DMT Abuse

N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is not a popular drug of abuse, but it can be very dangerous. It is the major psychoactive ingredient in ayahuasca.

People often experiment with hallucinogens for spiritual experiences and not to get high. Drugs such as LSD and mushrooms are popular vehicles for said enlightenment, but some people may also use DMT, most commonly as ayahuasca, for this purpose.

DMT users believe that the hallucinations caused by the drug are part of a spiritual journey, not a drug-induced high. DMT is secreted naturally in various plants and animals, per Medical News Today.

DMT is listed as a Schedule I drug with potential for misuse, and its abuse has been documented. Specifications for safe use levels have not been set. Currently, scientists can only use it to conduct studies after obtaining a permit. 

DMT: An Overview

Ayahuasca, or DMT, is found in plants native to the Amazon, but the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says that synthetic forms of DMT can be created in labs. It is known in the streets as aya, yagé, and hoasca. Its synthetic form is known as Dimitri.

DMT is traditionally drunk as a tea for ceremonial purposes. It is possible to find it as a powder in parts of South America, Asia, and Mexico, and it can be consumed by smoking it in a pipe. In rare cases, users may choose to snort or inject this powder.

The history of its use in various ceremonies is extensive in places like South America. In November 2010, Matador Network explained that some tourists even travel to South America with the intent to try ayahuasca. Many Western tourists travel there out of a desire to experience a spiritual awakening by taking the substance.

Users of ayahuasca report vivid hallucinations that make them feel as if they are experiencing their death, talking to ancestors, and having other intense spiritual experiences.

DMT is also said to cause users to vomit after use, and its effects can last anywhere from two to six hours. Aftereffects are known to last up to eight hours after taking the drug.

It is best to avoid taking DMT if you suffer from depression or difficult life circumstances. Tourists who travel to South America to take ayahuasca may also incur other consequences, such as:

  • Paying for an ayahuasca experience with inexperienced practitioners,
  • Enduring different kinds of abuse while under the influence, including sexual abuse.
  • Ceremonies that are not properly managed.

DMT’s Effects

The following are the most commonly reported effects of DMT:

  • Changes in one’s perception of time and space
  • Euphoria
  • Auditory or visual hallucinations

DMT users report negative experiences, such as frightening hallucinations. The following side effects could occur:

  • Dizziness
  • A rise in heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Rapid eye movement
  • Dilated pupils

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It is hard to tell how a user will react to DMT. Some people may experience the type of spiritual awakening they are looking for. But hallucinogens can affect the brain in a variety of ways. You may have a terrifying hallucination and deal with its aftermath for days or weeks.

Signs of DMT Abuse

Ayahuasca is one of the least-used drugs in the United States today. Its use is associated with vivid hallucinations. The effects of these insights could be felt for weeks after DMT ingestion.

DMT can also cause psychological dependency. In October 2016, Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) revisited the current scheduling of DMT and maintained its restrictions for the following reasons:

  • Reports of DMT abuse that were similar to those of other hallucinogens, such as mescaline or peyote
  • Difficulty in measuring concentrations of DMT in low doses or teas

The TGA received a rebuttal from one citizen who said that scheduling DMT infringes on the right of religious freedoms. However, DMT was not deemed safe enough to legalize at that time.

Per NIDA’s research, the misuse potential for DMT is still being investigated. Other hallucinogens are known to lead to addiction. The following are a few signs of abuse:

  • Headaches
  • Cravings for the drug
  • Sweating
  • Symptoms of withdrawal

In a 2013 case study from the Journal of Psychopharmacology, DMT users were likely to use the drug again if they had smoked it previously. At the time, DMT seemed to be popular with people who were new users of the drug.

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) points out that DMT use is always risky, and no amount has been established as safe.

Taking very high doses of DMT can cause coma, respiratory issues, and even seizures.

Risks of Misuse

ADF says that it is possible for people to overdose on DMT. If you overdose on ayahuasca, you may experience the following:

  • Nausea
  • Psychosis
  • Taking increased risks
  • Panic
  • Anxiety

Combining DMT with alcohol or other drugs can also put you at risk of adverse reactions. You need to take precautions with DMT if you currently take medications.

Can Abuse Be Treated?

NIDA says that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved a way to help people who have become dependent on DMT.
The first step to getting healthy is to speak with your doctor about your ayahuasca use. You can then enroll in a substance abuse treatment program to address your issues with abuse of the drug.

What You Should Expect During Treatment

Ayahuasca drink next to a branch

Since DMT has not been studied as extensively as other drugs, you may receive treatment that has been proven effective for other substances. NIDA lists the following steps in drug addiction treatment:

  • Detoxification from drugs
  • Assessments to design a program that works according to individual needs
  • Therapy

Behavioral therapy can help you gain insights about your abuse of DMT and learn strategies that can help you stay away from drugs. Therapy can also help you identify things that trigger you to crave or use drugs.Group therapy will allow you to meet others who can relate to your experiences and provide a support network for you.

The aim of treatment for addiction and dependency is to help people stay away from drugs, contribute to society, and have positive relationships with others. Like other chronic medical conditions, addiction often results in relapse.

This does not mean that people have failed. Relapse shows that treatment needs to change in order to suit the person better. Per NIDA, all treatment programs need to be ready for relapse. Treatment will involve ongoing aftercare to ensure long-term success.