Psychedelic drugs could mimic near-death experience: study

A U.K. research group says psychedelic drugs could mimic near-death experiences and help us better understand the spectrum of consciousness.

In the new study, first published in August in the journal Frontiers, 13 volunteers took dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, the naturally occurring psychedelic that is the primary ingredient in the hallucinogenic brew ayahuasca, which attracts adventurous tourists to Peru every year.

The volunteers were given the drug and monitored in the low light setting of a research room. They were then probed with questions after a short time by a team with the Psychedelic Research Group at Imperial College London.

“Did you see, or feel surrounded by a brilliant light?” researchers asked participants. “Did you sense that you were in another unearthly world?”

Most volunteers said yes, confirming that their experiences on the psychedelic drug mirrored reports of so-called “near-death experiences,” in which people claim they felt a sense of inner peace and an out-of-body sensation of passing into another realm.

Most study volunteers said they were engulfed in a sensation of warmth, and felt a vibration in their bodies. Others reported encountering foreign entities with a sense of emotion and gratitude. Participants said they had a “definite and important sense that they’re accessing some sort of alternate dimension or reality,” said the study’s lead author Christopher Timmermann.

“This is strikingly similar to what people report when they go through these near-death experiences,” he said Friday in an interview on CTV’s Your Morning.

Timmermann said the new research was done to explore little known parts of the mind and obtain a “wider understanding of conscious experience.”

“The way that people usually treat consciousness is in this line that goes from unconsciousness to consciousness,” he said. “Unconsciousness being something like a coma state or the dreamless state, and consciousness being the awake state.”