Stroke victims to get hallucinogenic drug DMT to stave off worst effects of life-threatening condition in first-of-its-kind trial, scientists say

  • Hallucinogenic drug called DMT could help stroke victims, scientists say
  • They argue the medication could trigger the rapid regrowth of lost neurons
  • Medication will be tested in trials in the US possibly as soon as next month 

A hallucinogenic drug given to stroke victims as they are rushed to hospital could minimise the damage inflicted on brain cells, scientists say.

Strokes happen when the blood supply to the vital organ is cut off by a clot or burst vessel, risking death in some crucial nerve cells by starving them of oxygen.

But researchers argue their medication – called DMT or dimethyltryptamine – could ward off the worst effects by sparking the growth of new neurons, fast-tracking the healing process.

It will be tested in first-of-their-kind trials in the US, where the psychedelic drug will be administered to patients in the back of ambulances. It will be given in doses too small to trigger hallucinations – but scientists say they should still confer benefits.

Tests could start as soon as next month, if they get the go-ahead from regulators.

Previous studies on DMT have shown it improved motor-function and triggered the formation of new brain cells in rats whose organ was damaged.

More than 113,000 people suffer a stroke every year in the UK, and 795,000 face the condition annually in the US.

DMT is found in Ayahuasca – a ‘psychedelic brew’ made from vines and leaves in the Amazon jungle.

DMT is found in Ayahuasca – a ‘psychedelic brew’ made from vines and leaves in the Amazon jungle

Strokes happen when the blood supply to the brain is disrupted, which can trigger death in some nerve cells. But scientists say the drug DMT – or dimethyltryptamine – could ward off some of the worst effects of the condition (stock)

Canadian company Algernon is taking the experimental treatment to Phase 1 trials – it could take years before the drug gets approved for human use.

Chief executive Christopher Moreau hopes the drug will help the brain heal.

‘Since we’re dealing with stroke patients, we will be using the sub-hallucinogenic dose, which in pre-clinical studies has still shown to improve neuroplasticity,’ he told

‘It will help the brain heal even though patients aren’t having the psychedelic experience, and we really don’t want that if your patient has just had a stroke.’

He added: ‘The sooner you can start to treat post-injury the better.

‘DMT may not benefit hemorrhagic (stroke victims), we don’t know, but we’re hoping it won’t cause them any problems because then we don’t have to wait for the CT scan, we can treat in the ambulance.’

He said within hours of a stroke, studies show the brain starts trying to rewire itself, which he hopes this drug can accelerate.

There is ‘little’ immediate treatment available for stroke victims because doctors need to know which type someone is suffering from.

Pictured above is a scan of an ischaemic stroke. This is when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked, cutting off the vital supply of oxygen and nutrients to the surrounding cells.

In an ischemic stroke a blood clot has blocked a vessel in the brain, requiring treatment with a blood thinner. But in a haemorrhagic stroke a blood vessel has burst, which needs more invasive treatment.

Giving someone the wrong medication for the type of stroke they are suffering could be fatal, said Mr Moreau.

If the Phase 1 trials are successful Algernon plans to push US regulators to approve their treatment for use more widely.

Its stage 2/3 trials will involve following up stroke victims over the short and long term, to establish the benefits of the treatment.


There are two kinds of stroke:


An ischemic stroke – which accounts for 80 percent of strokes – occurs when there is a blockage in a blood vessel that prevents blood from reaching part of the brain.


The more rare, a hemorrhagic stroke, occurs when a blood vessel bursts, flooding part of the brain with too much blood while depriving other areas of adequate blood supply.

It can be the result of an AVM, or arteriovenous malformation (an abnormal cluster of blood vessels), in the brain.

Thirty percent of subarachnoid hemorrhage sufferers die before reaching the hospital. A further 25 percent die within 24 hours. And 40 percent of survivors die within a week.


Age, high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, family history, and history of a previous stroke or TIA are all risk factors for having a stroke.


  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing or blurred vision in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause


Of the roughly three out of four people who survive a stroke, many will have life-long disabilities.

This includes difficulty walking, communicating, eating, and completing everyday tasks or chores.


Both are potentially fatal, and patients require surgery or a drug called tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) within three hours to save them. THE CAUSES OF STROKE.


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