Author: James Anderson

DMT: Side effects, facts, and health risks

what does dmt do

The pure, lab-made form of DMT looks like a white crystalline powder. But you’re more likely to find it in the slightly less pure form, which is a yellowish-pink looking powder. Small studies suggest that it is unlikely to lead to a substance use disorder, but people may develop a tolerance, leading to increased consumption in the future. Generally, the effects of inhaled, snorted, or injected DMT last for about 15 to 60 minutes. It typically takes longer to feel the effects of DMT is drinking it in a brew.

what does dmt do

That’s because it can take more than 5,000 milligrams of DMT to overdose – nearly 100 times the amount in a single injection. This can happen especially if you don’t use the drug in a safe, controlled setting. Depending on how much you took, DMT trips can last between 15 minutes to 1 hour or longer. DMT can interact with a range of other prescription and over-the-counter medications, as well as other drugs. It’s difficult to know who will have a “good” trip and who will have a “bad” — or upsetting — trip.

Why and how does DMT naturally occur in our bodies?

As DMT exists naturally in so many plant species it can therefore be extracted and isolated from various plants and plant tissues. The substance is most commonly synthesized from plants with a large natural concentration of produced DMT, though it is also easily produced chemically in a lab. The most popular approach from the peer-reviewed literature is the ability to produce large amounts of pure DMT with reasonably high yields in one single step. The chemical typically exists in pure form as a white or yellow/brown crystallized powder with a very distinct smell. DMT is naturally found in some plant species and combined with other plants to produce a brew called ayahuasca, which is consumed in spiritual ceremonies in several South American cultures. DMT can be a profoundly mind-altering substance with serious hallucinogenic effects.

5-MeO-DMT is a Schedule I/Class A drug in the United Kingdom, making it illegal to buy or possess without a license.

“There is a large body of anecdotal evidence that suggests taking (lithium) with psychedelics significantly increases the risk of psychosis and seizures. As a result, this combination is strictly discouraged.” (PsychonautWiki, 2023). A recent study indicated that one out of three patients on lithium who took psilocybin (also a classical tryptamine psychedelic) experienced a seizure. All this being said, everyone’s DMT experience is highly subjective and widely varied – as with all psychedelic substances. One thing is for sure, the administration of this chemical is capable of inducing extraordinary and significant—often spiritual—experiences in human beings.

Risks for DMT

Chemically, DMT is related to serotonin, melatonin, and other neurotransmitters that affect core elements of the human experience, including mood and memory. DMT’s most well-documented and harmful interaction is its potential to cause serotonin syndrome. This is more likely in people taking antidepressants or other drugs that increase serotonin levels. However, people may develop a tolerance for this drug, meaning they need to take larger doses to feel the same effects each time. This means that it is illegal to manufacture, buy, possess, or distribute the drug. The substance has a high potential for abuse, no government-recognized medical use, and a lack of accepted safety parameters for use.

  1. This is more likely in people taking antidepressants or other drugs that increase serotonin levels.
  2. The field of psychedelic study is a rich and blossoming one, and that extends to research into DMT and how it affects us.
  3. HPPD is more commonly known as “flashbacks.” Both are rare and may be more likely to occur in people with preexisting mental health conditions.
  4. DMT and the neurotransmitter serotonin share a structural relationship.

And then there’s the fact that DMT has been found to occur naturally in the human brain. No one can say with certainty what it’s doing there, but some researchers have speculated that it may underlie some of neuroscience’s more inexplicable phenomena—including some aspects of near-death experiences. But users say the profundity and variety of the DMT trip makes it especially difficult to put into words.

How Do You Use DMT?

1971 | DMT was prohibited and placed on the list of Schedule 1 substances. This category of drugs officially has “no medical benefit and a high potential for abuse”. This move swiftly and effectively ended all research into the therapeutic potential of DMT for almost 20 years. Taking a high dose of DMT or using DMT while taking antidepressants can result in a condition called serotonin syndrome. You could have a bad trip with your first exposure to DMT or your 10th time using.

In Colorado, state voters passed the Natural Medicine Health Act in 2022 to enable adults to access five psychedelic substances, including DMT, in certified centers under the supervision of licensed guides. In the United States, 5-MeO-DMT is also a Schedule I substance, which makes it illegal to manufacture, buy, possess, or distribute (sell, trade, or gift) without a DEA license effective as of January 19, 2011. “The other concern is that these kinds of experiences can be destabilizing to some individuals,” he said. Scientific evidence suggests that a DMT trip “feels like dying” for many people. Previous scientific studies have shown strong similarities between near-death experiences and the effects of psychedelics.

After exploring the highlights and history of DMT, we investigate its many potential treatment applications with a focus on past, current, and planned clinical research. It’s important to tell emergency responders what drugs were taken so they can choose the best treatment option. An overdose from classic hallucinogens alone is rare but possible. Respiratory arrest and cardiac arrest from DMT use has been reported. Anecdotally, some folks report experiencing lingering mental effects for days or weeks after using DMT.

A 2023 study from Imperial College London and published in the journal PNAS is the first to track brain activity before, during and after subjects took DMT. It found that it increases communication between different regions of the brain – particularly those responsible for higher level functions such as imagination. Another ongoing study from the same university suggests that DMT may hold promise as a treatment for depression. It’s noteworthy that many people who use Ayahuasca report many of these same experiences, although often in more abstract or symbolic forms—sort of like a “lite” version of the DMT trip. Meanwhile, the experiences of users of 5-MeO-DMT could be described as even stronger or more profound. N,N-Dimethyltryptamine is an organic compound found in many plants and, in lesser amounts, in the nervous system of humans and other mammals.

Similar to other classical psychedelics, DMT binds to the serotonin 2A (5-HT2A) receptor to induce psychedelic effects. Additionally, DMT is an agonist at 5-HT2C (a different sub-type of serotonin receptor), as well as sigma-1 receptors. It is currently unknown if the sigma-1 receptor displays psychoactive properties. That said, some physiological effects of the drug are thought to be caused by activating these receptors, such as reducing inflammation for extended periods and inducing neuroplasticity in the brain. The sigma-1 receptor has broad biological functions and has thus become a target for treating many different CNS diseases including depression and a host of other mental illnesses (Ren, 2022).

Healthline does not endorse the use of any illegal substances, and we recognize abstaining from them is always the safest approach. However, we believe in providing accessible and accurate information to reduce the harm that can occur when using. Some scientific studies speculate that DMT may contribute to neurodegenerative and neurorestorative processes.