A lead scientist tells us why the psychedelic compound in toad venom (5-MeO-DMT) could help with the inner turmoil of substance use disorders

Psychedelic compound 5-MeO-DMT garners attention for potential use in substance use disorders

No, it isn’t the name of Elon Musk’s second child, 5-MeO-DMT is the short acting psychedelic compound found in the secretions of certain toads and plant species. Less researched than psilocybin, 5-MeO-DMT is a relatively unexplored substance that appears to have similar therapeutic potential on substance use disorder and mood disorders. Entheon Biomedical, a research and biotechnology company, is looking to understand further how 5-MeO-DMT and other psychedelic compounds assist in the healing of the underlying psychological and emotional distress that is associated with substance use disorders. 

Entheon is working to develop a legal, clinically-administered dimethyltryptamine (DMT) therapeutic protocol specifically designed to treat substance-abuse disorders. Scientific Advisor for Entheon, Malin Vedøy Uthaug Ph.D. has an extensive background investigating the short-term and long-term effects of psychedelic compounds. Also a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Psychedelic research at Imperial College, Uthaug has studied ayahuasca and 5-MeO-DMT in naturalistic settings, as well as initiating several other studies on additional psychedelic compounds.

Ayahuasca is a ‘psychedelic tea’ containing DMT and monoamine oxidase inhibitors that is traditionally ingested in a shamanic ceremonial context. It can induce several hours of a dream-like altered state of consciousness characterized by intense visual, auditory, ideational and emotional effects. In her book “The Exploration of Naturalistically Used Ayahuasca and 5-MeO-DMT; An assessment of their respective Sub-acute and Long-term effects on Mental Health Related Variables” Uthaug observes the effects of psychedelics in a rural First Nations community in British Columbia, Canada.

Psychedelic research is delving into the benefits and potential of 5-MeO-DMT

What makes the effects of 5-MeO-DMT any different from the effects of other psychedelics? What does 5-MeO-DMT do that psilocybin or ayahuasca can’t?

“In my opinion, while being mindful of my own bias, it seems to be that 5-MeO-DMT has this unique ability to really amplify a person’s emotions to a very different (and yet to be understood) extent which I think can have implications for treatment of substance use disorder as well as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),” shares Uthaug. The observational study showed significant (p < 0.05) improvements in reported hopefulness, empowerment, mindfulness, and quality of life meaning and outlook subscales.

“5-MeO-DMT might hold a similar potential as ayahuasca for treatment of substance use disorder for similar reasons,” says Uthaug, further explaining that research has shown 5-MeO-DMT targets several brain areas associated with substance use disorder and can elicit profound mystical experiences akin to that of high-dose psilocybin. Through her work at Imperial College and Entheon Medical, Uthaug continues to develop research and understanding of using 5-MeO-DMT as a treatment for substance use disorder. “Although current research points to a therapeutic potential for 5-MeO-DMT, it would be premature to draw any conclusions at this point. There are still a lot of unanswered questions to address which require rigorous research designs,” shares Uthaug.

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