DMT, or N,N-Dimethyltryptamine, is a naturally occurring chemical found in both plants and animals. It is the active hallucinogenic compound in ayahuasca, the Quechua name for a tea brewed from the shrub Psychotria viridis, which is used for ritual purposes by the indigenous people in the Amazon
DMT is a white crystalline powder that is found in certain plants in Mexico, South America, and parts of Asia. Its street names are Dmitri, Fantasia, Businessman’s Trip, Businessman’s Special, and 45-Minute Psychosis. Because it’s a naturally occurring psychedelic substance, trace amounts of DMT can actually be found in mammals’ brains. It is the strongest of all psychedelic drugs and is sometimes referred to as an “entheogen” a word that means “god-generated-within.” The drug’s chemical root structure is similar to that of the anti-migraine drug sumatriptan. It acts as a non-selective agonist at most or all of the serotonin receptors. DMT is not active when taken orally unless it is combined with another substance that inhibits its metabolism.
The hallucinogen is still used in various settings for religious ceremonies to obtain “deep spiritual awakening” or insight. By itself, DMT is usually snorted, smoked, or injected. This is because it’s not active when taken by mouth alone. When combined in Ayahuasca, the presence of harmala alkaloids inhibits the enzyme monoamine oxidase, which normally metabolizes the tryptamine hallucinogen. Then the drug remains intact so that it absorbs in sufficient amounts to affect brain function and it results in psychoactive effects.
When smoked the average dose of DMT is 30-150 mg, and the onset of effects can be felt immediately. The effects peak for three to five minutes and then drop off, with the high lasting about 30 to 45 minutes in total. When the hallucinogen is consumed as a brew, the dose is between 35-75 mg and effects begin after 30-45 minutes. The psychoactive effects peak at two to three hours and vanish within four to six hours.
The main side effect of DMT is psychological. People want to take the substance because it provides intense auditory and visual hallucinations and an altered sense of space, body, and time. Users have reported shifts in time, visiting other dimensions, talking with aliens, complete changes in the perception of identity and reality, and life-altering experiences. Compared with other hallucinogenic drugs like LSD, mushrooms, or Ketamine, users of the hallucinogenic drug say that it has the lowest amount of negative side effects.
The psychedelic threshold for DMT is about 0.2 mg/kg. When smoked, it’s a very fast-acting substance with peak subjective experience occurring around 2 minutes after ingestion, and completely resolving within 15 to 20 minutes. When taken as an ayahuasca brew, the effects can take up to an hour to appear, and may last for several hours.
Physical side effects of DMT include:
Depending on the user, the experience of taking the drug can be overwhelmingly exciting, or extremely frightening. The “trip” can be so powerful that users may have a difficult time incorporating the experience into their real life after the moment has passed. The mental side effects associated with the drug can linger for days or even weeks after ingestion.
5-MeO-DMT—short for 5-Methoxy-N,N-Dimethyltryptamine—looks just like DMT on both a macro and micro level, with a few extra atoms attached (which is what “5-MeO” in the name tells us). That slight change makes all the difference, though.
Like DMT, 5-MeO-DMT also appears in many plants and animals—including the venom of a particular toad—but has not been found in humans. While the DMT experience tends to be highly visual, 5-MeO-DMT is more like a perspective shift. Some have said it’s something like a near-death experience.
5-MeO-DMT has a traditional, shamanic use as well, in the form of a powerful “yopo,” or powder blown forcefully into the nose. Being somewhat more obscure than DMT, the potential of 5-MeO-DMT for healing substance addiction is less well known, but some progressive treatment centers have found it extremely useful.
Anxiety and depression are common mental health conditions that negatively impact one’s quality of life and increase the risk for developing a variety of chronic physical ailments. Therapists have used various intervention methods to try and treat these conditions, but they still have some limitations. A lot of people don’t have access to these services, and many of those who do have access continue to experience symptoms despite intervention.
While classical psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin have been found to be safe and effective at treating depression and anxiety in many research studies, they have their own set of challenges that would make psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy difficult to provide at the average outpatient clinic.
Several factors make 5-MeO-DMT an excellent candidate for psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, including its short action (30 to 90 minutes), high safety profile, and low potential for psychological or physiological complications. And it turns out that the drug might also have therapeutic benefits too.