DMT Drug: Uses and Risk
DMT, is also known as Dimethyltryptamine. It’s a psychedelic drug that derives from plants found in South America, Asia, and Mexico. This natural plant extract has been used for centuries as a means of healing people. In the past, taking the drug would involve guides to help you through the trip to find the answers you were looking for. DMT has been labeled in more modern times as the “spirit molecule.” This is due to it’s powerful ability to allow users to connect to a deeper aspect of themselves.
In the 1960’s, DMT had many nicknames, one of them being the “businessman’s trip”. This was because DMT offered a high that was much shorter than LSD or other psychedelics. For those who didn’t have time for the twelve-hour high from acid, DMT was an alternative for a quick trip. It is also extremely intense. Advocates state that taking DMT can be a life changing event as you tap into your undiscovered potential.
It is strongly believed that DMT can help in the recovery of drug or alcohol addiction. DMT has a strong effect on the serotonin receptors that are involved with depression. Depression is a major reason people will begin self-medicating with substances. However, this is merely a theory that has yet to be studied in full.
Methods of Taking DMT
DMT can be inhaled, ingested, or taken orally. How you take it and how much you take will dictate what your trip will be like. Inhaling or injecting it will allow you to feel it’s effects for 5-15 minutes. This method is said to give you lightning fast images with a fast moving trip. If you take the traditional ayahuasca brew (MAIO), it can last for three hours or longer. This trip is much slower and allows the brain to take in all the messages it’s receiving.
Alone, DMT is usually not effective because of the MAO enzyme that breaks down chemicals. When MAO-inhibitors are added, it stops the breakdown of chemicals so you can feel the high. These inhibitors need to be used by someone who is well informed of ratios in the doses. MAOI can cause food to become poisonous which can result in headaches, nausea, and potentially death. Traditionally, shamans will fast for one full day before using MAO-inhibitors. This is to prevent an interaction with food that’s been eaten. It can also prevent a person from vomiting during their trip.
What You Can Expect When You Take DMT
It’s been said that there is no real way to prepare you for the trip that DMT will take you on. You will have a mystical experience that is out of this world. It will seem like reality and you may experience euphoria or terror. People that have tried ayahuasca have said they spoke with god-like entities, elves, and extra-terrestrials.
Some would describe it as much more powerful than LSD or mushrooms. Some people will feel as though they have died and entered gods realm. The high is difficult to explain but whatever you feel, it’s as though it has really happened. Reality changes and with that, you experience a change in perception afterwards. Some said that it felt like forced lucid dreaming or an out-of-body experience.
DMT and Ritualistic Healing
The main use for DMT is for ritualistic healing. This can be dated back to the 16th century in South America. In the 1950’s, there was hope that ayahuasca could be the cure for opiate addiction. Sadly, the 1970’s drug act making psychedelics illegal in the U.S. stopped further funding on studies. Only recently has the western world started to develop new religious groups that are using ayahuasca as a means for healing.
They are connecting with Shamans from the Amazon rainforest in healing retreats. These retreats are said to cure mental and physical illness by giving people the ability to let go of past pains. It’s the neurotransmitter and tryptamine molecule in DMT that is responsible for the mind expansion. It is said to help users gain enlightenment, heal, and come up with new innovations. DMT can be smoked, snorted, or taken orally.
How DMT Affects the Brain
DMT with the MAO-inhibitors is an agonist on serotonin receptors in the brain. The chemical root structure in DMT is close to an anti-migraine drug. When you take DMT, it binds to your serotonin receptors. This causes neurons to react as though serotonin has been released when there is no serotonin present. This is what causes the hallucinations and separation from reality. The ritual of healing by use of DMT is being questioned by the medical field. Some believe it can help people with addiction and mental disorders.
DMT for Therapy
Research through observation has suggested that ayahuasca can have positive effects for treating drug or alcohol abuse. Ayahuasca has long been used to treat serious conditions like psychological issues, mental disorders, and addiction. Sometimes, during a trip, ayahuasca can promotes the user to look at their life and see it in an alternate way. This can help them in healing any core emotional problems. It has been reported to help ease depression and anxiety. Those who have taken the drug stated that life became more manageable and they have greater control over their emotions.
The therapeutic effects that people talk about regarding DMT is the mindfulness they have achieved. The way your brain works during the trip is said to bring you to a place of acceptance. By facing any past pain, users said they became more centered. Advocates believe that for these reasons, it could be a method for stopping substance abuse. This is still just a theory as no tests have proven this to be true.
Risks of DMT with Previous Conditions
While some people have reported that DMT is a healing tool, it may put certain people at risk. Most users are already used to taking psychedelic drugs and have a spiritual background. While spiritual insight is a common occurrence, some people with certain conditions will experience a negative trip. This is especially true for anyone with a pre-existing psychological problem. Someone with schizophrenia, psychosis, anxiety, or clinical depression should not take DMT. The bad trip can cause problems past the initial high, worsening conditions.
If someone has a pre-existing heart conditions, a DMT trip could cause heart failure. There are also a variety of drugs that can cause nerve damage, coma, or death when mixed with DMT. These include opioids painkillers and antidepressants.
DMT is Not FDA Approved
Since the 1970’s, DMT has been illegal. This means that users will often get the drug through the internet. Using the drug without the proper guidance can prove to be dangerous. If you’re not in a controlled setting and you lose all control, you could harm yourself in the middle of the trip. You also have to use the right amount of ingredients or you risk death. While it has been deemed safe by the religious groups that use it, there’s nothing to govern users from taking it by themselves. Regardless of the theory that it’s helpful for problems like recovery from addiction, it is still illegal and not enough is known about DMT. The limited research makes it difficult to determine if it can cause a dependence or addiction.
The Risk of Taking DMT
When someone takes a DMT dose that is too high, it can cause dangerous side effects. This includes seizures, heart attacks, or a coma. It isn‘t quite known if DMT is toxic to the human body. It has been found that death connected to DMT is usually due to an existing health condition or mixing DMT with other drugs.
If you don’t have a guide who remains conscious, you could potentially die by asphyxiation. DMT can cause vomiting which can be lethal when you’re unconscious during a trip. This is also part of the reason shamans insist you don’t eat for a day before. When you’re outside of the ritual environment, this is where you have greater risk.
Again, research is limited when it comes to DMT so far. Science hasn’t found an indication of physical dependence or addiction on the drug. It has been found that recreational users might develop a psychological craving for the drug. Using it as a type of therapy can create the user to rely on it in a way that others rely on seeing a therapist.
Side Effects of DMT
During a DMT trip, people will experience hallucinations that are more intense than any other psychedelic drug. This can expand awareness when the person is open to the extreme alternate world they become a part of. One of the worst side effects during the trip is that a person can become terrified. There is no way to get someone out of a bad trip so they must ride it out. The trip of DMT can come with powerful messages, good or bad. It might not be easy to integrate their experience into real life afterwards.
The side effects of DMT are lower than other hallucinogens but it’s still possible that you might experience the following:
Increase in blood pressure or heart rate
Chest may tighten
The user can become agitated
Rapid eye movement
Dizziness may occur
MAOI Overdose Risks
MAO-inhibitors are what allows DMT to release its active compounds that create the high. MAOI can release poisons from many natural ingredients which can cause a dangerous rise in blood pressure. It negatively influences amphetamines, anaesthetics, sedatives, anti-histamines, alcohol, and antidepressant agents.
Shamans are aware of the dangers of MAIO and are careful with the doses they add when creating an ayahuasca brew. Overdose of MAIO is possible with side effects such as hyperreflexia or convulsions.
Even within the Supreme Court of the U.S., they are allowing the Beneficent Spiritist Center União do Vegetal to continue using ayahuasca in their spiritual practices. It seems that there is little proof found that DMT is dangerous when taken maturely and responsibly. The problems seem to arise when people abuse the drug. When a trip isn’t guided by an experienced spiritual representative, higher doses cause greater risks. Mixing DMT with other drugs or alcohol can also be dangerous. When the rituals take place, there are many precautions that taken to ensure spiritual support and safety. Recreational use is more likely to cause overdose, terrifying trips, death by asphyxiation, heart problems, and possibly further psychosis. Some have found benefits of taking DMT for their chronic emotional problems. This doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s a potent psychedelic that alters the mind.
Springer Link, Angrist, B., Gershon, S., Sathananthan, G. et al. Psychopharmacology (1976) Dimethyltryptamine levels in blood of schizophrenic patients and control subjects. Retrieved from, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF00428697?LI=true
NCBI, Frontiers in Pharmacology (2016) The Therapeutic Potentials of Ayahuasca: Possible Effects against Various Diseases of Civilization. Retrieved from, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4773875/
NCBI, J Psychoactive Drugs (March 2014). Safety and side effects of ayahuasca in humans–an overview focusing on developmental toxicology. Retrieved from, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23662333
NCBI, Ther Adv Psychopharmacol (june, 2016) Antidepressive, anxiolytic, and antiaddictive effects of ayahuasca, psilocybin and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD): a systematic review of clinical trials published in the last 25 years. Retrieved from, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4910400/
NCBI, Frontiers in Pharmacology (2016). Study done by Rick J. Strassman, a psychiatrist who was involved in the documentary, “Spirit Molecule”. A Model for the Application of Target-Controlled Intravenous Infusion for a Prolonged Immersive DMT Psychedelic Experience https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4944667/