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DMT Abuse, Addiction, And Treatment Options

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

May 30, 2019

DMT is a powerful substance that causes visual and auditory hallucinations. People who use DMT recreationally can become addicted to the drug’s psychological effects. Some people require formal addiction treatment to stop using hallucinogens.

DMT is a tryptamine hallucinogen that causes people to hear, see, and feel things that are not there. People use DMT for its hallucinogenic effects, and often call the experience “tripping.” Many Native American cultures also use this drug for religious purposes.

DMT may not be as common as hallucinogens like LSD or mushrooms, but people continue to abuse this drug for its intense yet short-lived high. DMT became popular in the U.S. in the 1960s, and this substance is considered illegal in the U.S.

Research has found that unlike other hallucinogens, DMT does not create a tolerance. Drugs like LSD or mushrooms may require increased amounts in order to elicit the same effects. Because DMT does not create a tolerance, people may not get physically addicted to this substance in the same way as other hallucinogens.

That said, people can become addicted to the psychological effects of DMT. People who are dependent on the effects of hallucinogens may need medical help to stop taking these drugs. In an addiction treatment center, patients detoxify from the drugs and engage in recovery therapies.

What Is DMT?

DMT stands for dimethyltryptamine. This drug is a hallucinogenic tryptamine that is found in many plants and animals. DMT interacts with serotonin receptors in the brain and causes people to experience intense visual and auditory distortions (hallucinations).

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While some Native Americans use DMT for religious purposes, other people may try DMT for its hallucinogenic effects. Interestingly, researchers have found that the negative health risks associated with DMT may not affect those who use the drug solely for religious purposes.

DMT is a white powder that is most often found in plants throughout Mexico, South American, and Asia. On the street, people may refer to this hallucinogen in several different ways.

DMT street names include:

  • dmitri
  • fantasia
  • 45-minute psychosis
  • businessman’s trip
  • businessman’s special

How Is DMT Used?

DMT is found in many Amazonian plants, but can also be made in a lab. If a person is using synthetic DMT, they may snort, smoke, or inject the crystalline powder for a quicker high.

Many people are familiar with the hours-long hallucinations that are caused by drugs like LSD. People who want to experience the mind-altering high for a shorter length of time may choose to snort, smoke, or inject DMT. Effects are felt immediately and resolve within about 45 minutes.

If the drug is taken alone, swallowing the powder does not result in hallucinogenic effects. This is due to the way the body metabolizes DMT. However, if a person dissolves the drug into a tea, the other ingredients in the brew allow the psychoactive effects to occur.

When a person consumes DMT in a tea, it usually takes about 45 minutes to feel the psychoactive effects. The drug’s effects peak around hour two, and the high diminishes after about five hours. When DMT is in tea form, it may be called street names like hoasca, aya, or yagé.

DMT Experience And Side Effects

If DMT is smoked, snorted, or injected, effects begin immediately. When this drug is taken orally (in a tea), the effects are felt within 30-45 minutes. The intense psychoactive effects of DMT can result in different types of hallucinations, including seeing or hearing things that are not there.

While on DMT, some people report depersonalization, which means losing a sense of self or personal identity. Others share experiences of encountering other worlds and interacting with aliens. Time and body image may also be altered. Many people report spiritual experiences or perceived visits to other dimensions.

A number of personal factors can influence whether a person has a positive or negative experience with hallucinogens. A DMT high may leave people feeling various emotions, ranging from excited to afraid. Overwhelmingly negative hallucinogenic experiences are known as having a “bad trip.”

Bad trips can happen with the use of any hallucinogen. For some people, the negative psychological impacts stop once the drug has worn off. For others, the effects of drugs like DMT last long after the high has concluded.

DMT can also have a physical impact on the body, causing side effects that include:

  • increased heart rate
  • agitation
  • loss of appetite
  • dizziness
  • dilated pupils
  • dry mouth
  • sweating
  • rhythmic, rapid eye movement
  • loss of muscle control
  • difficulty breathing
  • seizure
  • coma

Can You Get Addicted To DMT?

There has not been enough research to determine DMT’s potential for abuse and addiction, as the drug is not considered to be physically addictive. However, DMT is one of the most potent hallucinogens — and people can become addicted to the effects of hallucinogenic drugs.

Substances like LSD and mushrooms are known to result in tolerance. This means that over time, people who use these drugs need higher doses in order to get the same effects. DMT does not share this quality, as this hallucinogen does not seem to result in tolerance.

Although DMT does not create a tolerance, people who take DMT recreationally are at risk for lasting psychological impacts. These include persistent psychosis, as well as Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD).

Sometimes referred to as “flashbacks,” these conditions can be psychologically disturbing. It’s important to note that the risk of these long-term health conditions is considerably lower among those who use DMT for religious purposes.

Treatment Options For DMT Abuse And Addiction

While hallucinogens may not cause drug-seeking behaviors or withdrawal symptoms, some people struggle with compulsive use. If you or someone you love wants to stop taking hallucinogens like DMT, an addiction treatment center can help.

People who suffer from mental health conditions like depression or bipolar disorder are especially at risk for the negative side effects of hallucinogens. There are currently no FDA-approved medications to treat hallucinogen addiction. However, there are several recovery therapies that can help those who want to stop taking DMT.

People who struggle with hallucinogen abuse may benefit from a dual diagnosis treatment program. In dual diagnosis treatment, a person’s substance use is treated alongside any co-occurring mental health conditions. This approach allows patients to receive holistic and highly personalized addiction treatment.

To learn more about DMT abuse, addiction, and treatment options, reach out to one of our specialists today.

U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration - N,N-DIMETHYLTRYPTAMINE (DMT)

National Institute on Drug Abuse - How Do Hallucinogens (LSD, Psilocybin, Peyote, DMT, and Ayahuasca) Affect the Brain and Body?, Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition), What are hallucinogens?

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