A new study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology examined why some people consume the psychedelic compound known as 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT), which is found in several plants and in the venom of Colorado River toad.

“I am interested in this topic because I am innately curious about the epidemiology of substance use, in particular the use of psychedelics,” said study author Alan K. Davis of Johns Hopkins University.

“There appears to be very meaningful experiences that are brought about by their use, but for some, there can also be challenges. Having a balanced perspective of the scope of psychedelic use for any specific substance (i.e., benefits, challenges, patterns of use) is a critical step in the scientific investigation of any drug. Our hope is that our work will have helped to start a line of investigation into the use of 5-MeO-DMT so that more work can be done regarding its therapeutic potential.”

The researchers surveyed 515 people who had used 5-MeO-DMT at least once in their lifetime.

Davis and his colleagues found that the drug was not used frequently. Among those who consumed 5-MeO-DMT more than once, 54% used it once a year or less. The respondents cited spiritual exploration (68%) as their primary reason for using the drug, followed by recreation (18%) and psychological healing (12%).

The vast majority of respondents reported mystical-type experiences under the influence of the drug, including a feeling a unity with what was felt to be greater than their personal self and an experience of pure being or awareness.

But 37% also reported experiencing challenging experiences like anxiousness and fear.

Most also considered the effects to be more intense than other psychedelic drugs like LSD and magic mushrooms.

Among those with psychiatric conditions, 4% reported a worsening of symptoms after using 5-MeO-DMT. But more than half reported that their psychiatric conditions were improved.

“The findings suggest that 5-MeO-DMT is used infrequently, predominantly for spiritual exploration, has low potential for addiction, and might have psychotherapeutic effects. More research should be done that explores its use a novel adjunct to psychotherapy given it’s similarities to psilocybin and other classic psychedelic substances,” Davis told PsyPost.

There has been some research on the effects of a related compound, dimethyltryptamine (DMT), which is part of the psychedelic brew known as ayahuasca. But the research on 5-MeO-DMT is extremely limited.

“Because this is the first study of it’s kind for 5-MeO-DMT, much more work needs to be done especially in the laboratory in order to examine the safety of administration, pharmacokinetics, neuroimaging, etc,” Davis remarked.

The study, “The epidemiology of 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) use: Benefits, consequences, patterns of use, subjective effects, and reasons for consumption“, was authored by Alan K Davis, Joseph P Barsuglia, Rafael Lancelotta, Robert M Grant and Elise Renn.