If you’re like me, you’ve probably heard the letters DMT before, but you’re not quite sure about what they represent and how this drug is used. DMT stands for Dimethyltryptamine, and it’s a hallucinogenic tryptamine drug that you can find naturally occurring in many plants and animals. It’s not as well-known as other hallucinogens like LSD and mushrooms.
The history of DMT dates back several hundred years when it started as a substance used during religious ceremonies and rituals. DMT is found in a number of South American-brewed concoctions like Ayahuasca. DMT can be produced synthetically, and its original synthesis was created by a British chemist in 1931 named Richard Manske. Only in recent years has it become a drug used for recreation and possibly associated with addiction. By the end of this article, you’ll understand how DMT is used, why it’s used, and how it affects the brain and body.
Table of Contents
What Is DMT?
DMT is a white crystalline powder that is found in certain plants in Mexico, South America, and parts of Asia. Its street names are Dmitri, Fantasia, Businessman’s Trip, Businessman’s Special, and 45-Minute Psychosis. Because it’s a naturally occurring psychedelic substance, trace amounts of DMT can actually be found in mammals’ brains. It is the strongest of all psychedelic drugs and is sometimes referred to as an “entheogen” a word that means “god-generated-within.” The drug’s chemical root structure is similar to that of the anti-migraine drug sumatriptan. It acts as a non-selective agonist at most or all of the serotonin receptors. DMT is not active when taken orally unless it is combined with another substance that inhibits its metabolism.
The drug gained popularity in the 1960’s and was placed under federal control under Schedule I when the Controlled Substances Act was passed in 1971. It’s still found on the illicit drug market today along with several other kinds of tryptamine hallucinogens.
How Is DMT Used?
Despite its illegal status, the hallucinogen is still used in various settings for religious ceremonies to obtain “deep spiritual awakening” or insight. By itself, DMT is usually snorted, smoked, or injected. This is because it’s not active when taken by mouth alone. When combined in Ayahuasca, the presence of harmala alkaloids inhibits the enzyme monoamine oxidase, which normally metabolizes the tryptamine hallucinogen. Then the drug remains intact so that it absorbs in sufficient amounts to affect brain function and it results in psychoactive effects.
When smoked the average dose of DMT is 30-150 mg, and the onset of effects can be felt immediately. The effects peak for three to five minutes and then drop off, with the high lasting about 30 to 45 minutes in total. When the hallucinogen is consumed as a brew, the dose is between 35-75 mg and effects begin after 30-45 minutes. The psychoactive effects peak at two to three hours and vanish within four to six hours.
DMT Experience and Effects
The main side effect of DMT is psychological. People want to take the substance because it provides intense auditory and visual hallucinations and an altered sense of space, body, and time. Users have reported shifts in time, visiting other dimensions, talking with aliens, complete changes in the perception of identity and reality, and life-altering experiences. Compared with other hallucinogenic drugs like LSD, mushrooms, or Ketamine, users of the hallucinogenic drug say that it has the lowest amount of negative side effects.
How does DMT affect the body?
Physical side effects of DMT include:
- Increased heart rate.
- Increased blood pressure.
- Dilated pupils.
- Chest pain or tightness.
- Rapid rhythmic movements of the eyes.
- In high doses, DMT can cause seizures, respiratory arrest, and coma.
Depending on the user, the experience of taking the drug can be overwhelmingly exciting, or extremely frightening. The “trip” can be so powerful that users may have a difficult time incorporating the experience into their real life after the moment has passed. The mental side effects associated with the drug can linger for days or even weeks after ingestion.
How Does DMT Affect The Brain?
Hallucinogens produce their psychedelic effects by operating on neural circuits in the brain that uses the neurotransmitter serotonin. The most prominent effects take place in the frontal cortex, an area involved in mood, cognition, and perception. The National Institute on Drug Abuse says that because the hallucinogenic naturally occurs in the brain in small amounts, some research has found that the release of endogenous DMT may be associated with reports of alien abductions, random mythical experiences, and near-death experiences.
What are the long-term effects of DMT?
The long-term effects of DMT use, excessive use, and addiction possibility are currently unknown. However, it appears that use of the hallucinogen does not result in tolerance. There is also little evidence to suggest that Ayahuasca creates lasting physiological or neurological deficits.
Even though the physically addictive qualities of DMT remain to be seen, just like marijuana and other drugs, you can be addicted to the psychological effects of this hallucinogen. If you believe you are addicted to any type of drug, you don’t have to suffer in silence. The best thing you can do is ask for help. Living a life free from drugs and alcohol is not only healthy and safe, but it can help you lead a calmer and simpler life in recovery.
“How Do Hallucinogens (LSD, Psilocybin, Peyote, DMT, and Ayahuasca) Affect the Brain and Body?” National Institute on Drug Abuse. February 2015. Accessed October 17, 2016. <https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/hallucinogens-dissociative-drugs/where-can-i-get-more-scientific-information-hallucinogens-diss>.
Davis, Kathleen. “DMT: Facts, Effects and Health Risks.” Medical News Today. 26 February 2016. Accessed October 17, 2016. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/306889.php>.
“N, N-DIMETHYLTRYPTAMINE (DMT)” Drug Enforcement Administration. January 2013. Accessed October 17, 2016. < https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/dmt.pdf>.