DMT stands for dimethyltryptamine. While the long-term effects on the brain and body are still unknown, the immediate psychological trip can be scarring.

You may have heard the letters DMT before, but not know what they represent or 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.

Only in recent years has it become a drug used for recreation and possibly associated with addiction. This overview covers how DMT is used, why it’s used and how it affects the brain and body.

What Is DMT?

DMT is a white crystalline powder 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.

History of DMT – The Strongest Psychedelic

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 several 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.

The drug gained popularity in the 1960s 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. It results in psychoactive effects. By itself, DMT is usually snorted, smoked, or injected. This is because it’s not active when taken by mouth alone.

Dosage and Duration of High

When smoked, the average dose of DMT is 30-150 mg, and the 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 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, life-altering experiences and complete changes in the perception of identity and reality. Compared with other hallucinogenic drugs like LSD, mushrooms or ketamine, people who use DMT 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
  • Agitation
  • Dizziness
  • 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 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. Though the physically addictive qualities of DMT remain to be seen, you can be addicted to this hallucinogen’s psychological effects, just like marijuana and other drugs.

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.

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Editor – Melissa Carmona
Melissa Carmona puts years of writing and editing experience to work helping people understand substance abuse, addiction and mental health disorders. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Kevin Wandler, MD
Kevin Wandler holds multiple positions at Advanced Recovery Systems. In addition to being the founding and chief medical director at Advanced Recovery Systems, he is also the medical director at The Recovery Village Ridgefield and at The Recovery Village Palmer Lake. Read more
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DMT Visuals

Fantegrossi, William; Murnane, Aeneas; & Reissig, Chad. “The behavioral pharmacology of hallucinogens.” Biochemical Pharmacology, January 1, 2008. Accessed June 25, 2020.

Davis, Kathleen. “Everything you need to know about DMT.” Medical News Today. March 24, 2017. Accessed June 23, 2020.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “How Do Hallucinogens (LSD, Psilocybin, Peyote, DMT, and Ayahuasca) Affect the Brain and Body?” February 2015. Accessed June 23, 2020.

Drug Enforcement Administration. “N, N-DIMETHYLTRYPTAMINE (DMT) ” December 2019. Accessed June 23, 2020.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.