In certain South American regions, the existential trip of DMT is a common communal tradition and a rite of passage. But in the United States, this Schedule I drug has a divisive reputation. Some claim it possesses a deep-healing power and can help people have important revelations. Others view it as a dangerous and disorienting psychedelic drug.
Referred to as “the spirit molecule” by many and featured in a documentary of the same name, DMT is a hallucinogenic drug that occurs naturally in plants and the human brain.
For centuries, DMT has been used in rituals in countries such as Peru. The drug arrived in the United States in the 1900s. The substance gained popularity as a drug of abuse in the 1960s. It was classified as a Schedule I drug when the Controlled Substances Act was passed in 1971.
DMT, or dimethyltryptamine, causes a high that lasts less than an hour but can feel like days. Usually smoked, injected, or brewed into a tea called ayahuasca, the drug sends users into a dreamlike state that is referred to as “blasting off.” People who take DMT often report seeing extreme hallucinations, such as alien lifeforms, gods and past-life versions of themselves. These trips may include a number of terrifying and potentially dangerous experiences. Some users have trouble returning to the real world after using the drug.
Pure DMT takes a crystal form, but the drug has been synthesized for many years with varying results. In the last decade, the drug’s popularity in the U.S. surged as it was featured in movies and endorsed by celebrities.
DMT usually causes vomiting, loss of bowel control and a general sickly feeling — particularly in its ayahuasca form. The drug can cause side effects such as:
The most notable risks of taking DMT involve the disorienting feelings produced by the drug. It’s difficult to predict how DMT will affect you, how intense it will be or how slowly time will pass while under the influence.
Based on reports by DMT users, it has the potential to make you question your life’s decisions, your religion and your overall beliefs. It can be exhausting and confusing, and you may lose touch with your physical self. This may put you or others in harm’s way.
DMT’s potential for abuse and addiction liability are currently unknown. Unlike many other hallucinogens, DMT use does not seem to cause tolerance of the drug.
A study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that DMT use creates desirable effects, which could indicate high abuse liability. The possibility for abuse, however, may be negated by a low urge to reuse the drug.
The 2012 Global Drug Survey showed that DMT users have a relatively low urge to use more of the substance.
A 2016 report by the Drug Enforcement Administration stated that the effects and short duration of DMT are appealing to those who prefer a psychedelic experience. However, these individuals often do not choose to experience the mind-altering perceptions over an extended period of time.
Because of DMT’s rarity and limited side effects, the rehab community doesn’t see many clients who use the drug. This is likely to change as it continues to grow in popularity. If you or someone you know has a DMT problem, reach out to a treatment center and speak with a doctor. You can also attend a local support group, such as Narcotics Anonymous.