Episode 40 – Dr. Rick Strassman


RICK STRASSMAN M.D. holds degrees from Stanford University and Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. He took his internship and general psychiatry residency at the University of California, Davis, Medical Center in Sacramento and he spent ten years as a tenured professor at the University of Mexico he performed the first new human studies with psychedelic drugs in the US in over 20 years. His research involved the powerful naturally-occurring compound, DMT – N,N-dimethyltryptamine. Led to this substance through his earlier study of the pineal gland as a potential biological locus for spiritual experiences, he administered several hundred doses of DMT to approximately 60 volunteers between 1990 and 1995. He wrote about this research in the popular book, DMT: The Spirit Molecule, which has sold over 100,000 copies, has been translated into 12 languages, and is now available as an audio-book. It also inspired an independent documentary by the same name, picked up by Warner Bros distributing in Fall, 2011. With three distinguished collaborators, he co-authored Inner Paths to Outer Space, which looks more carefully at the common “other worlds” experience that volunteers frequently reported during his research.

Rick Strassman was born in Los Angeles, California in 1952. He attended public schools in southern California’s San Fernando Valley, and graduated from Ulysses S. Grant High School in Van Nuys in 1969. As an undergraduate, he majored in zoology at Pomona College in Claremont California for two years before transferring to Stanford University, where he graduated with departmental honors in biological sciences in 1973. During summers in college he worked for RedKen Laboratories, developing cosmetics and a line of hair dyes, and also performed laboratory research at Stanford, on the development of the chicken embryo’s nervous system. He attended the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in the Bronx, New York, where he obtained his medical degree with honors in 1977.

Dr. Strassman took his internship and general psychiatry residency at the University of California, Davis, Medical Center in Sacramento, and received the Sandoz Award for outstanding graduating resident in 1981. After graduating, he worked for a year in Fairbanks, Alaska in community mental health and private psychiatric practice. From 1982-1983, he obtained fellowship training in clinical psychopharmacology research at the University of California, San Diego’s Veteran’s Administration Medical Center. He then served on the clinical faculty in the department of psychiatry at UC Davis Medical Center, before taking a full-time academic position in the department of psychiatry at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine in Albuquerque in 1984.

At UNM, Dr. Strassman performed clinical research investigating the function of the pineal hormone melatonin in which his research group documented the first known role of melatonin in humans. He also began the first new US government approved and funded clinical research with psychedelic drugs in over twenty years. Before leaving the University in 1995, he attained the rank of tenured Associate Professor of Psychiatry, and received the UNM General Clinical Research Center’s Research Scientist Award.

In 1984, he received lay ordination in a Western Buddhist order, and co-founded, and for several years administered, a lay Buddhist meditation group associated with the same order. Dr. Strassman underwent a four-year personal psychoanalysis in New Mexico between 1986 and 1990.

He has published nearly thirty peer-reviewed scientific papers, and has served as a reviewer for several psychiatric research journals. He has been a consultant to the US Food and Drug Administration, National Institute on Drug Abuse, Veteran’s Administration Hospitals, Social Security Administration, and other state and local agencies. In 2007 he founded, with Steve Barker and Andrew Stone, the Cottonwood Research Foundation (www.cottonwoodresearch.org).

From 1996 to 2000, while living in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, Dr. Strassman worked in community mental health centers for Washington State in Bellingham and Port Townsend. For the next four years, he had a solo private practice in Taos, New Mexico. After two years working on the edge of the Navajo Reservation in Gallup NM, he returned to northern New Mexico in 2006, where he served at a mental health center in Espanola.  Since mid-2008, he has been writing full-time.

He currently is Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.

Since 1996, Dr. Strassman has been exploring models for the DMT effect focusing primarily on the Old Testament concept of prophecy. Prophecy is a spiritual experience which takes into account the apparently external, free-standing nature of the DMT “worlds,” in which one’s sense of self is highly preserved and interactive. The Old Testament concept of prophecy provides an alternative to other models that borrow more heavily from Eastern religious systems, and those of Latin American shamanism. The notion of prophecy also deals directly with ethical and moral concerns, adding a crucial element to our ability to understand and integrate the content of the psychedelic experience.

Dr. Strassman is currently Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. He is also President and co-founder of the Cottonwood Research Foundation, which is dedicated to consciousness research.

In this episode we talk to Dr. Strassman about his new book DMT and The Soul of Prophecy. We discuss the implications of his research – some of the struggle it took him to get the research done and we cover what it may mean for DMT to serve as the biological basis for spiritual experience.

Click this image to purchase the book.

Click this image to purchase the book.

 

From Dr. Strassman’s Website: In this book, I tackle the major unresolved issue with which I was left after finishing my DMT project nearly 20 years ago. This was to find a model that fit the data from our volunteers’ reports of the drug state. This ultimately led me to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) where the notion of a “prophetic state of consciousness” began taking shape. At the same time, in order to make sense of the Hebrew Bible, I turned to the classic medieval Jewish philosophers like Maimonides, who proposed rather sophisticated metaphysical/spiritual mechanisms for the prophetic experience. Thus, to the extent that the prophetic and DMT states resembled each other, I could propose metaphysical and spiritual mechanisms in common in addition to shared biological mechanisms.

DMT: The Spirit Molecule,” is now available onNetflixAmazon and iTunes. Nearly 5 years in the making, the film condenses over 80 hours of interview footage with cutting-edge computer-generated imagery to capture critical elements of the DMT experience.

Find Rick Strassman Here: www.rickstrassman.com

Huge thanks to Dr. Strassman for making time to be on the show.
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