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A Look at: 5MEO: Are Some Doors Better Left Unopened?

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Different psychedelics offer different experiences. But which psychedelic is the most “powerful”? While it’s difficult to pin down exactly what “powerful” means in this context, many people feel they intuitively know the answer: 5-MeO-DMT.

The Tryptamines 

5-MeO-DMT (5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine) is a naturally occurring psychedelic that is similar in structure to DMT (N,N-dimethyltryptamine) and psilocybin (O-phosphoryl-4-hydroxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine or 4-PO-HO-DMT). The suffix “DMT” has led to much confusion regarding the differences between these substances. Despite the similarities in the names, 5-MeO-DMT and DMT are as different from each other as they both are from psilocybin. They are all chemically similar compounds but they produce dramatically different effects. When psilocybin is eaten, the effects can include visions of entities and seemingly freestanding realities, as well as mystical-unitive experiences of feeling at one with the universe. The effects of vaporized DMT and 5-MeO-DMT, on the other hand, typically play out in under half an hour. 

DMT experiences are typically characterized by vivid visual content and entity encounters. 5-MeO-DMT, on the other hand, seems to isolate the mystical-unitive experience. The 5-MeO-DMT experience isn’t characterized by vivid psychedelic visuals so much as a profound shift in perspective.

5-MeO-DMT

What could be so powerful about a simple perspective shift? Our minds have many aspects. There is the awake, aware aspect of consciousness and, within that, there are the egoic thoughts of the rational mind. The “ego” evolved to keep us safe and protected, but if it can relax it through psychedelics or meditation we can discover the enlightened nature of consciousness that is always there behind the ego. It’s one thing for this process to play out over several hours in a psilocybin trip, or over a few days on a meditation retreat; it’s another thing to have your ego obliterated in a matter of seconds.

This is what happens with the 5-MeO experience and, for the part of your mind that is concerned with survival, this obliteration is the last thing it wants. The result? A terrifyingly awe-inspiring confrontation with bare existence—and for the ego, an experience of death.

Three Directors Walk Into Hyperspace

The new documentary, “5MEO: Are Some Doors Better Left Unopened?” documents the psychedelic explorations of three acquaintances. All three are directors, and each one directs and stars in the film. Only one has any previous psychedelic experience. Each of them is at a point in life where they’re looking for something more. They hear about the psychoactive venom of the Sonoran desert toad and the psychedelic molecule, 5-MeO-DMT, that it contains. They hear that this is the ultimate psychedelic experience. As one of the filmmakers describes it: “All understanding is blown apart, all safe ground, time, space, everything, is destroyed.”

A Heroic Dose of Psilocybin Mushrooms

While the experiences of two of the filmmakers, Charles and Frank, follow the expected playbook, Boris Jansch shows a distinctive mindset from the beginning that leads to consistently different outcomes throughout. Within the first five minutes of the documentary, we’re presented with him responding snappily to a voice behind the camera. “I’m pretty strong-minded despite having social anxiety,” he tells us. 

Before the 5-MeO experience, the subjects of the film test the psychedelic waters with a “heroic dose” of psilocybin mushrooms, typically five dried grams. As they embark on this experience, Frank informs us that Boris went into it asking questions like “Is this going to work on me? Will this have any effect?  I don’t know if this is going to have any effect on me”.  “I had 6 to 7 dried grams as I was half convinced that nothing much would happen” Boris admits. He is then rapidly humbled as the psilocybin works its way through his system. He wanders around in a state of confusionAs the third filmmaker, Charles, puts it “Boris was … that, for me, was quite frankly and sometimes slightly worrying.”

The 5-MeO Ceremony

For the 5-MeO ceremony itself, they are in the hands of a seemingly experienced and responsible guide by the name of Ollie. Ollie keeps Sonoran Desert toads as pets, but opts for the pure, synthetic version of 5-MeO-DMT. He lights a pipe for each of the men in turn. They lie back and undergo the experience, with very little drama from the outside perspective. From the inside, however, the experience is anything but calm.

Frank begins to tell us of his experience. “This is where it gets tricky … It was this humongous, endless, pulsating alive energy that included everything.” Boris tells us he found himself existing as a kind of “primordial soup.” Charles relates he was confronted with black fractals that made him feel as though he was facing death. Having recovered from cancer, this was a big fear for him going in. He even wrote a letter to loved ones—in case he didn’t survive the experience.

Are Some Doors Better Left Unopened?

The subtitle of the documentary is “Are Some Doors Better Left Unopened?” A better question might be whether it is wise to go from very few psychedelic experiences to the most powerful one available. Another question is whether such experiences are suited to everyone—at any point in their lives. 

The answer appears to be: clearly not. For Boris in particular, the experience seems to have been too much too soon. In the follow-up interviews, he appears to have shut down to some extent, in order to cope with the overwhelming nature of the experience. At first he says, “I don’t really have any thoughts about it. What, do you think it means that I’m low in energy?” Then the tears begin to flow. “It’s just so shocking … all you want to see is the beauty in life .. .that’s all anyone wants is to see how amazing life is … and it’s fucking scary is what it is!”

An Experience

The documentary makes for an entertaining experience. The idea of having three directors also participating as the three subjects alone makes it worthy of a watch. For those considering the 5-MeO-DMT experience, it may be of real value in showing the psychological processes that play out in the lead-up to the experience, as well as those that follow. When it comes to the experiences themselves, they fit with what one expects from the substances the three have consumed, making them useful “standard” trip reports—even if they don’t offer anything dramatically novel. The protagonists do a good job of explaining experiences that are nearly impossible to put into words. At one point, we hear Charles addressing Frank from behind the camera. “When you say there was an explosion, so really you went from exhaling to …?” Frank replies: “… to everything.”

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