DMT Effects, Addictiveness, Risks, and Treatment
In This Article
DMT is one of the potent psychedelic drugs that has captivated and inspired users for centuries. It's famous for its ability to create intensely profound spiritual experiences.
However, as with any substance, it’s essential to know the potential risks of this powerful hallucinogen. It’s also valuable to learn about its addictive properties and the need for specialized treatment if you struggle with DMT addiction.
This article discusses the effects of DMT use on the body and mind. It also explores its addiction potential and available treatments for those with issues controlling their usage.
What Is DMT?
DMT or N, N-Dimethyltryptamine is a naturally occurring hallucinogenic compound. It produces visual distortions and powerful psychedelic drug effects by acting on the serotonin receptors in the brain.
People have used DMT in religious and spiritual contexts throughout Central and South America for centuries. It became popular in the U.S. during the 1960s, nicknamed the "business trip" and the "spirit molecule" among users.
What Are the Potential Risks of DMT Use?
There are several risk factors of DMT. High doses may cause:
- Breathing problems
Since recreational users obtain DMT from illicit and untrustworthy sources, there may be a variety of other drugs and substances in the DMT purchased that can cause other side effects and risks.
Effects of DMT on Serotonin Production
DMT can also boost the body’s production of serotonin. Too much serotonin may cause:
- High blood pressure
- Serotonin syndrome
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What Are the Side Effects of DMT?
DMT has a rapid onset. Its effects manifest almost immediately after ingestion. The short-term effects are vivid but only last 30 to 45 minutes.
DMT trips may induce:
- Visual and auditory hallucinations
- Feelings of intense joy
- Feelings of intense dread
- An altered sense of space and time
- An out-of-body experience
- Perceived insights and epiphanies
- A perceived transcendence of the body into another “realm”
- Perceived encounters with “sentient” entities
Aside from the hallucinogenic effects, DMT can also have physiological side effects that can last briefly or for an extended period.
Short-Term Side Effects of DMT
Short-term physiological side effects of DMT include:
- Dilated pupils and involuntary rapid eye movement
- Loss of coordination
- Nausea and vomiting
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Respiratory arrest or coma
Long-Term Side Effects of DMT
DMT abuse may also lead to adverse long-term effects. Prolonged exposure can lead to persistent psychosis, which can cause:
- Hallucinations or visual disturbances
- Disordered moods or rapid mood swings
- Impaired thinking and functionality (inability to think straight or reason)
- Persistent paranoia
Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD)
Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD) is the occurrence of repeated flashbacks. It’s characterized by the recurrence of sensory distortions and hallucinations that occurred during a previous hallucinogen drug use, even after the effects of the drug have worn off.
People suffering from HPPD may experience sudden and unexpected visual disturbances or hallucinations. Symptoms can persist for weeks to months.
More severe cases have been reported where the subject experiences symptoms consistent with neurological problems, such as tumors or a stroke.
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Is DMT Addictive?
There’s no evidence that DMT is addictive. There are also no indications that DMT use creates tolerance or physical dependence in users. However, there’s little research on this subject.
Researchers must conduct more studies to understand DMT's addictive properties and addiction symptoms fully.
Although DMT may not be addictive, DMT abuse can lead to problematic hallucinogen use or hallucinogen use disorder (HUD).
The symptoms of HUD are similar to addiction symptoms and include:
- Taking higher doses of DMT
- Increased frequency of use
- Inability to stop or control usage
- Craving DMT
- Neglecting responsibilities and social obligations in favor of DMT usage
- Continued use, regardless of social, physical, or mental health problems
- Discarding previous hobbies in favor of DMT use
Does DMT Have Potential For Medicinal Use?
There has been increasing interest in the potential medicinal uses of DMT. Some research suggests it may help with neurological and psychiatric disorders.7
A study shows that inhaling a 12 mg dose of 5-MeO-DMT treats treatment-resistant major depressive disorder. Participants experienced significant improvement within 2 hours.8
Moreover, they achieved clinical remission over 7 days. The effects were still apparent even after discontinuing the medication.8
5-MeO-DMT and Other Mental Health Issues
The positive effects of medically administered DMT extended to other mental health conditions, such as:8
- Suicidal thoughts
- Somatic concern, guild, and tension
As such, 5-MeO-DMT shows promise as a potential treatment for various mental health issues. However, there's still limited research on the medicinal benefits of DMT. More studies are necessary before making any conclusive statements about its medical potential.
Risks and Considerations in DMT Use
Professionals strongly advise against using the drug in an uncontrolled environment. There are multiple high-risk factors involved in illicit use. These include the inability to test the purity of the drug and control dosages.
Moreover, reactions to DMT vary significantly by person. Direct and professional monitoring is also necessary to ensure participants don’t harm themselves or others during a "bad trip."
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What Are the Treatment Options for DMT Abuse?
As of writing, no medicinal treatments for DMT addiction are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, many effective behavioral therapies are available to anyone suffering from DMT abuse or HUD.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a standard form of psychotherapy. It aims to identify and modify negative thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that may contribute to drug abuse.
Trained professionals work with you individually or in groups. They help you develop healthy coping mechanisms for negative feelings or situations without using drugs.
12-step programs are standard treatment programs. They offer a structured approach to addressing drug addiction and other forms of substance use disorder.
The goal is to help you achieve sobriety and maintain it through peer support, group discussion, 12-step workbooks, and the like. These programs also provide tools for maintaining your sobriety and recovery in the long-term.
Contingency management is a system of rewards and punishments for good or bad behavior. This method aims to reinforce positive behaviors like abstinence.
It involves setting specific, achievable goals for the patient, such as providing negative drug tests at each visit or attending group therapy a few times a week. They then receive tangible rewards for achieving these goals.
Motivational interviewing is a method of therapy that aims to motivate you to participate in and commit to treatment. This process involves open-ended questions, reflective listening, and summarizing.
It encourages you to change your thinking and behaviors towards drug abuse on your terms. Moreover, you can combine it with other evidence-based therapies, such as CBT or motivational incentives.
Inpatient rehabilitation is a residential treatment option. It offers intensive, 24-hour care for those suffering from severe addictions.
You'll live at the facility and receive round-the-clock supervision, therapy, and support from trained professionals. This type of treatment is best for those with co-occurring mental health disorders or those who need a highly structured environment to recover.
How Do Users Take DMT?
There are several ways that users consume DMT. The most common method is consuming it orally. The traditional way of consuming DMT includes brewing it into tea.
The substance can also be synthesized into crystalline powder. You can snort, smoke, or inject DMT intravenously for faster onset of effects.
Where Does DMT Come From?
You can find DMT in certain plants and animals. DMT can be extracted from plants like Mimosa hostilis and Psychotria viridis. It is also present in trace amounts in the human body.
You can also extract DMT from the leaves of Psychotria viridis, a shrub in the Amazon rainforest. Ayahuasca is a tea typically brewed from these leaves and another plant called Banisteriopsis caapi. It contains compounds that inhibit the breakdown of DMT in the stomach.
DMT and Near-Death Experiences
Many DMT users reported similar experiences to those with near-death experiences (NDEs). This phenomenon has spiked interest in scientific and recreational drug communities recently.
Multiple approved scientific experiments have administered DMT to subjects to gather insights. The results have shown several consistencies between the effects of DMT use and near-death experiences, including:
- A feeling of transcending your body
- Entering an alternate realm
- Communicating with sentient "entities"
Subjects reported gaining new insights into the birth, life, and death processes during an NDE and DMT trip.
Is DMT a Controlled Substance?
DMT is a Schedule I Controlled Substance in the U.S. The drug is unsafe, has a high potential for abuse, and has no accepted medical use.
In the U.S., it’s illegal to manufacture, distribute, or possess DMT. When inhaled or ingested, DMT's psychedelic effects are considerably short-lived compared with other hallucinogenic drugs (LSD or psilocybin [magic mushrooms]).
Street names for DMT include:
- Businessman’s trip
- Businessman’s special
- 45-minute psychosis
DMT is a highly potent hallucinogenic drug that acts on the serotonin receptors in the brain. It can cause intense psychedelic experiences and boost serotonin production.
While some research suggests potential medicinal uses for DMT, there are still significant risks involved in recreational use.
Seek immediate help if you or a loved one is struggling with DMT addiction. Multiple effective treatment options can help you overcome addiction and achieve long-term recovery.
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- Timmermann et al. “DMT Models the Near-Death Experience.” Frontiers in Psychology, 2018.
- Barker, S. “N, N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), an Endogenous Hallucinogen: Past, Present, and Future Research to Determine Its Role and Function.” Frontiers in Neuroscience, 2018.
- Griffiths et al. “Survey of Subjective ‘God Encounter Experiences’: Comparisons among Naturally Occurring Experiences and Those Occasioned by the Classic Psychedelics Psilocybin, LSD, Ayahuasca, or DMT.” PLoS ONE, 2019.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "Psychedelic and Dissociative Drugs." National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2023.
- U.S. Department of Justice. “N, N-DIMETHYLTRYPTAMINE (DMT).” Drug Enforcement Administration, 2022.
- Shen et al. “Psychedelic 5-Methoxy-N, N-Dimethyltryptamine: Metabolism, Pharmacokinetics, Drug Interactions, and Pharmacological Actions.” Current Drug Metabolism, 2011.
- Kargbo, R. “Application of Deuterated N,N-Dimethyltryptamine in the Potential Treatment of Psychiatric and Neurological Disorders.” ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters, 2022.
- Kargbo, R. “5-MeO-DMT: Potential Use of Psychedelic-Induced Experiences in the Treatment of Psychological Disorders.” ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters, 2021.