The Comparison of the Psychotic Effect of Tryptamine Derivatives
with the Effects of Mescaline and LSD-25 in Self-Experiments
By S. Szara
Psychotropic Drugs, 460 (1957)
Review by Adrian Pocobelli
This historic paper is the first Western account of the psychosomatic effects of dimethyltryptamine (DMT) on humans. In a series of self-administered tests, Hungarian chemist and psychiatrist Stephen Szara attempted to characterize the experience of an intramuscular injection of dimethyltryptamine as well as a variation, dithyltryptamine (T-9), in the context of previous described accounts of LSD-25 and mescaline. The researcher explains how there had been a recent interest in indolealkylamines and their tryptamine derivatives as a result of their effects on blood pressure. Noting that there had been little research into their possible psychotic effects, Szara and his team had decided to perform "self-experiments and experiments on normal individuals with N, N-dimethyltryptamine and with the dithyl compound also." Although they had found little toxic effects in mice, they were nevertheless "very cautious in the self-experiments."
Szara emphasized the necessity, in his view, of performing self-experiments, stating: "this method is one of the best ways of obtaining direct information on subtle psychopathological phenomenon, which are of great importance in understanding the schizophrenic syndrome." On a chart, Szara outlined his previous self-experiments using mescaline, LSD-25, DMT, and T-9 over a period of 16 months from 1955-6. Due to what he described as the "already well known picture of mescaline and LSD-25," he decided to focus his efforts in describing the effects of DMT and T-9 since had been a "lack of reports in the literature up to now."
In a remarkable feat of intuition and determination, after feeling "no
psychic or vegetative effects" from the "peroral experiments"
[oral doses of DMT], Szara decided to proceed with intramuscular injections
to see if any differences would result. Beginning with a dose of 10 mg and increasing
to 150 mg (i.e. 2 mg/kg body weight), they found that psychotic effects began
at 30 mg (0.2 mg/kg body weight), and that optimum doses ranged from 0.7 - 1.0
mg/kg body weight. When a subject was given above this amount, the research
team found that the psychotic symptoms were "suppressed by the vegetative
and organic symptoms."
Szara describes the results of a self-experiment of an intramuscular injection of DMT at a dose of 1.0 mg/kg, which amounted, in his case, to a total of 75 mg of DMT.
In the third or fourth minute after the injection vegetative symptoms appeared, such as tingling sensation, trembling, slight nausea, mydriasis [dilation of the pupil], elevation of the blood pressure and increase of the pulse rate. At the same time eidetic phenomena, optical illusions, pseudo hallucinations, and later real hallucinations, appeared. The hallucinations consisted of moving, brilliantly coloured oriental motifs, and later I saw wonderful scenes altering very rapidly. The faces of the people seemed to be masks. My emotional state was elevated sometimes up to euphoria. I had compulsive athetoid movements in my left hand. My consciousness was completely filled by hallucinations, and my attention was firmly bound to them; therefore, I could not give an account of the events happening around me. After ¾-1 hour the symptoms disappeared, and I was able to describe what happened.
His experiments with T-9 had similar results: "vegetative" symptoms, as well as illusions, hallucinations and athetoid movements in the left hand.
The mask-like mysteriousness of the objects and the room gave me the feeling that I had arrived in another world, entirely different and queer and full of secrecy and mystery …. There was a peculiar double orientation in space and time: I knew where I was, but I was inclined to accept this strange world as a reality, too …. [It] seemed to me as if this period might be an entire epoch, filled with events and happenings, but at the same time I knew that only several minutes had passed.
When comparing the results, Szara found that the highest contrast between the tryptamine derivatives (DMT and T-9) and LSD-25 and mescaline was in their duration of time. Whereas the symptoms of DMT lasted about 1 hour and T-9 about 3 hours, LSD and mescaline generally lasted about 8-10 hours. As well, the onset of the symptoms of the tryptamines was found to be much faster. It was also determined that an increased dosage of DMT did not create a longer state of intoxication, although the symptoms were reported as being "more organic." Interestingly, Szara points to the fact that "in all four model psychoses the symptoms developed and passed away in wave form." All interested parties should consult the graphs in the original paper for a visual description and a more detailed overview.
Szara notes the importance of the fact that DMT rapidly metabolizes in the
body. He concludes: "The rapid onset of the psychotic symptoms makes it
seem probable that DMT affects directly those brain structures that are affected
indirectly by LSD and mescaline." In regard to the relationship of the
tryptamine derivatives to mental illness, Szara states, "there is a possibility
that from this tryptamine the schizophrenic organism may produce hallucinogenic
substances in the wrong way enzymically." As a result, the psychotic effects
of tryptamine derivatives support the aminotoxic and indole theory of schizophrenia.
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