N, N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is a hallucinogen that is mostly found in plants but also can be synthesized in a laboratory. For hundreds of years it has been extracted from plants and used in religious rituals and practices, and today it is used for both spiritual ceremonies and recreationally. This drug is illegal in the United States and has no approved medical use. When it is not consumed in a brew (Ayahuasca), it is usually vaporized or smoked in a pipe as a white or yellow crystalline powder. Research on DMT withdrawal and detox has demonstrated that the addictive properties for this drug are low are there are no typical withdrawal signs that are present when the consumption of DMT is stopped. However, it is possible to develop a behavioral addiction as well as experience unpredictable adverse reactions.
One of the appeals of DMT to some users is that the effects of the drug are short lived and will most likely be completely gone after an hour. When someone smokes DMT, they will feel the effects almost immediately, and will experience intense effects within 5 to 10 minutes. The psychoactive effects users experience may include visual hallucinations, an altered perception of time, auditory distortions, and depersonalization, or a feeling of being outside of one’s body. Depending on the person and the dose taken, an average DMT trip should last about 30 minutes. This has earned it the street name of ‘Businessman’s Special’, referring to the fact that someone could trip from DMT on their lunch break and be back to work without continuing to experience effects.
The majority of the distribution of DMT in the United States is from internet sales. While DMT can be extracted from certain plants, the process is difficult for the average person, leading most to purchase DMT in its crystalline powder form online. Because DMT is classified as a schedule I drug, it can be dangerous to purchase it online, as illicit drugs are unregulated and there is no guarantee that the drug is pure. There have been reports of people experiencing adverse effects after consuming DMT, with cardiac and respiratory arrest occurring at high doses.
Hallucinogen And DMT Withdrawal
Hallucinogens are typically divided into 2 categories: classic hallucinogens and dissociative drugs. Classic hallucinogens include DMT, LSD, Peyote (Mescaline), and Psilocybin. Dissociative drugs include Ketamine, PCP, Salvia divinorum, and DXM (an ingredient in cough syrup). Classic hallucinogens are believed to be less addictive and free of withdrawal symptoms, while dissociative drugs can cause users to develop a dependence and tolerance. Although users of classic hallucinogens may not experience severe sustained withdrawal symptoms, they may suffer from an uncomfortable comedown.
Comedown is a phase of drug withdrawal when the drugs are leaving the body and the user often feels sad or fatigued. There have been some reports of a comedown from DMT, happening abruptly after tripping. Anxiety, confusion, fear, and feeling unsettled are some of the feelings associated with the comedown. Users may also have trouble sleeping or focusing for days afterwards.
Some of the short-term physical effects from DMT include hypertension, seizures, increased heart rate, and agitation. Those with high blood pressure or a preexisting heart condition have an increased risk of adverse effects from DMT. DMT has also been linked to persistent psychosis and hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD), and those with a history of mental health conditions are at risk. In a study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology that examined people who consumed DMT, researchers found that 37% of respondents had, “challenging experiences like anxiousness and fear.” In respondents with psychiatric conditions, 4% stated that their symptoms were worse after using 5-MeO-DMT. However, more than half reported that their symptoms had improved.
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DMT is metabolized by the body very quickly, with 1 study showing that injected DMT was below the limit of detection within 1 hour. Most standard drug tests do not screen for DMT, but specific tests may be able to detect DMT via urine or hair follicle for a few days after use. A person who regularly uses hallucinogens may develop a behavioral addiction and feel as though they need the drugs to be themselves or maintain their sense of purpose. In fact, in the study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, respondents stated that the main reason they consumed 5-MeO-DMT was for spiritual exploration. Spiritual exploration accounted for 68% of the reasoning, followed by recreation at 18%, and psychological healing at 12%.
Relying on any illicit drug for any reason is cause for major concern and should be taken seriously. Currently there are no FDA-approved medications to treat addiction or DMT withdrawal, and approaches to handling patients who seek help for hallucinogens are often handled on a case-by-case basis. The Center for Substance Abuse Treatment’s Treatment Improvement Protocol states that, “The important thing is to determine whether residual symptoms are present and provide an appropriate environment and appropriate care for the individual who has them.”
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Detoxification centers will be able to assist those looking for help in discontinuing hallucinogen use. The majority of DMT users also experiment with other drugs, so an inpatient rehabilitation facility may be appropriate for someone needing to detox and recover from multiple substance use disorders. A treatment provider will be able to answer your questions if you or a loved one are considering seeking professional treatment.