Dimethyltryptamine: DMT Drug of Healing, Controversy and Spirituality

DMT, the drug, is an incredibly powerful psychedelic drug that is found naturally in certain plant life and occasionally is produced naturally in the human body. Historically, this drug was consumed by indigenous cultures in the Americas in order to produce divinatory hallucinations and for healing purposes. While neither the purported divinatory effects nor the healing benefits have been verified by science, the hallucinatory effects are quite well documented and have even been the subject of some past studies.

Hallucinogenic Defined

According to Wikipedia, A hallucinogen is a psychoactive agent which can cause hallucinations, perceptual anomalies, and other substantial subjective changes in thoughts, emotion, and consciousness. The common types of hallucinogens are psychedelics, dissociative and deliriant.

DMT DrugDMT is the accepted abbreviation for Dimethyltryptamine. It is an illegal, psychedelic compound found in at least 60 species of plants worldwide. It is also produced naturally in some animals and the human body itself.

For centuries, Amazonian tribes have been extracting the chemical from plants for use in shamanic rituals and ceremonies. However, this extremely powerful and potentially deadly hallucinogen has made its way into the modern drug scene.

There are theories that it is active in the brain during REM sleep, the period in which we dream the most, as well as when we’re closer to death.

DMT – Dangerous Hallucinogenic Drug or Spiritual Medicine?

The chemical compound Dimethyltryptamine is the hallucinogenic drug known as DMT.

It is an illegal, psychedelic compound found in at least 60 species of plants worldwide, in some animals and in the human body itself. For centuries, Amazonian tribes have been extracting the chemical from plants for use in shamanic rituals and ceremonies. However, the extremely powerful and potentially deadly hallucinogen has made its way into the modern drug scene.

The hallucinogenic properties of it are so intense that the drug has been coined the “god” or “spirit” molecule by users. More potent than other hallucinogens, such as LSD and psilocybin mushrooms, the psychedelic “trip” that users experience can last from a few minutes to just more than an hour, depending on the dosage.

While it is naturally occurring, it can also by synthesized in backstreet labs where purity and safety are, likely, held in low regard, making the drug even more hazardous. Coming in a white powder, DMT can be smoked, snorted, injected and taken orally.

The Role of the Drug DMT in Nature

Scientists are not entirely sure, but there are theories that it is active in the brain during REM sleep, the period in which we dream the most, as well as when we’re closer to death. Though it doesn’t appear to be physically addicting, regular users can develop a psychological dependence on it, leading to a lack of pleasure in day-to-day life while not under the influence of it.

Debates about whether or not its use can be beneficial for people continue. Some researchers believe that with the proper research and study, the compound might have some medical use in the future. However, the idea that it is safe to use recreationally simply because it’s naturally occurring is dangerous.

Effects Users of the Drug DMT Experience

One of the most common hallucinogenic experiences caused are hallucinations of humanoid like beings, characterized as seeing creatures from “other worlds”.

  • Begins within seconds of ingesting the drug

  • Short duration

  • Causes a distorted sense of reality

  • Produces powerful hallucinations

“Quick Trips” On the Drug DMT

In the 60s, it was often referred to as a “businessman’s trip”, because of the rapid onset and short duration of the reaction. When it is inhaled the lasts generally between 20 minutes to 1 hour.

Ayahuasca – DMT Drug Derivative

Ayahuasca (pronounced “I – Ah- Whas-Ka”) is a plant containing DMT.
The interest in DMT being a “mind opening” or “spiritual” experience has skyrocketed recently.

Countries like Ecuador, Peru and Brazil have seen in an increase in tourism related to “ayahuasca retreats”. These events have also gained a foothold in the U.S.

Even in the face of DMT being viewed as a sort of “holistic supplement,” the government has classified it as a schedule 1 drug. Using it comes with substantial risks.

Side Effects of the Drug DMT

Like almost every other drug in existence, DMT produces negative side effects in most users, especially if the drug is used frequently. These side effects include:

  • Stomach discomfort and possible nausea
  • Overwhelming fear that is exacerbated by the visual hallucinations
  • Lung irritation that may cause difficulty breathing, especially in combination with hyperventilation that can be caused by fear
  • A rapid increase in the heart rate of the user, also potentially exacerbated by fear
  • A significant increase in body temperature
  • The possibility of falling unconscious or into a coma-like state, which creates a threat of concussion from a fall or even death due to vomiting and choking

When used in small doses, as most users do who take the drug for religious purposes, these side effects are rare and minimized, and the user is usually protected by the presence of another individual that is not under the influence of the drug. However, when used frequently in higher doses, like the portrayal of drug use by Hunter S. Thompson in the movie “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” these symptoms become a significant threat.

Physical & Emotional Effects Include:

  • Increased heart rate

  • Dilated pupils

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Respiratory irritation

  • Altered perception and intense visuals

  • Panic attacks

Long-Term Effects of the Drug DMT

There is not much data on the continued and long-term use of DMT. Research does suggest, however, users can be traumatized by negative hallucinations, or “bad trips.” This is especially dangerous as it concerns people with preexisting mental conditions, such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

How Psychedelic Drugs, Like DMT, Work

Psychedelic drugs affect brain chemistry in users by agonising serotonin receptors. This action alters perceptions and cognition, which almost always causes specific effects depending on the type of psychedelic drug. For drugs in the tryptamine family, of which DMT is one, the change in brain chemistry usually produces hallucinations.

At lower doses of the drug, these hallucinations usually involve color variation, shape alteration, and geometric repetition of the normal visual field. Thus, a user can still see the car or tree near them, it just might waver, appear to be pixelated, or be a completely different color. At higher doses the hallucination is likely to affect more than the visual senses. Users may experience synesthesia (an effect where stimulation of one sense is identified by the brain as stimulation of a different sense), apparent time dilation, or sensory overload. With these types of hallucinations, the user is usually completely incapable of identifying their surroundings.

When taken, either though inhalation, injection, or ingestion, DMT is remarkably quick acting, usually producing psychedelic effects within seconds. These effects rarely have a long duration, usually lasting for no more than 15 minutes. Taking the drug in higher doses or ingesting it orally can obtain longer effects, but generally any chemical effects ends quickly compared to almost every other drug on the market.

The Drug DMT is Illegal

DMT is classified as a Schedule I drug under the UN 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances. That means using it is supposed to be restricted to scientific research and medical use. It is supposed to be closely monitored. Natural materials containing it, including ayahuasca, are explicitly not regulated. Ayahuasca is being used by various religious groups and other organizations inside and outside the U.S.

Possible Concerns

Mixing DMT with alcohol, other drugs or medications can cause:

  • Nerve damage
  • Fatal asphyxiation from vomiting while unconscious
  • Heart failure, coma or death, especially in individuals using antidepressants and opioid painkillers

Users on a “bad trip” have been known to cause harm to themselves and others.

DMT Drug Addiction

Psychedelic drugs, as a rule, generally do not produce physical dependence and DMT is no exception to this rule. Studies show that users do not become physically addicted and do not have physical withdrawal symptoms. Overuse of the drug may produce a psychological addiction, however. This level of overuse tends to be very dangerous because it means the user is likely living a large portion of their life in a state where they have no cognizance of the real world via sensory input. Such addictions are best treated with psychiatric counseling to determine the root of why the user feels the need to escape the world and to prevent that need in the future.
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About the author

Robert M. has been in recovery since 1988. He is a sponsor and loyal member of AA. He has been working in the drug and alcohol field for nearly 20 years. During that time, he has written industry blogs and articles for a variety of industry websites including Transitions, Malibu Horizons, Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches and Lifeskills of Boca Raton.


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