Rick Strassman MD performed the first new human studies with psychedelic drugs in the US in over 20 years.
His research involved the powerful naturally-occurring compound, DMT – N,N-dimethyltryptamine. Led to this substance through his earlier study of the pineal gland as a potential biological locus for spiritual experiences, he administered several hundred doses of DMT to approximately 60 volunteers between 1990 and 1995. He wrote about this research in the popular book, DMT: The Spirit Molecule, which has sold over 100,000 copies, has been translated into 12 languages, and is now available as an audio-book. It also inspired an independent documentary by the same name, picked up by Warner Bros distributing in Fall, 2011. With three distinguished collaborators, he co-authored Inner Paths to Outer Space, which looks more carefully at the common "other worlds" experience that volunteers frequently reported during his research.
Joseph Levy Escapes Death
Joseph Levy leads a quiet life in rural Wheaton Arizona. Retired from a long career in psychiatric research and practice, he reads, writes, and walks in the mountains and hills near the Native reservation. His quiet life ends, however, when a dental crown replacement causes trouble just before meeting an internet date in California. Thus begins a year of back-to-back nightmare infections, a drug overdose, and two failed relationships. At every step, Levy is confronted by matters of life and death, love and hate, faith and doubt, trust and betrayal. Most of all, he faces what it means to be sick and to be healthy. He prays to his God, relies on his friends, examines his dreams, and entrusts his psyche to a new therapist.
Joseph Levy Escapes Death is a tale of perseverance in the face of adversity. Strassman uses several lenses to view Levy’s life: medical, psychoanalytic, and religious–both Buddhist and Jewish. Pathos and humor fill the tale, while enlightening detours examine the Holocaust, cardiovascular physiology and microbiology, and Jewish-Christian relations.
A dark, disturbing, thought-provoking tale well told, as we would expect from the author of DMT: The Spirit Molecule. The reader is drawn through the story by a compelling need to understand the eponymous Joseph Levy's very peculiar mind! Highly recommended.
Author of Fingerprints of the Gods
Strassman delivers a sardonic and sometimes belly-laugh provoking treatise on God, Life, Love, and Death, in shades of Joseph Heller and John Irving. One could wallow in additional literary allusions, but bottom line, this is a very funny, insightful, and, at times, painful exploration of how humans, at least Joseph Levy, wrestle with all that stuff to find cheating death’s not the problem, it’s what happens when one tries to cheat life.
As an added bonus, for hypochondriacs and sundry pseudo-hypochondriacs, there’s a generous smattering of etiological references, that just might help you find out what-the- hell’s wrong with you, along the way. A thoroughly satisfying and enjoyable ride. Climb aboard and hold onto your hat.
Screenwriter and director: Resurrecton, The Great Santini, The Fox, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, The Mechanic, Seconds, The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea
This book has it all. Humor, insight, a poignant glimpse at patient care and the fragility of life, and one man’s shattering odyssey through the circus of existence. Buy this book and sail on swirling wisps and eddies of perseverance, hope, causality, and wonderment.
Author of The Math Book, The Physics Book, and The Medical Book trilogy
What happens when a privileged white physician slides down a rabbit hole of human misery? Ideally, he is rescued from self-importance by virtue of his unexpected participation in the human condition. Instead, Joseph Levy Escapes Death is an overly explicit litany of medical details, romantic calamities, and desperate attempts to cling to religious ideology by kicking other belief systems to the curb. The writing is clear and crisp, but the curmudgeonly protagonist veers toward bigotry and misogyny and never manages to redeem himself.
Author of God of Love
Since 1996, Dr. Strassman has been exploring models for the DMT effect focusing primarily on the Old Testament concept of prophecy. Prophecy is a spiritual experience which takes into account the apparently external, free-standing nature of the DMT "worlds," in which one's sense of self is highly preserved and interactive. The Old Testament concept of prophecy provides an alternative to other models that borrow more heavily from Eastern religious systems, and those of Latin American shamanism. The notion of prophecy also deals directly with ethical and moral concerns, adding a crucial element to our ability to understand and integrate the content of the psychedelic experience. He is developing these ideas in his next book, The Soul of Prophecy, due to appear in 2013.
Dr. Strassman is currently Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. He is also President and co-founder of the Cottonwood Research Foundation, which is dedicated to consciousness research.
In its efforts to mainstream psychedelics, the biomedical model runs the risk of proclaiming and defending particular dogmas and orthodoxies. These raise the risk of stifling inquiry into the full psychedelic experience: its mechanisms, meaning, and optimal applications. In this week’s post, I discuss the state of this mainstreaming effort, and suggest how to prevent its successes from prematurely closing the psychedelic mind. The biomedical research model has been extraordinarily successful in re-introducing psychedelic drugs to the larger scientific community and popular culture. Moderate doses, strict attention to non-drug factors, and a modest relationship with the media all have contributed...
“Myth,” “arguably bullshit,” and “deserving a decent burial.” These are some of the published statements by reputable scientists reacting to various claims made about DMT. Usually, these words are used to attack “pseudoscience,” the kiss of death for scientific theories that lack merit, are patently false, and objectively falsifiable. Several theories about DMT have aroused these strong reactions. In this week’s post, I suggest that some of these reactions are appropriate whereas others are not. The psychedelic theory of schizophrenia’s decent burial, 1976 After DMT’s discovery in mammalian lung in the 1960s, psychiatric researchers sought a relationship between endogenous DMT...
Creating a field of psychedelic medicine opens the window to potential benefits and risks by increasing their accessibility. Rescheduling psychedelics out of the highly restrictive Schedule I is necessary for this to occur. Additional issues of public health policy must be determined, and who takes the lead in shaping these policies requires careful attention. Momentum is building to carry outside of the ivory tower biomedical research’s positive and measured, yet preliminary, findings of psychedelics’ benefit for a number of conditions. This goal is generally referred to as creating “psychedelic medicine” or establishing “psychedelics as medicine.” Medicine, more-or-less different than, but...
Backlash against the wider biomedical availability of psychedelic drugs is likely at some point. However, we may take steps that minimize causes of a potential backlash. One of these steps is to avoid overreaching. Any failure to maintain intellectual rigor and honesty in such a highly controversial field will not serve the research community well when media coverage turns negative for any reason. The worst thing we can hear is: “You were not honest in portraying benefit and risk.” I see at least three phenomena related to the biomedicalization of psychedelic drugs where overreach could come back to haunt us....
The most extensive scientific study of the mental and perceptual effects of a psychedelic drug since the 1960s.
author of Ayahuasca: Consciousness and the Spirits of Nature
A dazzling journey through psychedelic drug experimentation and a tantalizing peek into a new model of how the brain and mind work. Strassman’s research points toward a physiological basis for spirit and its interaction with the human body; his data suggests that our brain chemistry allows us access to other realms of existence just when we need it most, and his story recounts both the dangers and promises of entering this brave new world.
Editor, Journal of Near-Death Studies
DMT: The Spirit Molecule points the way beyond the present impasse of the reigning 'drug abuse' paradigm.
author of The Age of Entheogens and Hallucinogenic Plants of North America
This book is essential reading for anyone with an interest in the mind, philosophy, the nature of reality, and spirituality.