way in advance when these things are going to occur."</p><p>In all, Northwell Health has treated more than 112,000 COVID patients. During the pandemic, Dowling said he's seen an outpouring of goodwill, collaboration, and sacrifice from the community and the tens of thousands of staff who work across Northwell.</p><p>"COVID has changed our perspective on everything—and not just those of us in health care, because it has disrupted everybody's life," Dowling said. "It has demonstrated the value of community, how we help one another."</p>
"You dream about these kinds of moments when you're a kid," said lead paleontologist David Schmidt.
- The triceratops skull was first discovered in 2019, but was excavated over the summer of 2020.
- It was discovered in the South Dakota Badlands, an area where the Triceratops roamed some 66 million years ago.
- Studying dinosaurs helps scientists better understand the evolution of all life on Earth.
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We had to be really careful," Schmidt told St. Louis Public Radio. "We couldn't disturb anything at all, because at that point, it was under law enforcement investigation. They were telling us, 'Don't even make footprints,' and I was thinking, 'How are we supposed to do that?'"</p><p>Another difficulty was the mammoth size of the skull: about 7 feet long and more than 3,000 pounds. (For context, the largest triceratops skull ever unearthed was about <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02724634.2010.483632" target="_blank">8.2 feet long</a>.) The skull of Schmidt's dinosaur was likely a <em>Triceratops prorsus, </em>one of two species of triceratops that roamed what's now North America about 66 million years ago.</p>
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College<p>The triceratops was an herbivore, but it was also a favorite meal of the T<em>yrannosaurus rex</em>. That probably explains why the Dakotas contain many scattered triceratops bone fragments, and, less commonly, complete bones and skulls. In summer 2019, for example, a separate team on a dig in North Dakota made <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/science/triceratops-skull-65-million-years-old.html" target="_blank">headlines</a> after unearthing a complete triceratops skull that measured five feet in length.</p><p>Michael Kjelland, a biology professor who participated in that excavation, said digging up the dinosaur was like completing a "multi-piece, 3-D jigsaw puzzle" that required "engineering that rivaled SpaceX," he jokingly told the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/science/triceratops-skull-65-million-years-old.html" target="_blank">New York Times</a>.</p>
Morrison Formation in Colorado
James St. John via Flickr
|Credit: Nobu Tamura/Wikimedia Commons|
Archaeologists discover a cave painting of a wild pig that is now the world's oldest dated work of representational art.
- Archaeologists find a cave painting of a wild pig that is at least 45,500 years old.
- The painting is the earliest known work of representational art.
- The discovery was made in a remote valley on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
Oldest Cave Art Found in Sulawesi<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a9734e306f0914bfdcbe79a1e317a7f0"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/b-wAYtBxn7E?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Persian polymath and philosopher of the Islamic Golden Age teaches us about self-awareness.