Author: Alex Thompson

DMT: Uses, Side Effects, and Risks

what does dmt do

Exogenous DMT formulations containing a reversible MAOI (such as ayahuasca) can result in blood levels up to 1.0 mg/ml or higher (Dos Santos, 2011). On average a 100 mL dose of ayahuasca contains about 24 mg of DMT (Callaway et al., 1996). Interestingly, DMT is itself a short-acting monoamine oxidase inhibitor at high doses (maximum effects at 50 mg/kg), and is selective for MAO-A (Reimann and Schneider, 1993, Smith et al., 1962; Waldmeier and Maitre, 1977). In these studies, DMT decreased serotonin and dopamine deamination in rat striatum concomitantly with rapid onset (15 min). Normalization occurred 2 hours later with an ED50 of 25 mg/kg for degradation of both serotonin and dopamine.

So what does this mean for you, a layperson who’s curious about DMT or possibly even curious about trying DMT? Here’s what we know for sure about this relatively mysterious, but definitely intense psychedelic. When Jonathan Bell first tried DMT, he was already well-acquainted with psychedelics—at 34, he had taken acid and used mushrooms on dozens of occasions. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies DMT as a Schedule 1 substance. This means it is illegal to buy, distribute, manufacture, or possess DMT in the United States. Medical News Today does not endorse using illegal substances, and we recognize abstaining from them is always the safest approach.

When used in religious ceremonies, plants and vines are boiled to create a tea-like drink of varying strengths. This information page will focus specifically on DMT rather than ayahuasca, for more information on ayahuasca please click here. Since DMT is illegal, there is limited research that shows any benefits.

Along these lines Frecska colleagues (2013) suggest that DMT may be protective during cardiac arrest, beneficial during perinatal development, immunoregulation, and aid in reducing cancer progression as explained below. Little investigation has occurred in reference to DMT’s effect on acetylcholine. DMT significantly decreases concentration of acetylcholine in corpus striatum, which may be due to a direct release of acetylcholine, thus reducing concentration of striatal acetylcholine (Haubrich and Wang, 1977). Generally, acetylcholine levels in brain are reduced when its rate of release or turnover are increased (Haubrich and Wang, 1977). It’s important to tell emergency responders what drugs were taken so they can choose the best treatment option.

The DMT Experience: How to Go About it, and What to Expect

DMT and the neurotransmitter serotonin share a structural relationship. “As a result, I was forced to ask for help — something I struggled with doing in my life, having developed hyper-independence as a trauma response. This experience was initially terrifying for me but ultimately became comforting as I eventually learned to feel safe asking for help and trusting that it would be there for me. “In the first weeklong retreat, I was effectively paralyzed from the neck down while the DMT was active in my system. During that time, I was fully cognitively functional, but I could not move my body at all. Some scientific studies speculate that DMT may contribute to neurodegenerative and neurorestorative processes.

Griffiths said that DMT, like other psychedelics, doesn’t appear to be toxic to the brain or body. And then there’s the fact that DMT has been found to occur naturally in the human brain. No one can say with certainty what it’s doing there, but some researchers have speculated that it may underlie some of neuroscience’s more inexplicable phenomena—including some aspects of near-death experiences.

what does dmt do

Jacob and Presti (2005), and others have suggested that the effects of endogenous DMT are mediated via sigma receptor roles (see review by Grammenos and Barker, 2015 or refer to section in this review). When given to human subjects, DMT produces complex visual and auditory hallucinations and increases cortisol levels (Strassman 1994; 1996), which supports its possible role as a possible mediator of schizophrenia. As previously mentioned, DMT interacts with a variety of ionotropic and metabotropic receptors. The subjective effects of large doses of exogenous DMT are most likely mediated primarily by 5-HT2A receptors, with 5-HT2C receptors playing little or no role. MGlu2/3 receptors have significant modulatory effects, and the interaction of serotonergic and glutaminergic receptors may play a central role. DMT does not have direct effects on DA receptors, but indirectly alters the levels of dopamine, with resulting neurochemical and behavioral effects.

Everything you need to know about DMT

But several street drugs including DMT are often laced or mixed in with other dangerous substances such as fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, or morphine. People who sell them often lace DMT with additional substances as they can produce a stronger trip. Small studies suggest that it is unlikely to lead to a substance use disorder, but people may develop a tolerance, leading to increased consumption in the future. DMT is a powerful substance that can cause several mental and physical effects. Practitioners traditionally prepare ayahuasca using two plants called Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis. The latter contains DMT while the former contains MAOIs, which prevent certain enzymes in your body from breaking down DMT.

  1. DMT binds to the 5-HT2A receptor with relative high affinity IC50 75 +/- 1 nM (McKenna 1990), yet other psychedelics that lack visual effects have a higher affinity for the 5-HT2A receptor (5-MeO-DMT; 14+/- 1 nM; McKenna et al., 1990).
  2. Only a small fraction of DMT made intracellularly is actually released into the blood.
  3. A progressive decrease in heart rate was observed over the four doses, but not in blood pressure (Strassman, et al., 1996).
  4. These high concentrations are similar to those observed in the synapse when endogenous DMT is released (review, Wallach, 2009).
  5. Anecdotally, many users report taking the drug to attain spiritual insight.

Street drugs mostly contain powdered DMT, whereas ayahuasca also contains harmine-related compounds, which limit toxic effects (Lanaro et al., 2015). However, aside from the acute cardiovascular effects there have been no consistent reports of toxic effects of long-term use of DMT in the literature. In fact, there has been a report that DMT is neuroprotective (Frecska, 2008). Without more data on the recreational use of this class of compounds, it is not possible to conclude whether the synthetic hallucinogens are indeed more toxic or whether the social context may contribute to the effects. Synthetic DMT can be made in a lab, but users usually encounter the drug in the form of a powdery white salt that has been extracted from the bark of tropical trees or other plant sources. As with other drugs, dosage can vary depending on the user and the particular extraction.

How to Set an Intention for Your Drug Trip

It then declines to mature levels and remains constant through life (Lin et al., 1974). If INMT levels are paralleled with increased DMT synthesis, it could be possible that DMT-mediated sigma-1 receptor activity induces neuronal plasticity changes that can be expected for newborns. Selective sigma-1 receptor agonists have shown to be protective against excitotoxic perinatal brain injury (Griesmaier et al., 2012) and ischemic neurodegeneration in neonatal striatum (Yang et al., 2012). Expression of INMT seems to be important for pregnancy success (Nuno-Ayala et al., 2012).

It has been suggested that the heteroreceptors induce a psychedelic-specific second messenger cascade (Gonzalez-Maeso et al., 2007; 2008), although this has not been definitively established (Delille et al., 2012). The putative roles of DMT will be explored in more detail in subsequent sections of this review. The review will begin by addressing the basic mechanisms of action of DMT, both pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic. It will then examine evidence regarding the neuropharmacological effects of DMT, from both behavioral studies of the exogenous effects of DMT, and from molecular studies of sites of action of endogenous DMT. Next, the review will turn to the use of DMT both as a model for various disorders and the use of DMT to treat some of these disorders.

1. Schizophrenia

This means the body makes DMT, likely in the pineal gland of the brain. The chemical root structure of DMT is similar to the anti-migraine drug sumatriptan, and it acts as a non-selective agonist at most or all of the serotonin receptors, particularly at the serotonin 5-HT2a receptor. DMT may be an agent of significant adaptive mechanisms that can also serve as a promising tool in the development of future medical therapies (Frecska et al., 2013). There have been proposals that DMT might be a useful treatment of anxiety, substance abuse, inflammation, or for cancer.

Feelings of anxiety and discomfort aren’t uncommon if you’re not properly prepared before you set out on your journey. But, by following a few best practices, you can do a lot to ensure you get the best DMT experience possible. Clinical studies have not generally tested its interactions with other drugs. Despite its illegal status, people sometimes use DMT in religious ceremonies and various settings for an “awakening” or to obtain deep spiritual insight. Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow, or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.