Is DMT Addictive?
Though studies suggest that DMT is not physically addictive like other drugs, that doesn’t mean it is without risks and dangers, including psychological addiction.
Sometimes called the spirit molecule, some cultures in South America have incorporated DMT into spiritual rituals for most of their history. Recently it has been gaining popularity in the United States among people searching for enlightenment or a higher state of consciousness, despite being illegal.
Part of the resurgence of interest in DMT is due to wellness culture and people promoting retreats to South America to take DMT and explore their inner consciousness. Some people experiment with DMT as a way to self-medicate or escape reality.
DMT is not a magic drug or substitute for therapy but a hallucinogenic drug that can cause severe mental and physical reactions.
What Is DMT?
DMT is a psychedelic drug that naturally occurs in plants and animals. Chemically known as N, N-dimethyltryptamine, it is also possible, but difficult, to create DMT in a laboratory.
DMT causes psychedelic experiences, like other hallucinogenic drugs, including visual and auditory hallucinations. However, humans metabolize DMT quickly, causing the drug effects to only last between 30-40 minutes. Despite being short-lived, DMT causes an intense trip that many people compare to a near-death experience.
Tests have revealed varying levels of DMT in humans, with many scientists believing it originates in the pineal gland. The pineal gland plays a role in releasing melatonin and regulating the circadian rhythm, or sleep cycle. Many believe that when a person is near death, the brain releases DMT to soothe the brain and body in its last moment. This unproven theory continues to play a role in people believing that large amounts of DMT can mimic a near-death experience and lead to enlightenment.
Typically DMT is a white or off-white crystalline powder or brown, dried plant material that people smoke, snort, or brew into a tea. Injecting DMT is possible but rare. Orally taking DMT delays the onset of the effects and cause vomiting and diarrhea. The majority of people who use DMT prefer to smoke it.
In the United States, DMT is a Schedule I controlled substance. It has a high potential for abuse, no recognized medical uses, and is illegal to buy, sell, or distribute.
DMT Street Names
DMT is already an abbreviation for the chemical compound N-dimethyltryptamine, but people use other slang terms or street names to talk about it.
DMT street names include:
- The spirit molecule
- Businessman’s trip
- 45-minute psychosis
Despite its increasing popularity, the average drug dealer cannot easily get DMT and will probably not know what you are talking about if you use any of these slang terms without context.
While many people use DMT and ayahuasca interchangeably, they are different.
Ayahuasca contains DMT and additional chemical compounds. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and first-hand accounts, people who drink ayahuasca “purge” before the effects kick in. Essentially, people experience vomiting and diarrhea after drinking the tea before the desired side effects kick in.
Vomiting and diarrhea are unpleasant but also cause an increased risk of dehydration, which causes strain on the body and can lead to more severe complications if left untreated. However, many people who drink ayahuasca insist that the purging allows their system to be empty so they can feel the drug effects more intensely.
The effects of ayahuasca last longer than the effects of snorting or smoking DMT.
Dangers and Effects of DMT
Many people who use DMT are unaware of the full scope of the possible dangers and effects of DMT. Naturally occurring doesn’t mean something is inherently safe to ingest.
DMT causes its effects by interacting with serotonin receptors in the brain and body, causing physical and psychological effects. The immediate physical reaction to DMT can be dangerous, as can the mental effects, which can cause users to act impulsively and dangerously and put themselves at risk.
People struggling with mental health disorders, or co-occurring disorders, are likelier to have intense, bad trips with lasting psychological effects. People with pre-existing physical conditions like high blood pressure and heart conditions face additional health risks from using DMT, especially in higher doses.
For people who snort or smoke DMT, the short-term effects last 30-45 minutes. For people who drink brews containing DMT, like ayahuasca, the results take longer to kick in but last between 4 to 6 hours.
Short-term effects of DMT include:
- Dizziness and vertigo
- Altered sense of time
- Depersonalization, or feeling detached from your physical body
- Derealization or believing things and people around you are not real
- Visual and auditory hallucinations
- Chest tightness or pain
- Increased heart rate
- Rapid or rhythmic eye movement
- High blood pressure
- Dry mouth
- Lack of coordination
- Intrusive or unwanted and disturbing thoughts
- Overwhelming emotions
There is limited research on the long-term effects of DMT; however, there are some known long-term effects based on research on similar hallucinogenic drugs and interviews with chronic DMT users.
Long-term effects of DMT include:
- Disorganized thinking
- Reduced attention span
- DMT cravings
- Mood disorders
- Heart damage
- Chronic migraines
Serotonin Syndrome is a dangerous and sometimes fatal condition that occurs when there is too much serotonin for the body to process. Excess serotonin can accumulate over time or happen quickly when a combination of drugs or an extremely high dose of one enters the system.
DMT causes serotonin to release, so taking large amounts of DMT or using DMT while on certain antidepressants can trigger serotonin syndrome.
Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include:
- Tremors or involuntary twitching
- Extreme confusion
- Dilated pupils
- Stiff or rigid muscles
- Respiratory arrest
- Excessive sweating
- Hyperthermia, or dangerously high body temperature
Symptoms of serotonin syndrome can be similar to other side effects of DMT, so it is essential to know the risks of using DMT and what to look out for before taking it.
The constant urge to escape reality can lead DMT users to seek out and experiment with other psychedelic drugs or begin mixing substances. Combining drugs or taking multiple ones within a short time of each other is called polysubstance abuse, which has additional risks and dangers.
Always call 911 or get to the nearest emergency department if a side effect is life-threatening or someone is becoming a danger to themselves and others.
Every batch of DMT and every trip will be different; people who use DMT should always have a plan in case of a bad trip or health emergency. Many users will appoint a sober chaperone or guide to monitor users for signs of a problem.
If you are experiencing persistent side effects that you believe are from DMT, you must be honest with your care team about past drug use and your symptoms so they can treat you properly.
DMT Abuse and Addiction
DMT abuse and addiction are unique and complicated because they don’t have the same side effects and symptoms as traditional substance abuse. Studies suggest that DMT doesn’t cause physical addiction or dependence on the drug but causes psychological addiction and cravings.
Most people do not take DMT recreationally; instead, they see it as a profoundly personal experience. Many people become isolated and preoccupied with using DMT and take higher doses to try to experience more intense trips. Frequent and high amounts of DMT increase the risk of mental and physical health complications.
The most effective treatment options for people struggling with DMT use are individualized plans that use evidence-based treatments to address the psychological addiction and behavioral changes caused by DMT abuse. Residential treatment programs tend to be the most beneficial, as they remove people from their routines and foster accountability and healthy coping skills in a new environment with constant support.
Treatment for DMT Addiction at White Oak Recovery Center
If you or a loved one are struggling with DMT addiction, evidence-based, compassionate help is available.
At White Oak Recovery Center, we recognize and understand the curiosity surrounding the human condition and how that quest can quickly lead to DMT abuse and addiction. During your stay in our residential treatment center, we help you channel your drive for self-improvement and growth into healthy, productive outlets and skills.
We develop a personalized treatment plan for your needs and goals and use the most up-to-date scientifically-backed therapies to uncover the roots of your addiction and ways to move past them. We give you the confidence, abilities, and power to face your future with a clear, focused mind and the chance to thrive in recovery.
The WORC team is eager to help you begin a life rooted in recovery. Contact us now to talk to our treatment specialists.