Is DMT Harmful?
DMT (dimethyltryptamine) is a hallucinogenic compound found naturally in a variety of plant species and produced endogenously in the human brain. Although the brain produces it naturally, the compound itself is still a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act, as the drug produces psychoactive effects and no known medical value has been established by the FDA.
DMT may be consumed in the psychedelic Amazonian plant brew known as ayahuasca, or it may be snorted, smoked, or injected in a synthetic white crystalline powder form.
DMT does not appear to produce tolerance and dependence in the same way that drugs like cocaine, heroin or alcohol do. However, there are still adverse effects associated with use and abuse of DMT 1,2.
DMT’s Short-Term Effects
DMT is commonly taken by users seeking a psychedelic “trip” similar to those produced by the ingestion of LSD or psilocybin. Many drug users choose DMT as an alternative to LSD because the duration of the trip is much shorter, lasting approximately 30 to 45 minutes rather than several hours, as is the case with LSD.
The drug has a rapid onset and effects are typically felt immediately.
A hallucinogenic DMT trip usually results in 1,2,3:
- Altered perception of time and space.
- Feelings of intense joy.
- Visual and auditory hallucinations.
- Out-of-body experience.
- Perception ofbright, intensified colors.
- Perceived insights or epiphanies (often believed to have come from aliens, divinities or other mystical beings).
Physiological side effects of DMT may include 1,2:
- Dilated pupils.
- Involuntary rapid eye movement.
- Increased heart rate.
- High blood pressure.
- Coordination problems.
- Nausea and vomiting (typically when taken in oral forms such as ayahuasca).
- Coma and/or respiratory arrest (reported in high doses).
While the DMT trip may be psychologically pleasant for some users, others may experience what is commonly referred to as a “bad trip.”
A bad trip may consist of the following 2,3:
- Feelings of loss of control.
- Disorientation or confusion.
- Negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, grief, anger or agitation.
- Fear of going insane.
- Violent or unpleasant imagery or sounds.
- Reliving painful memories or traumas.
- Fear of death.
Long-Term Effects of Abusing DMT
More research needs to be done in order to determine the long-term adverse effects of DMT abuse. As of now, research has not indicated that DMT creates tolerance in users.
The greatest risks of long-term use of DMT are psychological, since use puts the individual at the risk of developing psychosis and experiencing persistent flashbacks and hallucinations. Flashbacks can occur frequently and spontaneously. Some users may experience flashbacks of drug experiences months or even years after use. Flashbacks may cause a feeling of re-experiencing the hallucinogenic trip, resulting in a re-emergence of visual or auditory hallucinations or a reliving of traumatic memories or experiences 2.
Frequent use of the classic hallucinogens – as class to which DMT belongs – can lead to persistent psychosis. Symptoms of persistent psychosis include 2:
- Disordered mood.
- Disorganized thought.
- Persistent paranoia.
- Visual disturbances.
Another mental health problem that may arise due to frequent use of hallucinogens is referred to as hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD). Symptoms include 2:
- Hallucinations and visual disturbances.
- Symptoms that would be present with other neurological problems such as brain tumors or cerebrovascular accident (i.e., stroke).
While DMT does not produce physical dependence, some individuals may abuse the drug to the point that they experience numerous problems as a result. This may be especially true in cases of polysubstance abuse, where the user is combining DMT with other psychoactive substances. A pattern of problematic hallucinogen use that causes significant problems or distress is characterized as “other hallucinogen use disorder”. Symptoms include 4:
- Taking more DMT than intended.
- Unsuccessfully attempting to control or stop DMT use.
- Expending a lot of time and energy in obtaining and using DMT or recovering from its effects.
- Craving DMT.
- Ignoring personal obligations in favor of using DMT.
- Continuing to use DMT in spite of mounting negative interpersonal, social, or physical/mental health problems.
- Abandoning previously enjoyed habits or hobbies to use DMT.
DMT Addiction Treatment
Currently, there are no FDA-approved medications for the treatment of DMT addiction 2. However, those who are struggling with addiction to DMT can seek effective behavioral therapies to help them control their drug use and find sobriety. Some common forms of behavioral therapy and treatment that may benefit someone struggling with DMT abuse include 5:
- Individual or group counseling: One on one or group counseling to address the underlying factors contributing to the abuse.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: A type of therapy that focuses on teaching individuals techniques to use to cope with cravings in a healthy way and avoid relapse when a craving arises.
- 12-step programs: Support groups that provide a linear, step-by-step process to recovery amongst the support of peers facing similar addictions and struggles.
- Contingency management (behavioral incentives): A strategy that provides rewards and other forms of positive reinforcement for specific target behaviors such as abstinence.
- Motivational interviewing: A type of counseling that helps facilitate behavioral change by helping the client uncover his own intrinsic motivation from within.
- Inpatient rehabilitation: 24/7 addiction treatment for a specified period of time, typically ranging from 30-90 days in duration. This type of treatment program will typically include some combination of the aforementioned therapeutic approaches.
If you or someone you love is struggling with DMT addiction and is need of treatment services, contact one of our treatment support specialists for assistance finding the right treatment center for you by calling 1-888-744-0069 .
- Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). (January 2013). N,DIMETHYLTRYPTAMINE (DMT).
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). (February 2015). How Do Hallucinogens (LSD, Psilocybin, Peyote, DMT, and Ayahuasca) Affect the Brain and Body?
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). (January 2016). DrugFacts: Hallucinogens.
- APA. DSM-V
- NIH: National Institute on Drug Abuse. (December 2012). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research Based Guide. Behavioral Therapies.