A case report recently published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs chronicles the story of a 40-year-old retired male psychiatrist who tried to treat his bipolar disorder using a powerful psychedelic drug called N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT).
DMT was first synthesized by the chemist Richard H. F. Manske in 1931. However, the drug’s powerful psychedelic properties were not scientifically documented until Stephen Szára studied DMT in the mid-1950s. Though the scientific institutions of the West only recently discovered DMT, the drug was the key component of a hallucinogenic brew called ayahuasca, which has traditionally been used in the healing ceremonies of indigenous Amazon tribes.
The ex-psychiatrist described in the case report had one prior episode of mania and had been depressed for the majority of his life. He had tried antidepressant medications, mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, electroconvulsive therapy, and ketamine. But after these treatments failed, he started using DMT on a daily basis, which he obtained via the dark web.
Noticing some improvements, he began adding 60 mg of phenelzine to his daily regimen. The medication is a monoamine oxidase inhibitor, a type of drug known to amplify and prolong the effects of DMT.
The man was consuming up to 1 gram of DMT a day — an extremely large amount for such a potent psychedelic. He was also taking clonazepam to help him sleep at night.
After about six months, the man abruptly stopped his daily DMT habit because he was traveling out of state — and did not want to carry the illegal substance with him.
Two or three days after discontinuing DMT, he had a psychotic breakdown and ended up in a hospital. It took six security guards to restrain him before he was administered tranquilizers. He ended up having a seizure.
“He was pressured in his speech, hyperreligious, and delusional. He believed that demons were leeching into his soul and asked the medical staff for an exorcism,” the report explains.
He received psychological treatment for a week, but was then given a lithium prescription and discharged against medical advice. His condition after release is unknown — attempts to follow-up failed.
“This case highlights that patients with vulnerabilities such as personal or family history of psychosis, nonpsychotic mania, or concomitant use of other drugs should avoid hallucinogenic intake. Additionally, this patient serves as a good reminder of the potential consequences of self-medication, especially amongst physicians,” the case report concludes.
The case report, “A Physician’s Attempt to Self-Medicate Bipolar Depression with N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT)“, was authored by Tanida Brown, Wanda Shao, Shehzad Ayub, David Chong, and Christian Cornelius. It was published on July 7, 2017.