What Is DMT? | Uses, Effects, & Risks

DMT is a hallucinogenic drug that is found naturally in the plants used to make ayahuasca. The drug can also be produced synthetically. While the addictive potential for DMT is relatively low, there are a number of other serious risks to consider.

N, n-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is a hallucinogenic drug and Schedule I controlled substance according to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

DMT occurs naturally in the ayahuasca plant found in South America, but can be turned into a white crystalline powder that’s smoked or ingested.

What Is DMT?

DMT is a classic psychedelic and those who take it may have a DMT experience, which can feel as if one is having a “good” or “bad” DMT trip.

This psychedelic drug is considered a tryptamine drug and can be compared with LSD, ketamine, psilocybin, mescaline, and other drugs which have psychoactive and hallucinogenic effects.

How DMT Works

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), DMT produces its effects through action at the 5-ht2a serotonin receptor. Large amounts of DMT can result in the neurotransmitter serotonin, which can pose a problem such as serotonin syndrome.

DMT is also considered a serotonergic psychedelic, the same as LSD or psilocybin. It acts as a non-selective agonist at many of the serotonin receptors, particularly the serotonin 5-ht2a receptor.

Uses Of DMT

DMT can be used for a number of reasons. DMT occurs naturally in the body and some experts believe it is produced from pineal glands when dreaming.

Religious Experiences

A person who has a psychedelic experience may choose to do so as a religious experience. For some South American countries, the drug is used for religious purposes.

DMT is sometimes referred to as “the spirit molecule” or the “god molecule” due to those who have profound religious experiences.


Ayahuasca can be prepared using two plants called Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis. The presence of alkaloids help make ayahuasca orally active.

Effects Of DMT

DMT may cause subjective effects in those who take the drug. While some may consider their drug use a good or enlightening trip, others may experience great fear with a bad trip.

According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), DMT can create a number of psychological and physiological effects.

Psychological Effects

For those who take a dose of DMT, some of the psychological effects you may experience include:

  • visual hallucinations
  • auditory distortions
  • altered sense of time
  • depersonalization
  • distorted view of body image

Physiological Effects

Some of the physiological effects a person on DMT can experience may include:

  • increased heart rate
  • increased blood pressure
  • dilated pupils
  • dizziness
  • ataxia
  • agitation
  • seizures

Near Death Experiences (NDEs)

In addition to the ayahuasca plant, DMT occurs naturally in the human brain and is involved with various neurological states. Some people who take DMT may have near death experiences (NDEs).

This near death experience may include effects such as:

  • visions of a bright light
  • out of body experiences
  • bodily dissociation
  • connecting to the environment you’re in
  • feelings of peace
  • traveling through a void or tunnel

Risks Of DMT Use

There are a number of risks when using DMT. Those who abuse this drug long-term may experience severe side effects. Those participating in this form of drug abuse may increase their risk of mental health problems and other issues.

Mental Health Problems

Those who abuse DMT can experience a number of serious and life-threatening mental health conditions due to the hallucinations and the possible feelings of fear and panic the drug produces. People with mental illness who take high doses of DMT may develop more anxiety.

In addition to more anxiety, psychosis may develop. Long-term use at higher doses can lead to severe mental health problems including schizophrenia. Other mental problems may develop months after ingestion.

However, according to the National Library of Medicine, some psychoactive drugs may prove to be beneficial for those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Serotonin Syndrome

For those who take antidepressants for their mental illness, combining these with DMT can create a life-threatening condition known as serotonin syndrome. In fact, those who take monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) have a higher risk for developing this serious condition.

Find Treatment Today

If you or a loved one abuse hallucinogenic drugs and need support, please contact us today for information on our outpatient treatment options.

Written by
Northeast Addition Editorial Team

Published on

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This page does not provide medical advice.

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