DMT Side Effects: Is It Dangerous?
What Is DMT?
DMT is short for N, N-dimethyltryptamine, a hallucinogenic drug with powerful psychoactive effects. The effects of DMT are not immediately dangerous or life-threatening, but that doesn’t mean they are safe. Dimethyltryptamine naturally occurs in some plants and animals but can also be synthesized in a lab; both origins have unique risks and effects.
In certain South American cultures, DMT use is part of their spiritual practices as part of a mind-expanding journey. Ayahuasca is a plant that is well known for containing DMT. People brew ayahuasca into tea for people to drink to experience the effects of DMT. People also smoke, snort, swallow, and in rare cases, inject DMT.
In the United States, DMT is a schedule I controlled substance, meaning it has no approved medical use and a high potential for abuse.
What Does DMT Look Like?
What DMT looks like depends on if it is plant material or lab-created, as well as the intended ingestion method and if it contains other drugs and substances.
DMT’s physical appearances include:
- A white crystalline powder
- Crystal-like powder of different colors
- Dried brown, and green ground-up plant material
- A brown or red-tinted liquid
Like other illegally produced drugs, DMT’s appearance can change based on who made it and what they added to the mixture.
DMT Short-Term Effects
The short-term effects of DMT are extremely short-lived compared to other psychedelic drugs. The length will vary based on how you ingested it and how much you took, but users report DMT trips from smoking last between 10-60 minutes, and drinking it mixed with ayahuasca can last for several hours.
DMT trips differ for every person based on their state of mind; some people will have a bad trip and some experience what they call an “ego death experience” that profoundly changes their self-perception and how they view the world.
Short-term DMT effects include:
- Altered perception of time
- Heightened perception of sights, scents, and touch
- Seeing, smelling, or hearing things that aren’t there
- Intense flashbacks or reliving memories as though you’re experiencing them again
- Feelings of invulnerability
- Delusions of power and grandeur
- Disassociation or an out-of-body feeling
Psychologists and researchers have said that these symptoms in people who haven’t taken hallucinogenic drugs would be symptoms of mental health disorders. People with co-occurring conditions are likelier to have an intense or bad trip.
DMT: The Spirit Molecule
DMT’s nickname of “the spirit molecule” comes from the common theme of mind-expanding and conscious-altering experiences reported across centuries. Different tribes and cultures have used DMT in healing, religious, and coming-of-age ceremonies for centuries throughout South America. Shamans and healers would create potions or teas for participants to drink as part of ceremonies or rites of passage that could include guided meditation, other sensory experiences, or anything related to achieving a higher state of being.
More recently, chemists could isolate and reproduce DMT in clinical settings. Studies have discovered that the pineal gland in the brain produces a chemical very similar to DMT, which researchers believe to be responsible for the feelings people recount after near-death experiences.
Despite its illegal status in the United States, many people continue to seek out DMT for recreational and spiritual use. Recently there has been renewed interest in exploring DMT for therapeutic purposes; however, there are currently no approved trials underway in America.
DMT Side Effects
DMT side effects depend on a person’s physical makeup, mental health status, how much DMT they ingest, and how they consume it.
DMT produces hallucinogenic effects by interacting with chemical receptors in the brain, specifically serotonin receptors. Seratonin is responsible for mood regulation and several vital biological functions, meaning that DMT has physical side effects as well as psychological ones.
Besides the intended psychedelic effects, DMT side effects include:
- Increased heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Chest pain
- Extreme anxiety
- Feelings of panic or fear
- Feeling frozen or unable to move
- Rapid, involuntary eye movements
- Shortness of breath
- Hyperthermia or dangerously high body temperature
- Worsening mental health conditions
- Violent hallucinations
- Urges to self-harm
- Lack of coordination
- Loss of consciousness
Although it is rare, DMT can lead to serotonin syndrome, which can be fatal. Serotonin syndrome occurs when the body builds up high serotonin levels and can’t regulate breathing, temperature, heartbeat, and cognitive function. People taking antidepressants are especially at risk for serotonin syndrome.
Call 911 immediately if someone is experiencing dangerous side effects or becomes a risk to themselves or others. If you plan on taking DMT but are on other medications, it is best to seek medical advice beforehand.
Is DMT Dangerous?
DMT is not dangerous in the way other drugs like opioids and amphetamines are; however, even small doses of DMT can be hazardous for different reasons.
The primary danger of DMT use is how it causes people to act when they experience powerful hallucinations, especially people having a bad DMT trip.
As previously mentioned, DMT causes feelings of invincibility and altered perceptions of reality, which can cause people to put themselves and others in danger. Moreover, the physical effects of DMT can go unnoticed and escalate to a dangerous point while users focus on the psychological experience.
Many recreational and spiritual DMT users frequently appoint a person to stay sober and essentially act as a lifeguard to monitor their safety and physical health.
DMT Long-Term Effects
Psychadelic drugs like DMT can cause long-term effects and changes with even one use; repeated use and high doses increase the risk of long-term mental and physical effects.
Long-term effects of DMT include:
- Persistent paranoia
- Mood disorders
- Heart conditions
- Vivid and disturbing flashbacks
- Intrusive thoughts
- Seizure disorders
- Non-linear thinking
- Restless leg syndrome
- Nerve damage
Some side effects will resolve with medical advice and proper treatment; others may become life-long conditions that require ongoing care.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that some users will develop persistent psychosis and hallucinogenic persisting perception disorder (HPPD), which involves ongoing visual disturbances and hallucinations and symptoms similar to strokes and brain tumors. There is currently no cure for HPPD; however, antidepressants and continuous therapy can help alleviate the symptoms.
The pleasurable effects of DMT lead people to abuse it, quickly becoming a substance use disorder. While some people are only psychologically dependent on DMT, its effects on serotonin receptors and production can also cause physical addiction.
At Northridge Addiction Treatment Center, we offer support and treatment for DMT addiction. We aim to address your specific needs and empower you with the knowledge and skills to live free from substance abuse.
Our comfortable and private residential treatment center is in the heart of Los Angeles’ San Fernando valley, surrounded by stunning mountains, scenic beaches, and calm to help you relax and focus on your healing journey.
NATC’s compassionate and experienced staff works with you to tailor a personalized, comprehensive treatment plan to provide effective care through our evidence-based treatment programs.
Call us now to discuss any questions or concerns with one of our treatment specialists. We’re eager to help start you on your path to recovery.
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