Answers to DMT Interview Questions
by Peter Meyer
Originally written July 1990 in response to
questions sent by Dr Richard Strassman.
Modified November 1990

DMT is smoked either in a glass pipe or (more usually) in an ordinary pipe spread over vegetable material. The number of inhalations is variable, but I prefer to try to get it all in one hit if possible. The effects come on fairly quickly, beginning within 30 seconds, the full effect occurring by c. 60 seconds. First time was three years ago, last time was this evening. I always smoke it, except one attempt at snorting 20 mg, with little effect. Time of day is irregular, but lately usually early evening. Effects have been too variable to notice correlations with time, if any. I have thought of looking for a correlation with the phase of the moon, but have not done this.

I generally smoke it alone, since colleagues in this area are not numerous. I have no objections to a sitter; generally not available.

Onset: As noted, the effects come on quickly, and I'm swept away. After taking the last hit I lay back and close my eyes and try to observe what's happening. There is no sweating, and no peculiar temperature sensations, nor any somatic tingling sensations. Generally I lose awareness of my body, especially on a large dose, although I try to stay in touch with my breathing to assure myself that I'm still alive. I don't feel I have moved in any direction. Sometimes there is awareness of heartbeat, sometimes not; sometimes alarmingly so. Sometimes there are auditory effects, sometimes not. When there are my attention is usually rivetted on the visual affects so I tend to neglect the auditory.

The auditory effects are not constant, and seem dose-dependent. I have on one occasion heard the "tearing/crinkling of cellophane" sound as the DMT took effect, but this is unusual. With smaller doses the auditory hallucination takes the form of a distant shamanic chanting, regular but with a peculiar rhythm. With larger doses it becomes "elf-language", a high-speed chatter with no discernible linguistic components. This might be compared to a burst of information transmitted at high speed.

I usually experience some anxiety before smoking, and must calm myself. After inhaling I attend to what's happening and don't have any increase in anxiety. I sometimes experience anxiety during the flash, but this is more an intellectual anxiety than an emotional one. That is, I don't panic, but may be worried. I try simply to observe, and if I get worried I remind myself that I shall survive. I do not always do this (worry), since the subjective effects vary considerably. Occasionally, however, I may doubt that I'll survive, but in such cases I just hang in there and have faith that I'll come through OK (or if not, then hopefully I'll be able to deal with whatever happens). I've never actually panicked, but on one occasion I got into a state where I did not know who or what I was, and a basic survival instinct kicked in, so that I struggled and clawed my way back to self-awareness. This was a particularly unpleasant experience, accompanied by actual bodily aches in the shoulder muscles and mild headaches lasting two weeks thereafter.

Middle phase: The visual effects are unpredictable. There seem to be two distinct visual phases, an initial geometic-pattern phase, followed (sometimes) by a pictorial phase. The geometric patterns are usually very complicated and dynamic, often but not always extremely colorful. Sometimes the colors are bright and saturated, sometimes dim and muted. On some occasions it's as if I'm watching an extensive panel or wall (it's 2-dimensional) with intricate patterns; the screen itself may be pulsating back and forward. In this state one does not see objects against a background, there is simply an expanse (possibly extensive) of colored patterns, possibly highly complex and dynamic.

Subsequently there may be a "breakthrough" to some higher-dimensional space. Whether there is a breakthrough does seem dose-dependent to some extent, but not entirely. It's clear that small doses simply result in a weird flux of consciousness, whose intensity is likely dose-dependent. A larger dose may bring on the intensely-colored visual patterns. A larger dose may result in the breakthrough under discussion. A very large dose may, as remarked above, wipe out self-awareness to the extent of forgetting who or even what one is. I have never entirely lost consciousness, but I have heard that this can happen.

The hyperdimensional space resulting from the breakthrough is often a very dynamic place, with a lot of activity. It is distinguished from the preceding visual-pattern stage in that the former is two-dimensional, even though perhaps complex and dynamic. This latter space is more than two-dimensional: at least three and possibly more. Personal beings may be seen, or intuited (perhaps as off-stage, or flitting through). Frequently it is all happening too quickly to follow or to comprehend. If there is auditory hallucination it is in the background; I have "seen" beings but have not "heard" them speak. What one sees at the stage is probably not dose-related, and depends very much on the individual and his or her relation to the entities in this realm of being.

In a full-blown experience of this sort I am quite unaware of my body, except for my breathing, and perhaps heartbeat. Generally I am disoriented only in that it is all happening too quickly to comprehend. I have not encountered anything that I would call white light, except for one occasion when "the white lightning being" zipped through my consciousness repeatedly during one particularly disorienting and rather unpleasant experience.

Usually I retain my sense of self-identity, although on the most recent occasion I did get into a state where I did not know who/what/where, and felt I had to struggle to survive. I have seen entities on several occasions, but the circumstances are highly variable, and they are not seen very clearly (this theme elaborated in more detail elsewhere). I have never seen anyone I recognize. Beings are not perceived either as big or as small. On one occasion they definitely were aware of me, and seemed to be trying to communicate with me (not very successfully). I'm generally too amazed to do anything but look. Sometimes I'm not even capable of calmly observing, and feel so overwhelmed by what I'm seeing that I wish to retreat from the scene; in this case I open my eyes and return to the room. So far I have not been able to interact with the beings in any intelligent way.

I don't tend to experience any emotion in these states, except occasionally worry and aversion. During the better trips I feel overawed at what I'm seeing. On lesser doses, which are not sufficient to break through, or to generate amazing visual hallucinations, I generally feel quite peaceful. On the more profound trips I may compare the experience to death, or rather, wonder whether this is what death/dying is like. I try to be totally "in the moment", to observe what's happening. I don't have the sense of being "bodily" present, i.e. able to move physically as if in physical space, but rather of being a passive observer. At lower doses I retain awareness of my body, but bodily awareness is generally lost at the level of the complex 2-dimensional patterns and the breakthrough to the higher-dimensional state. Even in this state, however, it's possible to have a vague awareness of one's hands and feet, as well as one's breathing.

I'm not sure whether to say it's a different reality, but I am inclined to believe so. It's certainly not this reality, but the question of whether the entities experienced are independently existing beings is still for me to some extent an open question, although I incline to the view that DMT provides access to an alternative reality which is full of spirits - the same spirits that shamans encounter.

I don't seem to have much choice in directing attention (although this could perhaps be developed more) since the experience is generally overwhelming, especially following the passage beyond the stage of geometric patterns. The experience can be stopped only by opening my eyes and returning attention to my physical surroundings (though there is still visual distortion). So far I have not tried to influence the experience, simply to observe. I don't have a sense of being in the presence of a "Higher Power". I take it as a working assumption that any beings I meet in that state I can relate to as an equal (albeit an ignorant and confused equal). I would not describe it as a religious experience; there is not a sense of holiness, though sometimes it has a hellish aspect. I have not been able to identify any non-pharmacological conditions which can be said to have a reliable influence on the experience. I neither pray nor meditate in any formal manner, though my philosophical outlook does not exclude a spiritual perspective.

As for time, it is not greatly changed in the geometric pattern phase, though the patterns may be moving rapidly, but in the breakthrough phase things often seem to be happening too fast to comprehend. In this phase I sometimes get the impression that things are out of control, meaning partly that it's all happening too quickly for me to understand what's going on, and in this situation I have a tendency to wish to retreat. There is not a sense of earthly time, e.g. five minutes having passed, since one's attention is generally too engrossed by the weirdness of what is happening to be concerned about such questions as how much time has passed. On one occasion, however, I was in a rather unpleasant state and withdrew by opening my eyes and returning to the room. This must have been about five minutes into the trance. I was still very much under the influence of the DMT, and somewhat shaken and anxious as a result of the experience I had just escaped from. The room looked stable but weird. I was with a sitter, and I was somewhat concerned that the experience was going on too long, and I asked him about this, and he reassured me that it was not taking longer than usual, whereupon my anxiety was reduced and I waited for the effects to wear off.

Generally, with me, it seems that the trance state (in which I am unaware of the external world) lasts about five minutes, then there's a gradual lessening of the intensity of the experience in which I know I am coming back, which lasts again about five minutes. During this time the visions, if there are any, gradually fade away; there is no "funkyness" to the fading visions, but they are gradually replaced by a strange energy of consciousness, which itself gradually wears off. I spend some time reflecting on the experience, or on other matters such as life and death. After fifteen minutes I am generally back to something like ordinary consciousness, although effects may linger for another fifteen minutes.

I have not noticed a sexual element to the state. Beings perceived, if they are humanoid, are of indeterminate sex.

The feeling tone varies greatly. Low doses tend to produce a peaceful state, but higher doses generate too much activity for me to feel peaceful. The nature of this activity affects the feeling tone, which can be one of aversion if the experience is disorienting or hellish, or positive, if the experience is awesome and fascinating.

Ending phase: The beginning of the end is when I return to awareness of who I am and what is happening (i.e. that I have just smoked DMT and am now coming back). Awareness of my body gradually returns, and the hallucinations gradually fade, until there seems no point in keeping my eyes closed longer. The trance lasts about five minutes, then there's about another five minutes during which the effect is fading, and by 15 - 20 minutes I'm pretty much back to normal consciousness, although a certain shakiness of mind may persist for an hour. Recently a mild headache has ensued for a day or two, which did not happen before. Frequently, at about the 10 minute stage, I experience physical trembling, which may be quite marked. Sometimes I've thought of it as a delayed fear reaction. However, on one occasion when a sitter was present he said he did not notice any physical trembling. It feels as if there's some strange energy in my body. This wears off after a few minutes. Sometimes it doesn't occur at all. Order of becoming aware of body: Breathing is always the first - in fact I usually don't lose contact with the awareness of breathing. Then perhaps awareness of heartbeat. Sometimes in the trance I am vaguely aware of my hands and feet. Total body awareness returns gradually. I open my eyes when the hallucinations have ceased, or ceased to be of interest. At this point the room seems fairly normal. However, if I open my eyes during the trance (in retreat from something unpleasant) then there can be severe visual distortion. In the most extreme case of this the parts of the room seemed to be moving around a lot in relation to each other. I was aware of the door, the window, etc., but nothing would remain still. This was a little disconcerting, but not frightening, since I was aware it was due to the effect of the drug, and it was in fact a reassuring state compared to that which I had just been in. On an earlier trip, after retreating and opening my eyes, I felt disoriented and the room seemed weird but the parts of it were stable; objects were recognizable but seemed to have strange auras. The feeling associated with the end of the trip varies a lot, from amazement to relief. Generally I reflect on what has happened. If nothing much happened I may find myself reflecting on personal matters; sometimes even childhood memories emerge. These are not "total recollection", and it is not as if I am reliving the experience.

I have not noticed any negative after-effects except at some times a mild headache. This could be related to diet [at that time a minimal-subsistence diet] or general health.

I don't feel I have lost anything by smoking DMT. I have gained a number of unique and amazing experiences, which have led me to wonder about sources of non-normal knowledge possibly available by this means. There has not been a progression or regular change over time in my DMT experiences, due perhaps to irregularity of quality and quantity, as well as to differences in mood, set and setting. There has presumably been an effect due to my learning to use this substance, but this is hard to describe.

In my experience with psychedelics (LSD, psilocybin, ketamine, iboga, harmaline, MDMA and 2-CB) DMT is certainly the most powerful. Psilocybin may in large doses take you into the hyperspatial reality, but only DMT will take you there directly, reliably and quickly. There is still much uncertainty as to the nature of the world to which DMT provides access, but further research will presumably allow researchers to arrive at some consensus. I believe that this is an alternative reality which previously only shamans have explored in a methodical fashion, that it is a reality which surrounds the reality of our ordinary experience, and that it is the realm we shall enter when we die. It is a rich and fascinating (as well as occasionally frightening) realm which awaits our continued exploration.

Psychedelics Serendipity Home Page