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DMT – A Comprehensive Guide

October 14, 2021
Reviewed by: Rajnandini Rathod

Disclaimer: RehabPath does not endorse the use of hallucinogens or any other illegal substance. We, however, believe in providing accurate information to reduce its harm to those consuming the substance. 

DMT – N, N-Dimethyltryptamine – is a hallucinogenic tryptamine drug, known as Dimitri on the streets. It is also called the ‘Spirit Molecule’ because of its intense psychedelic effects. Although it is a lesser-known drug than LSD or magic mushrooms, DMT is an active hallucinogenic compound occurring naturally in plants and animals.

The origin of DMT, although never found, does have its fair share of romantic theories spinning across the globe. 

History of DMT

DMT was first synthesised by a Canadian chemist – Richard Manske – in 1931 but had not assessed human pharmacological effects. Its hallucinogenic properties were not known until 1956 when Stephen Szara – Hungarian chemist and psychologist – extracted DMT from the Mimosa Hostilis plant and administered it upon himself. 

The following sequence to the incident led to the formation of a link between modern science and the historical cultural and religious use of DMT. Leading the research to its chemical formula – N, N-Dimethyltryptamine; relevant effects were also administered on the human psyche.

Data were subsequently collected over the years to illustrate pathways for its endogenous synthesis in mammals, including humans. Over 60 studies were conducted to find the relation between the presence and concentration of DMT in human blood and urine samples, specifically for psychiatric diagnosis.  

DMT’s ‘extraordinary’ effects on the human brain also led to further research into the mechanism for its biosynthesis, metabolism, and mode of action. 

DMT As We Know It

Despite DMT being illegal, it is still used in some cultural ceremonies for ‘The Awakening’ or getting deep spiritual insights. It is most commonly used in the Shamanic rituals in the form of Ayahuasca, a tea brewed from Psychotria Viridis. Ayahuasca has a large amount of DMT compound that gives one of the most intense psychedelic effects.

However, DMT can also be found in lesser concentrations in psilocybin mushrooms, commonly known as magic mushrooms or shrooms. In its chemical composition, DMT is most often confused with 5-MeO-DMT that is similar to N, N-Dimethyltryptamine on micro and macro levels. Since the former contains extra atoms, they are enough to change the entire psychedelic experience of a person. 

While the latter brings in highly visual experience, the former tends to shift a person’s perspective of reality. 

Factors responsible for DMT’s good or bad experience are:

  • DMT (ayahuasca) Dosage
  • The mindset of the individual ingesting DMT containing substance
  • Time and place of consumption
  • Chemistry of mind and body

DMT In Humans

Barker in 2012 published a detailed overview of the 69 studies conducted on human urine, blood, and cerebrospinal fluids (CFS) to learn about the concentration of DMT. While the studies showed concentration data in urine, it was unknown for cerebrospinal fluids and blood. 

Many studies have also assessed the possible source of DMT in humans can be diet or gut bacteria. The infrequent sampling suggested DMT appeared only intermittently in the human body. However, there is no data to confirm its presence in the cerebrospinal fluids that were least studied.

Many studies were also conducted to determine DMT concentration and distribution in brain tissues through fMRI. While neuroimaging data were obtained for similar hallucinogens like LSD and Shrooms, only minimal data was recorded of the volunteers consuming ayahuasca. For DMT alone, there is no data for humans.

Research is also being carried out using the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) method to determine its concentration and distribution in the brain tissues.

Psychedelic Experience of DMT

A psychedelic experience of DMT occurs when a person consumes 0.2mg/kg or higher. DMT induces a quick hallucinogenic effect when inhaled directly or smoked. However, if it is ingested through ayahuasca, the effect can appear after a few minutes to an hour. If the brewed ayahuasca is ingested in large quantities, it can create an intense psychedelic experience whose effect may last anywhere between several hours to days.

If a person consumes DMT through vaping, it can cause unwarranted effects. However, many people believe that it is not the safest method to consume DMT and must be approached with great precautions.

Low dosage (below 0.1mg/kg) can cause a person to have physical and emotional effects and rarely have visual hallucinations. Dosage above 0.2mg/kg or higher, on the other hand, can cause intense visual hallucinations, including ‘techno-coloured’ abstract imagery formation. Auditory hallucinations have not been associated with DMT or ayahuasca. ‘Out of body’ or ‘Awakening’ are other common effects of higher ayahuasca dosage. As per the report of the Global Data Survey that conducted research on over 20,000 people, only a small portion (4.2%) of people consumed ayahuasca or hallucinogens containing DMT in the last 12 months. LSD and magic mushrooms were used more frequently than ayahuasca, however in smaller proportions.

Side Effects and Warning Signs of Using DMT

After ingesting DMT, the main effects include visual hallucinations, euphoria, and an altered sense of mind, body, space, and time. The experience may be ‘awakening’ for some, while others consider it euphoric and having a sense of vertigo.

As the experience changes the perceived reality of the person ingesting DMT, it is sometimes regarded as a near-death experience. However, DMT has lesser side effects as compared to drugs like LSD or ketamine.

Some possible short-term side effects include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Rise in blood pressure
  • Chest pain
  • Dilated pupils
  • Agitation
  • Rapid eye movement
  • Dizziness

In rare cases, DMT may also cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea.

However, the experience can range for a person depending upon the factors mentioned above. 

The toxicity of DMT increases when ingested in combination with another drug. An individual can experience a ‘bad trip’, especially if taken alongside antidepressants.

Substances combined with DMT that can turn lethal are:

  • Cocaine
  • Ketamine
  • Alcohol
  • Nutmeg
  • Opiates (like heroin and opium)
  • Kratom
  • Kava
  • 5-MeO-DMT
  • Amphetamine
  • Ecstacy
  • Barbiturates

DMT should never be consumed whether it is for recreational purposes or to get ‘spiritual insights’. If an individual decides to ingest it for any reason whatsoever, they must always do it in the presence of a sober sitter. They can help you in case an emergency arises.

Potential Risks and Benefits

DMT can cause a range of psychological and physiological changes, therefore, must always be consumed under supervision. The most common risk of ingesting DMT is elevated blood pressure and heart rate. It can also leave a person unconscious if taken in higher quantities. The formation of ‘techno-coloured’ imagery hallucinations potentially alters the reality for the person consuming DMT. It must therefore be used in a relaxing environment.

The therapeutic effects of DMT are not known. However, ayahuasca (containing DMT) is known to be used during ancient rituals and in the treatment of depression and addiction. Scientific studies are yet to prove its therapeutic effects on the human brain. 

While not many benefits of ayahuasca are known, individuals who have consumed it in the past believe to have experienced overall personal growth. Anecdotal reports also suggest that such individuals have increased self-awareness and spiritual connection. In other benefits, ayahuasca has been known to give an individual a new spiritual perspective on life.

DMT Myths

Many people believe that DMT is only produced in pineal glands and is released when someone has a near-death experience.

For years, studies have been conducted to know the origin of DMT for its ‘natural occurrence’ inside humans. Although traces of DMT were found in human urine, the results have received wide criticism. There is still a lack of evidence showing DMT’s origin or production in pineal glands. 

Harm Reduction Tips

The debates are still going on about the addiction and tolerance induced by DMT, however, not much is known to humankind. 

The effects of DMT can last anywhere between 30 minutes to 1 hour if inhaled, snorted, or injected directly. However, the effects of brewed ayahuasca tea can last up to several hours after its consumption. 

DMT is a powerful drug known to alter reality for a person. Therefore, it must be consumed with utmost precautions to reduce harmful effects.

Tips for Reducing harmful Effects of DMT:

  • Do not consume DMT or ayahuasca alone. Always have someone’s supervision if you are going to consume it.
  • Consume DMT in a peaceful surrounding or any comfortable place.
  • Sit and relax after ingesting to reduce instant trip or injury.
  • Never combine DMT with any other drug or alcohol of any form.
  • Only consume if your state of mind is positive. Otherwise, it can cause you harm.
  • Do not use DMT if you have been using antidepressants. You may suffer panic or anxiety attacks.

DMT – Should You Take It?

When the Breaking Convention was held in 2019, the scientific community argued that DMT binds with sigma-1 receptors that are found throughout human bodies. Sigma-1 receptor plays a critical role in cell protection, keeping them alive during low oxygen in the human body. It made room for arguments that DMT may possibly be released during death or near-death experiences as a last resort of the receptor to keep cells alive.

Whether DMT is produced endogenously in humans or not, it must not be consumed for any purpose. Staying mindful of its risks and potential harm may help an individual take a better route than ingesting the drug in any form. DMT is a powerful psychedelic drug and not much is known about its addiction or treatment. 

Although many may consider it a ‘safe drug’, it is only a matter of time when things take a wrong turn if proper precautions are not taken on time. Besides, there is no specific test to know the quantity of DMT in a human body. 

If anyone wants to inhale, smoke, or ingest DMT in any form, one must practice proper precautions and use it under sober supervision. However, it is in the best interest of everyone to not consume it, directly or indirectly.