What is DMT: Psychedelics 101

Hallucinogenics have been a hot topic in recent years, and this includes N, N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT). This psychedelic drug is in the spotlight because of advocates like Joe Rogan and recent findings within the scientific community.
Researchers are starting to publish scientific papers on DMT and have uncovered new potential therapeutic uses, including the treatment of depression.

What Is DMT?

N, N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is a mixed serotonin receptor agonist found naturally in several organisms, including humans. Studies have detected it in the human blood, brain, and cerebrospinal fluid. It’s believed to be widespread throughout the natural kingdom, present in thousands of plants, mammals, and amphibians.

For example, DMT is known to be secreted by the glands of the Sonoran Desert toad. In one recent study, researchers examined dried toad secretion containing 5-MeO-DMT. A single inhalation eased anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms while enhancing life satisfaction.

DMT is also a synthetic psychedelic drug taken to alter and expand consciousness. Plants and vines are boiled in religious ceremonies to make a tea-like substance of varying strengths. In this form, it is a white, crystalline powder. Synthetic DMT is administered in several ways, often through smoking. However, you can also get vape oil that contains this hallucinogen.

A vape pen combines either N, N-DMT (the type commonly found in plants) or 5-MeO-DMT (found in toad venom) with an e-liquid base.
DMT is also found in the popular psychedelic ayahuasca. It shares similar properties to LSD and psilocybin but offers consumers a unique experience that differs from other psychedelics.

What Are the Effects of DMT?

Although DMT has been used for centuries in South America, the psychedelic effects of this substance were first scientifically examined and reported in the 1950s. In the 1960s, researchers discovered this naturally occurring chemical in the human body, and in recent years, its use has significantly increased. Consumers are often interested in the drug’s psychological effects — especially the ability to experience an altered sense of space, body, and time.

One of the common features of this psychedelic experience includes a feeling of transcending from one’s body to enter an alternative realm. Consumers often describe this as a near-death experience, which is why many experts in the medical field refer to it as the spirit molecule.
The experience is powerful, characterized by vivid and elaborate visual imagery and auditory hallucinations. Michael Pollan referred to DMT being like a rocket ship.

What Are the Therapeutic Benefits of DMT?

DMT is being studied for its potential role in psychedelic-assisted therapy. This emerging field of research is uncovering the effect of powerful hallucinogenic substances concerning mood and anxiety disorders. A growing body of evidence indicates that psychedelics, including N, N-Dimethyltryptamine, are safe and effective for treating various mental illnesses and may be used to support talk therapy. That said, DMT is a far way off from being used in clinical settings.

Unlike antidepressants, which tend to numb negative feelings, researchers believe DMT can initiate long-lasting change. DMT and other psychedelics allow users to approach difficult experiences and process them in a way that helps with treatment-resistant depression. Similar research is mounting for ketamine, MDMA, psilocybin, and LSD. MDMA is likely to be legalized in 2023 for clinical treatment of depression, followed by psilocybin in 2024.

Although more research is required, compelling evidence is piling up, sparking greater interest within the scientific community. In order for DMT to be used in clinical settings, it will need to go through clinical trials and receive approval from the FDA.

Are There Any Risks Associated With DMT?

Consumers taking DMT for scientific purposes require monitoring and supervision, which reduces the risk of complications. Although many people walk away from their experience with a new outlook on life, describing the experience as positive and profound, it is essential to consider some possible side effects for those with pre-existing health conditions.

For example, this psychedelic can:

  • Increase your blood pressure and heart rate
  • Cause chest pain
  • Cause dizziness
  • Cause vomiting and diarrhea when taken orally

Since DMT is structurally similar to the neurotransmitter serotonin, people taking antidepressants must be aware of serotonin syndrome, a potentially dangerous condition. Too much serotonin in your body can cause high blood pressure, agitation, loss of muscle coordination, and confusion.
Psychotic episodes associated with DMT and ayahuasca are a rare phenomenon. However, certain individuals face a higher risk. This psychedelic shows immense promise for some mental health conditions but may cause adverse effects for users living with psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia.

Is DMT Legal?

In the United States, DMT is a Schedule I controlled substance. This classification means it’s illegal to manufacture, possess, buy, or distribute. Although DMT has no approved medical use, researchers can use it in controlled settings.

DMT-containing substances are illegal in most nations around the globe. However, some countries allow for the possession and use of substances that contain this chemical compound, including ayahuasca. These countries include Brazil, Costa Rica, Peru, and Italy. So, while DMT is prohibited in these places, ayahuasca, which contains this hallucinogen, is not.

In the United States, there are gray areas. Santo Daime and União do Vegetal (UDV) are "ayahuasca churches" founded in Brazil, with branches in the U.S. Following long legal battles, the Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that UDV members in the U.S. could legally use ayahuasca as a religious sacrament. Similar battles have been fought and won among Native American Church members concerning peyote.

Where Can I Legally Seek DMT Treatment?

DMT is illegal in countries such as Mexico, although 5-MeO-DMT retreats are relatively common. When seeking treatment, it is critical that you diligently vet facilitators to ensure a safe experience. Many individuals in North America flock to South America in search of a psychedelic awakening, but there are now opportunities closer to home. Although this psychedelic remains illegal, Canada’s first psychedelic-enhanced psychotherapy facility opened in 2020.

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