N-N-dimethyltryptamine, also known as DMT, is a powerful psychedelic drug that has traditionally been used by Amazonian tribes, but its use recreationally in the United States is on the rise. Dimethyltryptamine is found in a wide variety of plants and is also a natural chemical found in most animals. Only when it is taken in excess, to increase its concentration to higher than normal in the body, does it have a psychedelic effect.
The effects of taking DMT are similar to that of hallucinogenic drugs like LSD. It causes intense visual hallucinations. Some people have described a DMT drug trip as similar to a near-death experience where they feel like they are leaving their body and experiencing an alternate universe. Some people also report seeing or communicating with a ‘presence’ or entity that isn’t really there.
These experiences can cause a sense of euphoria that people want to experience more than once. Due to the high potential for abuse and lack of medical use, DMT is considered a Schedule I controlled by the DEA and its use is illegal in the United States. Despite this, it is legal for use by some religious and spiritual groups. Though it is not considered as dangerous as some of the other Schedule I drugs, it can still cause an overdose if too much is consumed.
What Makes Taking DMT Risky?
DMT is a powerful psychedelic that can cause a wide variety of dose-specific effects. In low doses, the drug can lift your mood and potentially ease your anxiety. In high doses, users report feeling an altered state of consciousness, traveling to other places, and encountering powerful beings. The psychedelic experience not only depends on the dose but it also depends on the person taking DMT and their surroundings. This is a principle known among psychedelics users called “set and setting.” A person’s mindset and surrounding can play a role in the drug’s subjective effects.
Some of these variables can produce a bad trip that can leave lasting psychological consequences. DMT users often report witnessing entities while on a trip, which includes elves, spirits, dwarfs, reptiles, or unseen presences.
During a bad trip, these entities can seem antagonistic or threatening. Other users have reported near-death-experiences or being attacked. Users that experience adverse psychological effects can feel anxiety, confusion, paranoia, and psychosis. And again, some of Strassman’s volunteers reported feeling like something terrifying had happened but weren’t able to recall what it was.
Here are some of the risk factors for experiencing a bad DMT trip:
- Taking the drug when you’re highly stressed or anxious. Negative emotions can influence the effects of a DMT trip, just like going to sleep stressed can cause unpleasant dreams.
- Taking the drug in a loud, uncomfortable, or disruptive location. Psychedelics like DMT make bad party drugs because loud music, flashing lights, and other disruptive sights and sounds can cause an unpleasant psychedelic experience.
- Taking DMT with pre-existing mental health problems. Certain mental health issues like dissociative disorders or psychotic disorders like schizophrenia can be exasperated by psychedelic drugs.
The negative psychological side effects of using DMT are typically temporary and wear off as your body processes the DMT, and its effects dissipate. However, people who have pre-existing psychological disorders or may be prone to mental health issues like schizophrenia may be at risk for long-term consequences.
Can You Overdose On DMT?
Overdoses are caused by a person taking too much of a drug, to the point that it is toxic. Since it is only used recreationally, there is not a specified DMT dosage. When determining how much DMT to take, people will adjust based on the route of administration they are using. As stated, DMT taken orally will not have an effect since it is broken down quickly. To be taken orally, it needs to be mixed with a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI), which will inhibit its rapid degradation. To get around this, DMT is sometimes smoked or injected. When taken this way, it can have rapid effects (within seconds to minutes) and only lasts for 15-16 minutes.
When taken with a MOAI the effects take longer to kick in (up to 60 minutes) but last for up to four hours.
With other types of drugs, this inconsistency in dosing could lead to an overdose, where the person takes too much and it has detrimental health effects. However, DMT is generally well tolerated, with only a few reports of it having acute cardiovascular effects. So far research on DMT has not found any long-term health risks associated with DMT use. Most literature on DMT agrees that there is not enough evidence to suggest that it is toxic, even in high amounts.
DMT Overdose Symptoms
Though DMT is generally well tolerated, there are side effects that can occur from using the drug. When taken with other substances to inhibit its rapid degradation, such as an MAOI, it may be difficult to determine if the side effects are from DMT or the other substance. Nevertheless, aside from the psychedelic effects, the DMT drug side effects include:
An overdose occurs when someone takes too much of a drug and it essentially shuts down the body’s normal functions. This occurs at different doses with different types of drugs, depending on how potent the drug is affecting these normal bodily functions. DMT doesn’t often cause this type of reaction since the chemical doesn’t appear to affect normal bodily functions as much as some other hallucinogens. Instead, overdosing on DMT can lead to psychological effects, when the person has a negative experience with the hallucinations. This is sometimes referred to as a bad DMT trip. However, while it is not common, DMT drug overdose has been fatal in very rare cases.
DMT Overdose Treatment
Since DMT use is not generally considered toxic, there is not a standard treatment for a DMT overdose treatment, as there are for other types of illicit drugs. The effects of the DMT drug are primarily psychological and a person may need to get help after experiencing a bad DMT trip. Most overdoses occur as a result of developing tolerance to a drug, causing the person to take more and more of the drug until it becomes toxic to them. DMT does not cause tolerance and therefore people generally do not have to change or increase the dosage to get the same effect, making the risk of overdosing low.
Most people who take DMT will not become physically dependent on it, but it can occur with other drugs, however, it is possible to become addicted to the psychedelic effects that it has. If a person is using DMT continually for these effects, to the point where it is interfering with their everyday life, they may need DMT addiction treatment.