Stephen Szára

Stephen István Szára (March 21, 1923 – August 1, 2021) was a Hungarian-American chemist and psychiatrist who made major contributions in the field of pharmacology.

Life in HungaryEdit

Szára was born in Hungary in March 1923.[1] He was the first to scientifically study the psychotropic effects of N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), performing research with volunteers in the mid-1950s.[2] Szára had turned his attention to DMT after his order for LSD from the Swiss company Sandoz Laboratories was rejected on the grounds that the powerful psychotropic could be dangerous in the hands of a communist country.[3]

Move to the USEdit

Shortly after the Hungarian Revolution, Szára left Hungary and moved to the United States where he eventually became Chief of the Biomedical Branch of the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse. In the U.S., he worked with Julius Axelrod and others on the metabolism of DMT and related compounds in healthy and schizophrenic volunteers. Among other achievements, Szára and his colleagues characterized the biochemistry of the first three psychedelic cogeners of tryptamine: dimethyl-, diethyl-, and dipropyl-tryptamine (DMT, DET, and DPT), describing their pharmacokinetics and effects.

Szára's research explored both the possibility that some tryptamines (DMT, in particular) might contribute to psychosis by forming in the brain as well as the possibility that some psychedelics might be useful in psychotherapy.[4] In recent years, Szára had argued that psychedelic drugs should be studied in a heuristic manner and that learning the mechanisms by which they affect the brain may "serve as keys to unlock the mysteries of the brain/mind relationship".[5]

Szára was an Emeritus Fellow of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology and Collegium Internationale Neuro-Psychopharmacologicum, and a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Heffter Research Institute. He was elected Honorary Member of the Hungarian Association of Psychopharmacology in 2007. He was also the recipient of the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration Administrator's Meritorious Achievement Award and the Kovats Medal of Freedom from the American Hungarian Federation (2005).[6][7]


He died in Kensington, Maryland, in August 2021 at the age of 98.[8]


  1. ^ ESPD50: Stephen Szára profile
  2. ^ Szára, St. (1956). "Dimethyltryptamin: its metabolism in man; the relation to its psychotic effect to the serotonin metabolism". Experientia. 12 (11): 441–2. doi:10.1007/BF02157378. PMID 13384414. S2CID 7775625.
  3. ^ Strassman, Rick J. (2001). DMT: The Spirit Molecule. A Doctor's Revolutionary Research into the Biology of Near-Death and Mystical Experiences. Rochester, VT: Park Street. ISBN 978-0-89281-927-0. ("Chapter summaries". Retrieved 27 February 2012.)
  4. ^ Faillace, Louis A.; Vourlekis, Alkinoos; Szara, Stephen (1967). "Clinical evaluation of some hallucinogenic tryptamine derivatives". The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 145 (4): 306–13. doi:10.1097/00005053-196710000-00005. PMID 6076017. S2CID 19328310.
  5. ^ Szára, S. (1994). "Are hallucinogens psychoheuristic?". NIDA Research Monograph. 146: 33–51. PMID 8742793.
  6. ^ Simon, Andrew L (1998). Made in Hungary: Hungarian Contributions to Universal Culture. Safety Harbor, FL: Simon Publishing. pp. 344–345. ISBN 978-0-9665734-2-8. OCLC 41712910.
  7. ^ Szára, S. (2007). "DMT at fifty". Neuropsychopharmacologia Hungarica. 9 (4): 201–5. PMID 18510265.
  8. ^ Stephen István Szára obituary