Many are wondering about the origins of DMT. To say that the classification of DMT as a controlled substance has held back the scientific community from producing quality research and solutions is an understatement.
And while DMT still retains its illegal status in many places and is still classified by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, clinical research is now allowed.
In fact, DMT, along with other psychotropic substances like magic mushrooms, ketamine, and LSD, is currently being studied for its potential benefits for people with mental health disorders.
What Is DMT?
DMT or N, N-Dimethyltryptamine is a psychoactive molecule found in some plants, mammals, and even humans.
Also known as Dmitri, Spirit Molecule, businessman’s trip, and Fantasia, DMT has generated interest in the scientific community for its potential as a treatment for mental health disorders.
DMT has been used in various civilizations, most notably in South America, for religious and recreational purposes. Typically, it is consumed as a drink known as ayahuasca.
Chemically, DMT is classified as a tryptamine derivative and an indole alkaloid. This makes the substance similar to the human neurotransmitter called serotonin or 5-HT, as well as other psychedelic compounds like the psilocybin found in magic mushrooms.
Scientists have identified over 50 species of plants and animals that have DMT. It naturally occurs in over 50 plants, three mammals, including people, and one coral species. DMT can also be found in the human brain and is widely believed to cause near-death experiences.
Read More: How is DMT Made?
DMT and Ayahuasca
DMT can be found in a brew used for recreation and ritualistic purposes in communities in South America, where it is referred to as plant spirit.
It is estimated that around 75 indigenous tribes near the Amazon drink ayahuasca.
Take note that DMT and ayahuasca are two different things. DMT can be consumed on its own with no other ingredients. Ayahuasca, on the other hand, contains a variety of ingredients, including DMT-containing plants.
Of the two, DMT is the more potent substance. It is also widely believed that some of the ingredients of ayahuasca temper the potency of DMT.
When ingested orally, DMT degrades due to the presence of the enzyme known as monoamine oxidase in the stomach and liver.
Although DMT is not orally active, the presence of a monoamine oxidase inhibitor or MAOI in the other ingredients used for brewing ayahuasca causes the degradation of DMT to cancel out. In turn, this allows DMT users to get the psychedelic effects of DMT in ayahuasca.
Ayahuasca’s Physical and Psychological Effects
It usually takes around 30 minutes to an hour to feel the physical and psychedelic effects of ayahuasca. An ayahuasca trip can last anywhere between four to six hours.
Upon ingesting the brew, it is normal to vomit and feel the symptoms of diarrhea. Along with these symptoms, you might also feel an increase in your heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature. Some report feeling chest pain, dizziness, and agitation.
Aside from these physical effects, you can also expect hallucinations, euphoria, and altered perception of yourself and your immediate environment.
How This Hallucinogenic Tryptamine Drug Is Produced
Where does DMT come from?
Traditionally, the substance comes from DMT-containing plants brewed together with other plants to create ayahuasca. Among the most popular DMT-containing plants are jurema, chacruna, and acacia.
But aside from concocting ayahuasca, DMT can be extracted in a laboratory to create synthetic DMT.
In its isolated form, DMT comes in powdered form. And aside from drinking ayahuasca, you can consume the substance in various ways.
Recreational users typically enjoy smoking DMT. It can also be vaped when added to an e-juice or smoked in a pipe or bong.
Some people add DMT to herbs like parsley and caapi vine. This joint is called changa.
DMT and Other Psychedelic Drugs
How does the hallucinogenic tryptamine drug compare to other psychedelic drugs?
Like other psychoactive drugs like magic mushrooms, ketamine, and LSD, DMT binds to the brain’s 5HT2A serotonin receptors. Upon binding, these substances alter the brain’s circuits responsible for a person’s thoughts and sensory perception.
This is why ingesting DMT and other psychedelic compounds have been associated with ego death, hallucinations, and an altered state of consciousness.
But how does DMT compare to other psychedelic compounds?
DMT vs. magic mushrooms
DMT is similar to magic mushrooms in a variety of ways.
For starters, DMT and psilocybin come from the tryptamine family. Second, they share similarities in terms of chemical structure. And finally, both have been used by indigenous communities for ritualistic purposes.
However, a magic mushroom trip can last longer than a DMT trip. Additionally, you can consume magic mushrooms orally without an enzyme inhibitor.
DMT vs. LSD
Unlike other psychedelics, lysergic acid diethylamide or LSD, is a synthetic substance. But when it’s consumed, its actions are similar to other psychedelic compounds found in plants.
A typical LSD trip can last anywhere between 12 to 20 hours.
Unlike DMT, the psychedelic effects of LSD aren’t hallucinogenic. Instead, an LSD trip boosts your mood, sharpens your senses, and distorts your perception.
DMT vs. peyote
Like DMT, peyote is plant-derived and has been used for religious purposes.
You can find this cactus in Mexico and parts of the United States.
Typically, peyote is consumed by drinking tea or chewed by itself. Mescaline is the psychoactive compound in peyote.
A peyote trip lasts 10 to 12 hours, while its psychedelic effects are closer to LSDs.
A Quick Glimpse at the Historical Origins of DMT
Like other psychedelics, hallucinogenic tryptamine drugs have a long, storied history. Here’s a quick look at DMT through the years.
Although the German chemist Richard Manske successfully created synthetic DMT in 1931, it was only 15 years later that Oswaldo Gonçalves de Lima discovered endogenous DMT. De Lima extracted DMT from the bark of Mimosa tenuiflora. He called his discovery nigerine.
It took another nine years for endogenous DMT to be formally named and documented by American chemists trying to create pure MDT.
The Hungarian psychiatrist and chemist Stephen Szara is credited for discovering the psychedelic effects of the substance when he injected DMT into himself.
Initial DMT research on humans
Following Szara’s research, many other scientists followed suit, keen on confirming whether DMT and other psychedelics had potential therapeutic uses on humans.
Most notable were the works of Szara and Boszormenyi, who gave patients with schizophrenia DMT. The two wanted to evaluate whether the substance could treat psychoses.
During this period, scientists believed that DMT and other psychedelic compounds could be used to treat mental health disorders.
UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances
Psychedelic research took a major step backwards following the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, followed by the signing of the United Nations treaty in 1971.
The underlying goal of the two was to control the use and distribution of psychedelic compounds like DMT.
Clinical research on these substances was restricted by classifying DMT and other psychedelic drugs as Schedule 1 controlled substances.
Although there were exemptions, the treaty and convention had lasting and negative effects on DMT research.
Today, the Drug Enforcement Administration permits psychedelic research. However, you will still need approval from state and federal authorities.
New research on DMT
Rick Strassman, psychiatrist and author of the book “DMT: The Spirit Molecule,” is recognized for starting the new wave of clinical research on DMT and other psychedelics decades after the ban on these substances.
Strassman secured federal approval in 1994 to study the effects of different DMT concentrations on humans.
The doctor was given approval for his clinical research due to a few reasons.
There is a prevailing theory that psychosis can be treated using DMT, acting as an endogenous toxin. However, this theory was later proven to be wrong.
DMT was an ideal subject for research because, during that time, it was relatively unknown outside psychedelic communities, unlike other psychoactive drugs like LSD and magic mushrooms. Additionally, test subjects were unfamiliar with the substance, making them less likely to expect its hallucinogenic effects.
Finally, the DMT experience lasts shorter compared to other substances. For authorities, this meant that chances for several health risks were minimal.
Treating Depression with DMT
Today, scientists and pharmaceutical companies are looking into the potential uses of DMT in treating mental health disorders like depression.
Despite the variety of treatments available to people with mental health conditions, like antidepressants and talk therapy, depression remains one of the toughest health challenges in the world.
Unfortunately, some of the available treatments do not work for some patients. If they work on a patient, it can take substantial time before noticeable results are seen. It is also fairly common for the symptoms to relapse, while the side effects of some treatments may be uncomfortable.
Why use DMT for depression?
There are a variety of reasons why scientists are optimistic about the potential of using N-dimethyltryptamine for treating depression despite its status as a controlled substance.
Current studies suggest that DMT can reset the brain. A rat brain study shows that DMT provided positive effects on rodent subjects that participated in a forced swim test.
Clinical research also revealed that DMT provided cognitive benefits like improved memory and spatial learning.
The future of DMT-assisted therapy
Although there is optimism that DMT-assisted therapy will become widely available, like S-ketamine, the road ahead is long.
There are a few kinks that need to be ironed out before these dreams come to fruition. These include DMT concentration, method of administration, and the number of therapy sessions required for optimal results.
Potential health risks
Although the potential benefits of DMT for therapeutic use are substantial, several health risks are involved.
DMT is known to raise the heart rate and blood pressure in DMT users. It is also possible for users to suffer confusion, seizures, and loss of coordination. There have been reports of coma and respiratory arrest in some DMT users.
Other health risks include hallucinogen-persisting perception disorder and serotonin syndrome disorder.
Fortunately, most of these risks can be prevented with proper harm-reduction strategies, especially in a clinical research setting.
DMT: weighing the benefits against the risks
After rigorous clinical research, scientists hope that DMT will gain legitimacy as a treatment for different mental health issues.
DMT offers a few advantages over other psychotropic substances as a form of treatment.
For one, the psychedelic is shorter compared to other substances. Typically, a DMT trip lasts between five to 30 minutes.
DMT-assisted therapy sessions don’t last long. This means that there is a potential to treat many patients daily.
Current data suggests that DMT produces long-lasting effects with fewer doses than other antidepressants. Furthermore, results can be seen in a short amount of time.
Finally, DMT-assisted therapy focuses on the root cause of mental health conditions instead of just relieving the symptoms.
The actual length of time the substance remains in your system will depend on a few factors, including method of consumption and body mass index.
For example, vaporized DMT can produce effects in just a few seconds, with effects lasting between 30 to 45 minutes.
With injections, the effects can set in anywhere between two to five minutes, with effects lasting from half an hour to an hour.
The bigger concern with DMT is serotonin syndrome which happens due to the negative interaction of the substance with other psychotropic substances.