A new study analyzed over 2,500 reported encounters with autonomous entities after taking “breakthrough” doses of N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT). The findings were published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
DMT is a Schedule 1 psychedelic drug known to produce lucidity, hallucinations, time distortions, and spiritual experiences.
“Among the most vivid, intriguing, memorable, and sometimes disconcerting experiences that people report after taking a high dose of inhaled or intravenous DMT are those of encountering seemingly autonomous entities or beings,” study authors Alan K. Davis and his team say. These reports range from encounters with God to contact with alien species.
Davis and his colleagues conducted a study to uncover common aspects of these reports and to better understand how these experiences come to be interpreted as encounters with self-governing entities.
Researchers surveyed 2,561 adults who reported having previously encountered an autonomous entity after inhaling a very strong dose of DMT. No subjects had been previously diagnosed with a psychotic disorder. The subjects were an average of 31 years old and 77% were male. Questionnaires asked participants for a brief written account of their most memorable encounter with an entity and then asked them a series of questions addressing details of the experience and their interpretation of the event.
Researchers coded the responses via content analysis to come up with recurrent themes.
The analysis revealed that subjects assigned various labels to the entity. As the authors describe, “The most commonly endorsed were “being,” (60%) “guide,” (43%) “spirit,” (39%) “alien,” (39%), or “helper” (34%).” Most subjects reported having experienced positive emotions during the experience, such as joy (65%), trust (63%), love (59%), and kindness (56%). Other common feelings were surprise (61%), friendship (48%), and fear (41%), while less common feelings were sadness (13%), distrust (10%), and anger (3%).
The vast majority of participants reported positive changes following the encounter, including improvements in well-being and life satisfaction (89%), attitudes about life (88%), life’s purpose (82%), and social relationships (70%).
Furthermore, the experiences appeared to have had a profound influence on respondents, extending beyond the initial encounter. A total of 72% felt that the entity continued to exist beyond their meeting and 80% reported that the encounter had changed their “fundamental conception of reality”. Only 9% believed that the entity existed entirely within themselves, while 96% upheld the belief that the entity was “conscious” and “intelligent” and 54% believed that it had “agency in the world.”
Most (69%) respondents reported that a “message, task, mission, purpose or insight” was communicated to them through the experience. As the authors reason, the numerous reports of psychological insights may suggest the therapeutic potential of DMT. “Given that some of these reports involved positively valenced messages or insights about love and safety/reassurance, it is also plausible that these experiences affected the ratings of enduring positive effects of the DMT experience (e.g. desirable changes in mood, behavior, attitudes, and beliefs),” the authors say.
Still, the researchers caution that their findings may underestimate the harmful effects of DMT, since people with negative experiences with the drug may have been less likely to participate in the survey.
The study, “Survey of entity encounter experiences occasioned by inhaled N,N-dimethyltryptamine: Phenomenology, interpretation, and enduring effects”, was authored by Alan K. Davis, John M. Clifton, Eric G. Weaver, Ethan S. Hurwitz, Matthew W. Johnson, and Roland R. Griffiths.