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“Drug could possibly both reduce acute damage of the stroke” How DMT could be the future of stroke treatment

“DMT in the living animal reduced experimental stroke size and sped functional recovery.”

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Dr Rick Strassman, one of the most well-known researchers and authors on DMT, shares with SR Times his expert knowledge on using DMT as a treatment for stroke.

DMT (N.N-Dimethyltryptamine) is a hallucinogenic tryptamine drug which naturally occurs in plant species such as Psychotria viridis or Chacruna. It can also be made in a laboratory.

How did the concept of using DMT as a stroke treatment develop?

Several papers emerged from Hungary, published by Ede Frecksa and colleagues in the early 2010s, led to this concept. Initially, DMT was found to prevent neural death due to ischaemia in the test tube. Later, it was found that administering DMT in the living animal reduced experimental stroke size and sped functional recovery. 

Several mechanisms may be a play including reduced neuro-inflammation as well as increased neurogenesis (growth of new neurons from stem cells) and neuroplasticity (increasing connections among neurons). Interestingly, these effects may not require behaviorally active—in other words, psychedelic—doses of the drug.

What properties of DMT help with the treatment of stroke?

The anti-neuro-inflammatory properties of DMT, and stimulatory effects on neurogenesis and neuroplasticity are important. These effects may occur through stimulation of receptors different than those responsible for behavioural effects; for example, sigma receptors rather than serotonin receptors, and stimulation of brain derived neurotrophic factor. 

A paper I co-authored in 2019 showed that DMT levels rise in the dying rodent brain, which may indicate that naturally occurring DMT is called into action when the brain is suffering the effects of loss of oxygen, as occurs in a stroke.

My initial studies at the University of New Mexico with DMT in the early 1990s worked out various dosing regimens which have proven helpful in designing the Algernon study; in particular, determining sub-psychedelic but biologically active doses of the drug. In addition, we demonstrated that tolerance to DMT did not occur even after closely spaced repeated dosing. This has led to the development of continuous infusion studies like the one being developed by Algernon.

Could DMT be the future of stroke treatment?

Anything we can do to reduce acute stroke size and speed functional recovery will be a valuable addition to our medical armamentarium. The safety and efficacy of DMT in stroke has yet to be demonstrated. Nonetheless, the novel mechanisms of action and the fact that the drug could possibly both reduce acute damage of the stroke and also assist functional recovery make it a promising possible tool.

Does more research need to be conducted on alternative medicines and treatments for stroke?

Yes. We are limited in what we can do for stroke patients, both acutely and to speed recovery. Medications that promote neuroplasticity and neurogenesis as well as decreasing neuro- inflammation, such as DMT and related compounds, will likely become an intensive area of study in the future.

Dr Rick Strassman is part of the team at Algernon Pharmaceuticals, which is a Canadian research company that is the first in the world to investigate DMT for the treatment of stroke in humans and has recently dosed the first subject in a Phase 1 clinical study.

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