DMT, or N,N-Dimethyltryptamine, is a psychedelic chemical that occurs naturally in both plants and animals from underwater organisms to land mammals. DMT is also the active hallucinogenic compound in ayahuasca, a tea brewed from the shrub Psychotria viridis used for ritual purposes by indigenous people in the Amazon.
People also ingest DMT in crystal form, smoking it in a pipe or bong, as well as vaporized. This form of ingestion produces a powerful but short-lasting hallucinogenic state, considered to be one of the most intense psychedelic experiences in existence.
It can also retain its psychoactive properties in other forms, including psilocybin (4-PO-HO-DMT, found in psilocybin mushrooms).
Many often confuse DMT with 5-MeO-DMT, or 5-Methoxy-N,N-Dimethyltryptamine, which is also a hallucinogenic compound. 5-MeO-DMT looks exactly like DMT on both a macro and micro level, but the latter has a few extra atoms attached, which is enough to change the experience. While the DMT experience tends to be highly visual, 5-MeO-DMT is more like a perspective shift. For this guide, we’ll focus on DMT.
Many factors contribute to the DMT experience, including dose, mindset, setting, and your body’s personal chemistry. With that in mind, each individual journey will be unique to the person, time, and place, and there’s no way to predict exactly what will happen. That being said, DMT does induce some common experiences and effects that can help you prepare for your journey.
What to expect
DMT-induced psychedelic experiences occur when a dose of 0.2 mg/kg or higher is ingested. When smoked, DMT is a very fast-acting substance with peak subjective experience occurring around 2 minutes after ingestion and completely resolving within 15 to 20 minutes. When taken as an ayahuasca brew, the effects can take up to an hour to appear and may last for several hours.
Mixing DMT into the liquids found in vape pens is a newer form of ingestion. The benefit of this is the ease of consumption. And because the intensity of DMT depends on the dose, vaping it can cause hallucinations that are as or more intense than consuming it in more traditional ways. This can be a good or a bad thing. However, some believe that vaping DMT isn’t the safest way to consume the drug and should be approached with caution.
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 typically produce rapid kaleidoscopic images full of intensely “techno-colored” abstract and representational displays. Auditory hallucinations are less common and usually aren’t a very prominent feature of the experience. Some people experience alternating sensations of hot and cold.
Passing states of anxiety are common, though so are euphoric states. Somewhat paradoxically, these two states can be experienced simultaneously. Out-of-body experiences, or dissociation of awareness from the physical body, is very common with DMT at higher doses. Many people consider this a hallmark of the experience.
In his 2000 book, The Spirit Molecule, psychedelic researcher and psychologist Rick Strassman describes studies in which about half of the volunteers entered “freestanding, independent levels of existence” during a DMT trip or psychological planes where “intelligent beings”, “entities”, “aliens”, “guides” and “helpers” were found. Ethnobotanist and psychonaut Terrence McKenna called these beings “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.
Dimethyltryptamine is primarily a serotonin (5-HT) receptor agonist. Like many other chemicals in its class, DMT’s psychedelic actions can mostly be attributed to its effects on the 5-HT2A receptor. It does affect many other receptor types (including dopamine and sigma receptors), but the consequences of these interactions are not well understood.
In a study that administered low, medium, or high doses to 12 volunteers, the psychedelic threshold for DMT was found to be 0.2 mg/kg. At this level, most biological effects were detectably altered. Adrenocorticotropin hormone, beta-endorphin, prolactin, growth hormone (GH), and cortisol were all elevated. Pupil diameter, heart rate, and blood pressure all peaked within 2 minutes of administration, as did subjective experiences.
A later trial found that the body does not build a tolerance to DMT, meaning there’s no need to take more to repeat the same effects, unlike other psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin.
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.
When experienced users were asked to rate its safety, 55% said DMT is “very safe” and 38% said “quite safe”. The main risks they reported were a “bad trip” (51%), which is a considerably higher risk compared to other classic psychedelics.
Interactions with other drugs
DMT significantly affects the serotonin system and should not be taken simultaneously with any of the following substances:
- SSRI’s (any selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, like Prozac)
- Antihypertensives (high blood pressure medicine)
- Appetite suppressants (diet pills)
- Medication 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)
Illegal or recreational drugs that are dangerous to combine with DMT include:
- Amphetamines (meth-, dex-, amphetamine), ephedrine, MDMA (Ecstasy), MDA, MDEA, PMA
- Opiates (heroin, morphine, codeine, and especially opium)
- Dextromethorphan (DXM)
Illegal or recreational drugs that can be dangerous to combine with DMT include:
- Mescaline (any phenethylamine)