Symptoms And Warning Signs Of DMT Use

N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is a psychedelic compound that is found naturally in some plants and animals. After being extracted, people can consume DMT by smoking, drinking, injecting, or snorting the drug to experience an intense psychedelic trip. Some users report feelings of increased self-awareness and introspection after using DMT, earning it the name “The Spirit Molecule.” However, there is no guarantee on a standard experience from taking DMT; 2 people may have entirely different reactions. DMT symptoms and warning signs are obvious if someone is currently under the influence of the drug; they may be difficult to spot once the user is no longer tripping, however.

Where Does DMT Come From?

DMT is a tryptamine drug that acts as a non-selective agonist at the serotonin 5-ht2a receptor as well as at most of the other serotonin receptors. DMT is found throughout nature and does not become an illegal substance until it is extracted. Currently DMT is a schedule I drug, meaning it has no accepted medical use, has a high potential for abuse, and is illegal to manufacture, possess, and distribute. Some plants that are known to contain DMT include:

  • Acacia Spp.
  • Anadenanthera colubrina
  • Anadenanthera peregrina
  • Arundo donax Linnaeus
  • Banisteriopsis caapi Morton
  • Banisteriopsis spp.
  • Calliandra anomala McBride
  • Yahe Vine
  • Mimosa tenuiflora Poiret
  • Mucuna pruriens
  • Peganum harmala Linnaeus*
  • Phalaris spp.
  • Phalaris arundinacea Linnaeus
  • Psychotria spp.
  • Psychotria viridis Ruiz et Pavon
  • Virola spp.

These plants can be found across the world, but many of them reside in tropical climates in South America. Mimosa Tenuiflora Poiret, also called the Mimosa hostilis root, is a commonly purchased plant that people use to extract DMT from the bark. There are several ways to extract DMT from the bark. One method is grinding the plant into a powder, mixing it with a base (such as sodium hydroxide), and then adding a non-polar solvent to attract the DMT molecules out of the polar base solution. Once the non-polar solvent containing DMT is in a separate layer, it can be siphoned off from the rest of the solution. Finally, the DMT molecules can be separated from the non-polar solvent by evaporation or freezing.

DMT extracted from the plants Psychotria viridis is used in the brew Ayahuasca. Ayahuasca is a drink brewed from a combination of plants that users drink to experience an altered state. Although many first experience uncomfortable side effects like vomiting and diarrhea, the ensuing experience from Ayahuasca is said to help some people with self-actualization and depression. The psychoactive effects from Ayahuasca lasts between 2 and 6 hours. The psychoactive effects from DMT alone are much shorter. Effects typically last between 30 and 45 minutes. An hour after smoking DMT, the user should be symptom free; they may feel some residual effects in the following hour, however.

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DMT Symptoms And Effects

Likely the most common way to take DMT is to smoke it; however, it can also be vaporized, injected, or snorted. The dose is between 30 to 150 milligrams. The effects of DMT take hold almost immediately when smoked. Users may feel like they are instantly transported to another universe and feel outside of their body known as “depersonalization.” Within 5 minutes of taking DMT, users may experience increased blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, and dilated pupils. Depending on the person and the dose taken, the full effects of DMT will be felt within 5 to 15 minutes, and the effects typically last between 30 and 45 minutes. An hour after smoking DMT, the user should be symptom free, although they may feel some residual effects in the following hour.

A person taking DMT may experience double vision, auditory and visual Hallucinations, or even feel as though they have left their body. Sounds, colors, objects, and time can seem distorted while under the influence of DMT. It may feel as though time is speeding up or slowing down, and many report feeling as though they are dying. In fact, near death experiences have been compared to the effects of DMT. Common reports from people who had a near death experience include, “a bright light, a sense of detachment from the body, feelings of security and warmth and encounters with spiritual beings such as angels.” Similarly, these feelings are also commonly reported from people who have taken DMT.

Dangers Of DMT Use

Positive feedback from DMT users includes statements about spiritual insight, and researchers have even noted an improvement in depression and anxiety after consuming DMT. Hallucinogens have less addictive potential than other drugs, such as Opioids, but that does not mean they cannot be dangerous and abused. Distributing and possessing this drug is illegal, and those who are caught with it may face legal fees and jail time. There are physical health risks, such as increased blood pressure and heart rate, and it may be dangerous for those with preexisting conditions. It can also cause nausea and vomiting. The mental health risks can be very serious for some users.

There have been reports of DMT and other Hallucinogen use triggering psychotic episodes. The use of DMT can trigger schizophrenia or other similar mental health conditions and should never be used by those who have a family history of these conditions. One report of a 24-year-old man who inhaled a smokable powder made of DMT-containing plants developed, “a complex delusional spiritual belief system and was pursuing enlightenment,” which later led to hospitalization from presenting positive symptoms of schizophrenia.

Another case involves a 42-year-old man who smoked DMT and was admitted to an inpatient psychiatry unit, where he displayed grandiose and paranoid delusions for 12 days. He believed that he could read minds, interact with aliens, and control people and events by adopting different body postures. He had a history of drug and alcohol abuse, as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, and a family history of alcoholism. This man was able to enter into residential rehab and receive care.

While some may feel enlightened after using DMT, others may experience the opposite effect. A case with a 21-year-old man who consumed Ayahuasca resulted in intense paranoid and suicidal ideas, and he, “cut himself with a sharp-edged ceremonial item during the ritual.” The cut was superficial, but the psychotic/paranoid symptoms continued for 2 to 3 weeks, and he had to receive antipsychotic treatment for 1 year. There are many more reports on the unpredictable reactions that DMT have caused in certain users and anyone with a mental health condition or family history of mental health disorders should abstain from taking DMT.

How Do I Know If Someone Is Using DMT?

DMT is metabolized by the body quickly, therefore it is difficult to get accurate results using a blood or urine test. DMT symptoms and warning signs are obvious if the person is currently under the influence of the drug, as they may be incapacitated. However, a shift in mood or paranoid behavior may be a sign that someone is abusing Hallucinogens frequently. Unregulated drugs like DMT are dangerous and illegal, and there is no guarantee that someone will have a safe or positive experience. If someone or someone you know is abusing DMT, contact a treatment provider to discuss available treatment options.