DMT

The Ultimate Guide to:

DMT

(The Spirit Molecule)

 

N,N-Dimethyltryptamine

 

 

Overview

 

DMT, or N,N-Dimethyltryptamine, is a naturally occurring chemical found in both plants and animals. It is the active hallucinogenic compound in ayahuasca, the Quechua name for a tea brewed from the shrub Psychotria viridis, which is used for ritual purposes by the indigenous people in the Amazon. See our ayahuasca guide  for more on this psychedelic brew.

DMT can also be ingested in crystal form, where it is often smoked in a pipe or bong. Taken in this manner, it produces a powerful but short-lasting hallucinogenic state that is considered one of the most intense psychedelic experiences in existence.

DMT can also retain its psychoactive properties in other forms, including 4-AcO-DMT, 5-MeO-DMT, 5-HO-DMT and psilocybin (4-PO-DMT, found in magic mushrooms).

 

 

 

History and Statistics

 

Information from Winstock et al, 2013 [1]

Traditional use of DMT dates back as far as the late 8th century, when it was used as an ingredient in various psychoactive snuffs. DMT occurs naturally in various plants, including the seeds of A. peregrina, which were the main ingredient of cohoba snuff. As well as various forms of psychoactive snuff, other traditional preparations are made using DMT-containing plants, including the vilca and ayahuasca brews.

Richard Helmuth Fredrick Manske is credited as the first to synthesize DMT in 1931. But it was Dr. Stephen Szara, who had been inspired by visiting South American religious ceremonies, who first demonstrated that DMT induces hallucinations, illusions, distortions of spatial perception and body image, disturbances of thoughts and euphoria in humans in 1956.

The first wave of clinical research followed in the 1950s and 1960s, gaining momentum with the discovery that DMT can be found in the blood and urine of normal human subjects by Franzen and Gross in 1965. Following the passage of the Controlled Substances Act 1970, research into hallucinogens waned in both the United States and Europe for many years.

Rick Strassman pioneered contemporary research into hallucinogens and DMT in the 1990s as he believed that the profound effects on consciousness they produced warranted further exploration. He published a number of landmark studies including detailed dose-response experiments using the Hallucinogen Rating Scale to measure subjective experiences. Strassman later published The Spirit Molecule in 2000, widely considered a landmark book on the many uses of DMT.

This new interest continued with the publication of Tihkal, by Alexander and Ann Shulgin. It was their personal study into the psychopharmacological properties of the tryptamines, including DMT, which described the subjective effects of smoked and oral preparations.

The Global Drug Survey in late 2012, with over 22,000 respondents, found a lifetime DMT use rate of about 9%. The most common route of administration reported in the survey was smoking DMT as an herbal mixture (92%), as opposed to taking it orally as an ayahuasca preparation, for example.

An Australian study conducted in 2010 surveyed 121 people who had previously done DMT.[2] They found that smoking DMT was by far the most common route of administration (98.3%) with a much smaller proportion reporting use of ayahuasca (30.6%). The reasons for first trying DMT were out of a general interest in hallucinogens (46.6%) or curiosity about DMT’s effects (41.7%), while almost one-third (31.1%) cited possible psychotherapeutic benefits of the drug. An increase in psychospiritual insight was the most commonly reported positive effect of both smoked DMT (75.5%) and ayahuasca (46.7%).

 

 

Pharmacology

DMT is primarily a serotonin (5-HT) receptor agonist and, like many other hallucinogens, its psychedelic actions can mostly be attributed to its effects on the 5-HT2A receptor subtype. It does affect many other receptor types (for example, dopamine and sigma receptors), but the consequences of these interactions are not well understood.[3]

Toxicity

The exact toxic profile of DMT is unknown, but studies in rodents suggest that a lethal dose in humans would be extremely high; more than 20 times the typical dose given during an ayahuasca ceremony.

A group of experienced DMT users were asked to rate the safety of DMT, with 55% reporting it to be “very safe” and 38% “quite safe”.[4] The main risks they reported were a “bad trip” (51%), which is considerably higher than the risk of bad experiences with the other classic psychedelics, LSD and psilocybin.

Interactions with other substances

Ayahuascasaftey.org lists many substances you should avoid or use caution with if you’re planning an ayahuasca/DMT trip.

DMT significantly affects the serotonin system and should not be taken simultaneously with any of the following substances:

  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • SSRI’s (any selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, like Prozac)
  • antihypertensives (high blood pressure medicine)
  • appetite suppressants (diet pills)
  • medicine for asthma, bronchitis, or other breathing problems; antihistamines, medicines for colds, sinus problems, hay fever, or allergies (any drug containing dextromethorphan/ DXM or with DM, DX or Tuss in its name)
  • CNS (central nervous system) depressants (xanax, ativan, etc)
  • Vasodilators
  • Antipsychotics
  • Barbiturates
  • Alcohol

 

Illegal or recreational drugs that are VERY dangerous to combine with MAOIs:

  • Cocaine
  • amphetamines (meth-, dex-, amphetamine), ephedrine, MDMA (Ecstasy), MDA, MDEA, PMA
  • opiates (heroin, morphine, codeine, and especially opium)
  • dextromethorphan (DXM)
  • Nutmeg

 

Illegal or recreational drugs that can be dangerous to combine with MAOIs:

  • mescaline (any phenethylamine)
  • barbiturates
  • alcohol
  • kratom
  • kava
  • 5-MEO-DMT

 

 

 

Effects

 

Physiological effects

The psychedelic threshold for DMT is about 0.2 mg/kg. When smoked, it’s a very fast-acting substance with peak subjective experience occurring around 2 minutes after ingestion, and completely resolving within 15 to 20 minutes.[5] When taken as an ayahuasca brew, the effects can take up to an hour to appear, and may last for several hours.

A study in the 1990s examined the dose effects of intravenous DMT at 0.05, 0.1, 0.2 and 0.4 mg/kg in a double-blind, randomized design, using 12 volunteers.[6] The Hallucinogen Rating Scale (HRS), that was developed and used for this study, grouped responses into six clinical categories: Affect, Volition, Somatic Effects (‘Somaesthesia’), Perception, Cognition, and Intensity.

The ‘psychedelic’ threshold for DMT was at 0.2 mg/kg, at which most biological effects were also detectably altered. Adrenocorticotropin hormone, beta-endorphin, prolactin, growth hormone (GH), cortisol and DMT-free base blood levels were all elevated following DMT administration. Pupil diameter, heart rate, blood pressure and all peaked within 2 min as did subjective experiences.

No evidence of tolerance (needing to take more for the same effect) for DMT was found in a later trial.[7], [8]

Psychological effects

Low doses (0.05 to 0.1 mg/kg) of DMT primarily affect physical and emotional states with few to no perceptual hallucinations. Higher doses of DMT typically produce a rapidly moving kaleidoscopic displays of intensely “techno-colored” abstract and representational images. Auditory hallucinations are less common and usually aren’t a very prominent feature of the experience. Alternating sensations of heat and cold are sometimes reported.

Transient states of anxiety are quite common, though so are euphoric states and, somewhat paradoxically, they can be experienced simultaneously. Out-of-body experiences, or a dissociation of awareness from the physical body, is very common with DMT (at higher doses) to the point that many consider it a hallmark of the DMT experience.

In his book, The Spirit Molecule (2000), Rick Strassman describes studies in which about half of the volunteers during a DMT trip entered “freestanding, independent levels of existence” — psychological planes of existence that were often inhabited by “intelligent beings”, “entities”, “aliens”, “guides” and “helpers”. Terrence McKenna called these “machine elves”. According to Strassman’s work, they take the form of “clowns, reptiles, mantises, bees, spiders, cacti and stick figures.” Reports of these kinds of beings seem to be unique to DMT trips.

For more in-depth descriptions of DMT’s effects, see Tikhal: The Continuation by Alexander and Ann Shulgin.

 

 

Myths

 

Is DMT produced in the pineal gland and released when you die/have a near-death experience?

For years, there has been a raging debate about whether or not DMT is a “naturally occurring” compound. It had been found in a number of plants and animals and in 1965, German researchers were able to isolate it in human blood and urine,[9] though the credibility of these results have been criticized. Subsequent studies, however, have detected naturally-occurring DMT in human blood, urine, feces, kidney tissue, lung tissue, and spinal fluid. In 2014, a study found that DMT aides the immune response in some cells by through simga-1 receptors and may play a role in tissue regeneration.[10]

The true debate, however, is whether or not DMT is produced in the brain. Some new evidence suggests that it might be. In 2013, scientists isolated DMT from the rat pineal gland, proving that the mammalian brain is at least capable of producing DMT.[11] Whether or not DMT is actually produced in the human brain remains to be verified.

Rick Strassman is sometimes “blamed” for throwing false fuel on the fire of this debate in his book, The Spirit Molecule, but he really isn’t at fault. As he later put it:

“I did my best in the DMT book to differentiate between what is known, and what I was conjecturing about (based upon what is known), regarding certain aspects of DMT dynamics. However, it’s amazing how ineffective my efforts seem to have been. So many people write me, or write elsewhere, about DMT, and the pineal, assuming that the things I conjecture about are true. When I was writing the book, I thought I was clear enough, and repeating myself would have gotten tedious.

“We don’t know whether DMT is made in the pineal. I muster a lot of circumstantial evidence supporting a reason to look long and hard at the pineal, but we do not yet know. There are data suggesting urinary DMT rises in psychotic patients when their psychosis is worse. However, we don’t know whether DMT rises during dreams, meditation, near-death, death, birth or any other endogenous altered state.”

 

 

Therapeutic Use

 

While the therapeutic value of DMT alone has not been explored to the extent that other psychedelic drugs have, the DMT-containing brew ayahuasca has long been used traditionally to treat various psychological maladies, including mood disorders and addiction. Ayahuasca has seen an increase in use in the modern world as a potential treatment of depression and addiction.

A review of six studies between 1990 and 2015 found that ayahuasca (along with LSD and psilocybin) holds promising potential for treating depression, anxiety, and tobacco addiction, and alcoholism.[12]

Researchers have proposed that ayahuasca’s therapeutic effects come from its ability to induce greater mindfulness in users.[13] Following an ayahuasca experience, decreases in self-judgment and emotional reactivity to inner experiences help foster a sense of self-acceptance, widely agreed to be a critical step in healing mood and addictive disorders.

Anecdotal reports of the therapeutic effects of ayahuasca:

 

 

Personal Growth

 

Anecdotal reports suggest that greater self-awareness and spiritual connection to the world can be gained from properly using DMT. Just as using DMT via ayahuasca ceremonies can provide new perspective on inner emotional realities to people with mental and addictive disorders, DMT can be used to achieve new perspective in one’s spiritual life.

Many report that DMT gives them a connection to unconscious parts of their mind, allowing them to see any issues and mental blocks they’ve been experiencing from a new vantage point. People often report a sense of detachment from their emotions and how they identify with them as well.

When it occurs, the dissolution of ego and “self”, while jarring, is often reported to be one of the most powerful personal insights people experience during a DMT trip. The idea that ‘you’ are not who you think you are is difficult to grasp for many, especially in Western society where the individual is held up as the paragon of modern civilization. A DMT trip that includes a dissolution of one’s identity, sometimes dubbed “ego death”, forces this radical new perspective on to the user.

Major shifts in perspective like the ones enumerated above are often reported as the initial catalysts for subsequent spiritual and personal growth; although a guide or sitter is always recommended due to the potentially traumatic nature of an intense psychedelic experience.

Anecdotal reports of the personal development effects of ayahuasca:

 

 

 

FAQ

 

Can DMT be detected in a drug test?

DMT is not included in a typical drug screen, nor is it included in any known extensive drug screens. It is also not chemically similar to substances that are typically tested for, so the likelihood of triggering a false positive for other drugs is near zero.

 

How do you take DMT?

DMT can be taken in many forms, but most typically it is either taken in the ayahuasca  brew, or smoked as a powder. The powder form will produce a short-lasting but intense trip, and the ayahuasca brew will produce a long-lasting experience.

 

Can I microdose with DMT?

There is not much information about DMT microdosing, as microdosing is most commonly performed with LSD and psilocybin. However, as DMT is a classic psychedelic in the same family as LSD and psilocybin, it could be microdosed in a similar way. Click here for a detailed guide on microdosing.

 

Can I have a bad trip on DMT?

Like most psychedelics, DMT is a very powerful drug, and has the potential to be very unpleasant if not treated with respect. Follow the 6S’s of psychedelic use to minimise the risks of a bad experience. Start with a low dose if it’s your first time.

 

Will I always breakthrough on DMT?

Not necessarily, especially if taken as an ayahuasca brew. However, DMT is a powerful psychedelic; when smoked, it is likely to produce out of body experiences and extreme changes in perception.

 

Is DMT produced naturally in the body?

This is an area of some controversy, but there is evidence to suggest that DMT is present in animal physiology. See here for more info.

 

Can I mix DMT with other drugs?

DMT should not be mixed with Tramadol, as it can lead to Serotonin Syndrome. Be cautious if mixing DMT with cannabis, amphetamines or cocaine. Click here for a detailed chart of safe drug combinations.

 

Can I become tolerant to DMT?

DMT tolerance is considerably less than the other classic psychedelics. Wait an hour or two between DMT doses for tolerance to return to normal. Similarly, ayahuasca does not produce tolerance.

 

Footnotes

[1] Winstock, A. R., Kaar, S., & Borschmann, R. (2013). Dimethyltryptamine (DMT): prevalence, user characteristics and abuse liability in a large global sample. Journal of Psychopharmacology

[2] Cakic, V., Potkonyak, J., & Marshall, A. (2010). Dimethyltryptamine (DMT): Subjective effects and patterns of use among Australian recreational users. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 111(1), 30–37.

[3] Ray, T. S. (2010). Psychedelics and the Human Receptorome. PLOS ONE, 5(2), e9019.

[4] Cakic, V., Potkonyak, J., & Marshall, A. (2010). Dimethyltryptamine (DMT): Subjective effects and patterns of use among Australian recreational users. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 111(1), 30–37.

[5] Strassman, R. J. (1995). Human psychopharmacology of N, N-dimethyltryptamine. Behavioural Brain Research, 73(1), 121–124.

[6] Strassman, R. J., & Qualls, C. R. (1994). Dose-response study of N, N-dimethyltryptamine in humans: I. Neuroendocrine, autonomic, and cardiovascular effects. Archives of General Psychiatry, 51(2), 85–97.

[7] Strassman, R. J. (1995). Human psychopharmacology of N, N-dimethyltryptamine. Behavioural Brain Research, 73(1), 121–124.

[8] Gable, R. S. (2007). Risk assessment of ritual use of oral dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and harmala alkaloids. Addiction, 102(1), 24–34.

[9] Franzen, F., & Gross, H. (1965). Tryptamine, N,N-Dimethyltryptamine, N,N-Dimethyl-5-hydroxytryptamine and 5-Methoxytryptamine in Human Blood and Urine. Nature, 206(4988), 1052–1052.

[10] Szabo et al (2014) Psychedelic DMT and 5MeO-DMT modulate innate and adaptive inflammatory responses through the sigma-1 receptor of human monocyte-derived dendritic cells. PLoS One, 29:9(8).

[11] Barker, S. A., Borjigin, J., Lomnicka, I., & Strassman, R. (2013). LC/MS/MS analysis of the endogenous dimethyltryptamine hallucinogens, their precursors, and major metabolites in rat pineal gland microdialysate. Biomedical Chromatography, 27(12), 1690–1700.

[12] dos Santos, R. G., Osório, F. L., Crippa, J. A. S., Riba, J., Zuardi, A. W., & Hallak, J. E. (2016). Antidepressive, anxiolytic, and antiaddictive effects of ayahuasca, psilocybin and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD): a systematic review of clinical trials published in the last 25 years. Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology.

[13] Soler, J., Elices, M., Franquesa, A., Barker, S., Friedlander, P., Feilding, A., … Riba, J. (2016). Exploring the therapeutic potential of Ayahuasca: acute intake increases mindfulness-related capacities. Psychopharmacology, 233(5), 823–829.