Citation: Harry Shimlight. "There and Back Again: A Journey to Death: An Experience with 5-MeO-DMT (exp82407)". Erowid.org. May 31, 2010. erowid.org/exp/82407
||(powder / crystals)
||(powder / crystals)
An insight into my first experience with the entheogen 5-methoxy-dimethyltryptamine (most commonly known as 5-MeO-DMT), a powerful tryptamine. Objective analysis of the experience is complicated since the effects are volatile, and minimal dosage changes can induce violent differences. Nonetheless, I hope this short essay will be useful to those interested on researching 5-MeO-DMT beyond a purely scientific drive.
Description of substance
The substance was obtained in freebase powder form from the supplier, synthesized in Asia. The chemical arrived tightly packed inside a sealed zip plastic bag, along an informational sheet, clearly labeled indicating the scientific denomination of the substance and its unsuitability for human consumption. This is to comply with public health laws in the country of origin, and likely elsewhere. The total net amount was 250 milligrams.
The physical appearance of 5-MeO-DMT is a white crystal powder with distinct bitter smell and taste, intense and noticeable even if mixed with any other substance. It vaporizes at a relatively low temperature, leaving a brown to black dark residue.
Other properties (taste, smell, et cetera)
It is disgusting to insufflate, although in my experience it didn't cause any abnormal nasal drip, but the after taste and feeling in the throat is definitely unpleasant. Because of its effects, the user will unlikely notice this after onset, much less during peak or afterwards. With threshold doses it is definitely noticeable. Mixed with other vapors, the taste and smell can be concealed, for example with tobacco. This method of intake isn't recommended, though, since it isn't possible to have precise knowledge of the true amount of chemical being vaporized.
I was introduced to research chemicals by a good North American friend, who has experience with LSD and Psilocybin, and a single experience with 5-MeO-DMT itself, among other span of substances including several prescription drugs (CNS depressants, narcotic analgesics, et cetera). Without previous experience with psychedelics, I was warned about the intensity of 5-MeO-DMT, and the potentially unwise choice as a first experience. It became evident that it could either drive me away from psychedelics altogether, or the complete opposite. Nonetheless, the night of 4th July 2009 I was determined to try this tryptamine and prepared myself, while restless at 3:00 AM, to experiment its effects.
From the experiences I read online, and my friend's advice, I realized it would be a likely extreme experience which could put my mind off limits and induce a deep state of trance, with the potential panic and terrifying dysphoria of near-death states. As the reader might be able to understand in this report, this was accurate but unlikely to fully express the intensity of the experience. It is world shattering, in several aspects. I would, personally, advice any potential user of this drug to simply be psychologically prepared to let go, and surrender ego and control, and accept that, once its effects are in full motion, it is absolutely impossible to grasp any control of your own life and consciousness, feeling utterly helpless and in vulnerable awe. It will be overwhelming.
It was 4th July of 2009, at 3:00 AM. A comrade (to be referred as Subject B) had gone out to a club at the beach and I received a call with the news: he was free for the rest of the night and didn't have anything better to do. In the past few days I had commented about 5-MeO-DMT, as well as introduced him to methylone (an emphatogen, analogue of MDMA). He had no experience with psychedelics whatsoever, and only did moderate, sporadic use of cocaine. He is emotionally and intellectually immature, and definitely unfamiliar with any spiritual or philosophical aspects that tryptamines and other psychedelics have, and currently not capable of understanding the meaning of introspection.
He might seem like a clearly unsuitable ``sitter'', and it was definitely impossible for him to grasp the purpose and true meaning of the substance, but nonetheless, experimenting with someone who is completely unaware and unsuspecting of its sheer power, while ethically questionable for some, remains as scientifically interesting. No expectations means no disappointments.
Once Subject B arrived, I decided to prepare doses using a somewhat reliable measurement reference, given the lack of a milligram scale. The first dose would be taken through inhaling its vapors, via a syringe prepared for this purpose (had its side opened wide and cut to allow full air flow) and an aluminum spoon. Aluminum foil would have been a more suitable option (due to shorter heating time) but this was unavailable at the time. The second dose was to be insufflated. The approximate doses were 10-12mg and 15-20mg respectively. I did insufflate a higher amount, albeit it is impossible to accurately calculate the difference. In the report the reader will be able to discern my experience from that of my trip companion. A comfortable sofa and low trip-hop music would provide the medium to relax and remain comfortable during the experience. A small flex light was used to provide a smooth, less intense illumination for the room.
The initial dose
I prepared myself to inhale the vapors of an approximate 10mg dose within an aluminum spoon. After heating up the metal with a normal lighter and holding the syringe, I started breathing deeply as soon as the vapors started emerging from the melting crystals. The smell struck intensely, it was mildly foul and unpleasant, bitter. I instantly felt a rush and the room seemed to vibrate for moments, my heart rate subtly raised, and I lied on the sofa, waiting for the inevitable onset of a more intense experience. I felt my body vibrate and my hands tremble with subtlety, I was confused if I could be the only one noticing this. I embraced myself and decided to concentrate on whatever psychological and more transcendental effects were about to be unfold. And then I lost perception of time and space, It was mild and inspiring awe. I felt my mind was beginning to be unconscious of my body, and I was sweating but felt comfortable, even cold.
I could feel myself alienated from the room, the background music, the presence of a person there. I was alone, in an extent of the word I hadn't known before, even if I'm a person who enjoys meditation and solitude. I needed a more intense trip. I could see there was much more waiting at the other side of wherever I was heading to. I wasn't as brave anymore, I knew something potentially terrible but admirable was waiting there. For some reason, I remembered two occasions in my life when I almost drowned; I didn't feel asphyxia, only the sensation of being helpless and out of control, watching my existence ending right there. Still, I knew there was more to this. I wasn't convinced if it was the intensity I could expect from the substance, therefore I instantly became more determined to experiment a higher dose as soon as the effects would wear off. How wrong was I, thinking it could be foolishly played with, but grateful to disregard the potential risks, leaving only fate to decide the outcome for the next dose through insufflation.
Subject B didn't understand the intention of the trip or purpose of the substance, therefore in the next subsection, only the shallow effects he experienced will be explained, before I proceed to describe, if even possible at all, my own experience with the insufflated dose.
The second dose
This was it. I was worried, concerned about what was truly beyond the outer limits of my mind and existence. Was I truly empty in the inside? Are we part of a greater identity or energy? Are we just a bunch of meaningless life forms moving hysterically in some planet lost among the stars? Honestly, I was thinking it was negative to draw too many conclusions and theories beforehand. I knew the unknown awaited me. It was too late to turn back and walk away. ``Let the chips fall where they may.''
Whether I was being more philosophical or spiritual than necessary was moot. The white crystalline powder, so incredibly minuscule yet powerful and inspiring of respect and concern, was waiting on a metal cardboard. An amount of approximately 10mg, the size of a match head. As I instruct Subject B to forget about any expectations and simply concentrate to enjoy the experience, whatever it might be, I ask myself if It's a good idea, and if he will be prepared to deal with any potential effects it might have on him, if it will shatter his world and identity in ways he won't be able to couple with. Too late to turn back, never repent. He snorts the tiny amount of powder and instantly feels displeased. Subject B reports it is bitter, unpleasant to taste, and hurts. While lying on the sofa, I instruct him to relax, and ask how he is feeling. About 2-3 minutes post-insufflation, Subject B reports feeling a rush. I notice his sight seems to be definitely changing. He complains of the bad taste and hurting nose, and drinks a glass of water. I observe and suggest to simply relax and try to overcome those feelings. About 5 minutes post-insufflation, he starts staring in fixed places and grins, pointing to the ceiling and wall. I avoid interfering, he seems to be having visuals of some type.
Subject B reports the walls are vibrating or moving, and the light in the ceiling seemed strange to him, he was unable to recall it was a light, and then was amused to find out what it was. He remains silent in gaps, grinning and smiling. I'm glad he is enjoying it, and realize it might have been a threshold dose. I talk to my North American friend over the Internet and confirm this. Lacking a milligram scale is definitely suboptimal, I realize I will be doing a higher dose, while aware of the risks.
He has somewhat poor coordination. The effect at 10 minutes seems to be wearing off, and it was definitely a mild experience for him. At 15 minutes he is definitely capable of normal psychomotor operation. Overall it seems he might be holding details of the experience to himself. It's time for me to proceed with the insufflated second dose.
My experience with the insufflated second dose
I prepare approximately 15-20mg of the powder, wondering if I will ever be the same again or come back. I hold the syringe tube in my nose and insufflate the powder deeply, continuing to inhale any remains of the powder, as quickly as I could possibly can. The feeling of its bitter taste and sensation in the nose strikes me. It is surely unpleasant. I drink a glass of water, and suddenly within 2 minutes, I start feeling my connection to the physical world is slowly fading away. My eyes feel powerless, and I decide to lie in the sofa. Lights go off. That was it. The beginning of the real end.
Onset: 2 minutes
At the moment of writing these words, it is still difficult to recall the immersion into the brutal experience I was entering, and Subject B was and would be oblivious to it. This was a journey to Death, but the depths of my own mind. My body vibrated and trembled much more noticeably to me than it did with the smoked first dose. It was an incredible rush, I could feel blood traveling across my body, I could feel my nerves, my muscles, every single pore of my skin, every drop of sweat in my hands. Blood felt like ice, I was entering some sort of sensorial coma, but I was still able to see and hear, even though it all seemed far away. I close my eyes and feel like this had to end, I was parting ways from my existence as I knew it, and it was terrifying.
Plateau: 5-10 minutes
I realized I hadn't felt such fear ever before in my life. It was true terror, but something made me feel comfortable. There was no way out, no easy escape, no cheating. I had to let go and accept any potential outcome, and so I did. Gradually I was feeling cold and transported elsewhere, I felt my body was succumbing and my mind had been projected out of it into a void, some sort of space where my perception of time was no longer working or reliable. Everything physical felt meaningless, there was true force there, a power the likes of something I had never seen before. I started having flashbacks, thoughts of my life, the troubles and destruction I caused to the lives of different people, those who loved and hated me, the different decisions and my moral code, I became suddenly convinced this was an opportunity to reconsider several aspects of this all, and meditate over what was valuable and truly important in life. It would be impossible to accurately determine the duration of the peak and its effects, my perception of time was severely disturbed and it could have been a lifetime, or a few minutes.
My blood still felt like solid matter, I felt like a puppet master moving my own strings, able to instruct my hands to clench and move, but not able to feel them or care at all. Everything seemed connected in some way, and then I focused on looking inside. I never really believed in love, and thought myself to be unable to feel it or even become truly affectionate. In this regard, most experiences of psychedelics I've read about, including those with 5-MeO-DMT, mention a consciousness of an universal energy and love. To me, it was interesting to see that, while I wasn't capable of determining the full extent or implications of ``love'' as other beings see it, I was able to detect the energy and drive behind the actions of those who are fond of us at a deep level, beyond any shallow attractions or feelings.
Possibly the effects were wearing off after 30 minutes to an hour after the initial coming up, and I was still in an apparent state of coma, unable to feel my heart rate or breathing. Letting myself go was a good decision, panicking would have been useless and ruined the experience. Deeply within my mind I came to realize I would likely never be the same person again. I was given a look at death, the opportunity to take a profound introspection, a journey to my life. But I was slowly fading back to the physical existence. Mixed feelings of being grateful to survive and still sorry to leave the higher plane of existence and consciousness. I struggled to be able to bring the most of that ability to the world I had known for years. The monologue of Kurtz in Apocalypse Now (based in the ``Heart of Darkness'' novel by Joseph Conrad) came to my mind: I had been shot with a diamond bullet straight through my forehead. There would be no more time and energy wasting, I was convinced about what was the purpose of my existence. At this point, any tribulation in the world seems unimportant and ridiculous, and everything remains in balance out of our perception. As Shulgin described one of his own experiences once, 'here I gaze upon the entire universe'.
Alexandrines of Angelus Silesius, XVII Century
The far most gleaming light of this world can be seen
Best from the darkest place where thou hast ever been.
Who would believe this true? From darkness light is wrought,
Life out of death, and Something out of Nought.
The sun sets all in motion, makes even the planets dance.
You are not part of all unless you too advance.
Truly, who all this world would accurately see
Must now Democritus, now Heraclitus be.
Man, all that you desire within you lies concealed;
You simply have not wrought until it be revealed.
As sternly as thou wilt, bind me by thousand chains;
The true self that is I unfettered still remains.
That man is well entitled to bear the rank of kings
Who under own dominion his strength and senses brings.
The present point in time, to him who seeketh bliss
Seemeth much more prolonged than all the future is.
There's nought to spur thee on; thou art the turning wheel
That spins of its own force, nor any rest may steal.
To be alone is good. Be not gregarious
And thou wilt everywhere walk in a wilderness.
The unencompassed man, like immortality,
Uninfluenced remains by all externity.
The world contains thee not; a universe thou art,
That with thee, in thyself so firmly holds thee barred.
The devil in his way is just as good as we.
The qualities he lacks? Will and serenity.
We are so well imbued with immortality,
Whether we will or not, immortal we must be.
The wise man, when he dies, no cry for heaven makes.
He has but come from there before his spirit breaks.
I say that nothing dies; rather, another life
By dying is bestowed, though it be lived in strife.
The world's a battleplace, the wreathlet and the crown
Not his who fears to fight, nor glory nor renown.
Death will I not acknowledge, although I died each hour,
Each time would only place new life within my power.
Oh folly! Man will strive for time unto his death
Yet for eternity will never waste a breath!
The silkworm works and spins until it learns to fly.
For shame, that as thou art upon the earth dost lie!
In your desires I marvel day plays so great a role
Since I have never known a sunset in my soul.
After and side-effects
Note: this section has been written 2 months and 13 days after the experience, and describes the alterations in visual and psychological perception, lucid dreaming and after effects, as well as a second experience with a threshold dose.
Shortly after the experience, in a span of approximately two weeks, I experienced vivid lucid dreams, with a highly unusual frequency and even more strange scenarios. The only thing I could recall as being remotely similar are post-clinical doses of Modafinil, in the range of 300 to 400 milligrams in a single dose, before sleep. These doses would awake me in the course of the next four to five hours, albeit feeling refreshed, like after a long, sound sleep. The impact on heart rate was evident at times, although within healthy boundaries, and always easily controlled with Lorazepam, if necessary at all. In contrast, 5-MeO-DMT was absolutely different. It was a neverending rollercoaster of vivid dreaming, while being aware and conscious of this state, fully able to recall even the most small detail with precision. I would be able to sleep through the full eight hours cycle, even though the first day it was quite unnerving.
In regards to perception, the first two weeks felt like the awakening after a long term coma. Everything seemed more alive than ever, even the smallest things. It took time to become used to this higher level of awareness, and initially, it was extremely distracting and paranoid. Insects were especially annoying in that sense, because of tracers. Visually, I could focus on an object, sentient or not, and visualize the slightest movement, leaving a trace describing its trajectory from the origin to the new position. It had no color nor real visual properties, it was just something you could feel. It could be described as the ability to detect movement without complex processing, without reasoning, but mere visualization. Breathing, the rush of blood in the limbs, the wind, the sound waves, my own heart rate and internal organs. Suddenly, I also felt more alive than ever, a synchronization of body and mind the likes I hadn't seen or cared to perceive before. The thought of being able to instruct my heart to stop and be concerned that it would actually do so, came to my mind. The boundaries between what I once perceived as real and surreal got blurred beyond repair. Now there was an ordinary reality, and something else, inhuman, right there.
Recently I decided to experience with a minimum threshold dose, smoked mixed with tobacco. Possibly less than 10 milligrams. The now familiar 'bliss' came back, that characteristic force, feeling like you are being shot through a space cannon. A state of introspection and focus, but also unconditional love for the mere being. Albeit of less intense nature, I was able to appreciate the sense of detachment and time lost its widely accepted, yet mistaken, linear nature. That day I decided to experiment with a dose of 200 milligrams of Modafinil, and the lucid dreaming was back at full motion.
There are other effects I've been noticing lately, perception-wise, but it is extremely difficult to describe them with words. These include psychological changes, namely a more objective perception of feelings and emotions in one self and other people, which is both positive and negative since it involves a degree of detachment from people, which some might consider dangerous or conflictive.
The Other Shore
Immediately after the peak, during the experience with the second dose, a clear image came to my mind. It wasn't a reflection resulting from any complex pattern of thought or consideration. It simply appeared, straight out of that inexplicable nowhere, the void, which I had just experienced. I could see myself, at the side of a seemingly large river, without any surroundings, nor capable of seeing its beginning or end. Then, at the other side, I could see myself as well. A difference emerged, something lead me to realize it was the person, my ego, before I was taken to the void. It was my old self. I couldn't swim there, I was standing still, unable to move, speak or react in any way. And suddenly, doubt and confusion came to me, while in absolute awe, feeling out of control and helpless. I wasn't convinced if I wanted to meet me at the other side. Was it truly meant to happen that way? Did I want to come back? Would I ever be the same person? Absolute uncertainty.
Forget about those worries of losing your money to a sinking economy, a disastrous legal and social system, a corrupted justice and society, a world of shallow perceptions. It was my identity, my ego. I was alone, my existence isolated in one place in the middle of a void, in nowhere. It was terrifying but beautiful at the same time, the only certain thing, if it even mattered at all, was that, if I ever came back to what I knew before, I would never forget this moment in my whole life. The rest was all uncertainty. I knew it was hopeless to fall in despair, to cry out for help or panic. I decided to let go, I lost all hope and then I realized that was freedom. Pure and crystalline. Genius. There's no empirical procedure, no mathematical model, no absolute truth or explanation, which can express what I felt there, so terrifying, overwhelming and world shattering, but beautiful and joyous, existential.
Now I try to meditate and consider what the river meant, the depths. In all honesty, I realized that, had the dose been higher, instead of standing still at the side of the river, I would have stepped into the water, driven by an external force and command, and possibly be transported in a whirlwind to a point of no return. This is the only hope for the next experiment with this amazing and mysterious tryptamine. I don't feel like experimenting with it again in the short term, not because of the fear and panic, of the loss of control and identity, but because it will take time and meditation to fully understand its power and consequences.
I don't feel the need for another trip, but I'll be looking forward to take myself to the next level and let myself go, and experience whatever is beyond this world of shallow perceptions. I miss the feeling of being shot through an enormous Einstein-Rosen bridge into the outer Universe, and see its energy and power, that overwhelming stimuli for the senses. To look at the world beyond time and space. Above everything, immutable and incorruptible.
After spending quite some time looking for an answer to this vision quest of sorts, I came across the concept of the Higan in Buddhism. My American friend was quick to provide an array of references to read, and so I did. Higan means 'the other shore', and hence the title of this section (originally 'The River'). It's an euphemism for the Enlightenment, meaning 'One crosses from this shore of ignorance and suffering to the other shore of Enlightenment and peace'. How, without any previous knowledge nor memory (including what is known as a cryptomnesia or memory bias of any kind) I could have a vision of this concept, escapes my understanding. I have no explanation, but I've seen enough to refuse thinking it's just a coincidence.
Hopefully, 5-MeO-DMT won't have any true detrimental effects to physical health. Even in the face of potential adversity caused by this chemical, I assume the responsibility and consequences of my decision to experiment with this and other research chemicals. I might as well die of cancer, in a car accident, parachuting, shot or overdosing on routine and procrastination. Either way, we are all doomed anyhow.
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