Depression & DMT

We all know someone affected by depression.

DMT based therapies could offer an effective treatment.

Despite existing treatments and forms of therapy on offer, depression remains a global health crisis that we can not ignore. We believe that too many people fail to experience sufficient benefit from current treatments. Small Pharma hopes to offer novel therapies that tackle the root causes of depression and provides enduring relief from depression.

suffer with depression across globally [1]

the economic cost of depression to the US each year [2]

of the US population currently taking antidepressants [3]

Existing treatments

SSRIs, talk therapy, TMS and other treatments have played a positive role in helping patients overcome their mental health challenges. But like all treatments, there are pros and cons that patients must weigh up.


They don't work for everyone

Roughly 30% of people with depression do not respond to current SSRI treatment [4].

Symptom relief can take some time

Antidepressants typically take 6-8 weeks for individuals to experience symptom relief [5].

Symptom relapse is common

Half of patients relapse within 6 months if the treatment is not continued [6].

Side effects can be unpleasant

Three in five patients discontinue or switch SSRI within 12 weeks due to bad side effects that include nausea, sexual dysfunction and weight gain [7].

At Small Pharma, we’re rapidly exploring new treatment possibilities for depression and psychedelics, like DMT, that show exciting promise.

“We believe that DMT-assisted therapies have the potential to offer millions of patients a much-needed alternative approach to mental health care. We also believe the impact will be almost immediate and longer lasting than conventional antidepressants."

Dr Carol Routledge

CMSO Small Pharma

What is DMT?

DMT, or N,N-Dimethyltryptamine, exists naturally in plants and is also found in certain mammals. It is a simple tryptamine that shares similarities with brain chemicals like serotonin, melatonin and other classical psychedelics such as psilocybin and 5-MEO-DMT.

Psychedelics like DMT have been found to have profound effects on human consciousness. Studies suggest by binding to serotonin receptors, specifically 5-HT2A, DMT triggers a psychedelic experience that involves an altered visual perspective and is associated with deeper meaning [8].

Brain imaging studies also suggest that DMT alters the brain activity in certain brain regions including suppressing activity in the Default Mode Network (a group of connected brain regions shown to be key to everyday consciousness and active during self reflection and awareness of ourselves) [9]. This effect is thought to override the increased default mode network activity which has been linked to the negative thinking patterns typically seen in depression [10]. Studies also suggest DMT induces neuroplasticity, by establishing new nerve connections that are believed to generate enduring positive brain changes that could ultimately help individuals struggling with depression to maintain more positive ways of thinking [11][12].

Find out more: In collaboration with Drug Science we have created the following guides:

DMT and brain rewiring

Learn how DMT acts in the brain and the potential way DMT leads to positive changes in mental health

"Our sense is that you can really deal with the depression... in a really substantial way..instead of just managing it." Michelle Baker-Jones, study therapist on Small Pharma's clinical trial

Potential Benefits of DMT based medicines

Short psychedelic experience
lasting 5-30 mins [8].


Short treatment session
Able to treat more patients per day


Fast-acting and long lasting treatment effects
provides potential for an improved antidepressant treatment [13].

Few doses per year
compared to daily long term dosing with current antidepressants [14].

Near immediate antidepressant relief

compared with up to a 6-8 week delay in symptom relief with current antidepressants [5].

Targets root causes of depression

as opposed to focusing on suppressing symptoms.

The history of DMT

The use of psychedelics has been traced back thousands of years, but developments in chemistry and pharmacology in the early 20th century led to a renaissance of psychedelic research that provided the foundations to exploring their potential as transformative medical treatments.

ayahuasca tree with sunlight

Naturally found DMT (predominately in the form of Ayahuasca) has been using in healing rituals for centuries [15].

1931 - Synthetic discovery

DMT was first chemically synthesised by German chemist Richard Manske [16].

1950s-1970s - The first wave

Throughout the 50s and 60s, researchers started to delve into the therapeutic effects of psychedelics. Multiple studies were conducted to explore the psychoactive properties of DMT and identified that is could be safely administered in humans and was rapidly broken down in the body [17][18].

1971 - DMT ban

Recreational use of psychedelic drugs drew unwanted attention, and in the 70s much of the research into psychedelics was halted with the introduction of the US Controlled Substances Act and other drug policy reform bills [19].

Many psychedelic drugs were classified as having no medical benefit despite evidence to suggest possible health benefits.

1990s-2010s - DMT's resurgence

This changed in the early 90s, when Rick Strassman conducted and published his work on a series of studies exploring the safety, tolerability and effects of DMT on wellbeing.

Further studies were conducted over the last decade, including brain imaging studies that have provided insights on the similarity of DMT on brain activity to other psychedelics [20-27].

2021 - The world's first DMT trial for depression

In 2020, DMT was approved by the UK drug regulators for a clinical trial to explore its potential as a  treatment for depression.

Launched by Small Pharma in Feb 2021, is the world’s first patient trial of DMT that aims to explore the antidepressant [28]. effects of DMT assisted therapy in patients with Major Depressive Disorder

Find out how Small Pharma is pushing the boundaries of depression treatment through safe science

About Small Pharma

We’re a mental health drug development company that’s accelerating the development of fast acting antidepressant treatments using DMT based therapies. We’re dedicated to making a difference.

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