What is DMT?
- DMT is a psychedelic drug that is similar to mushrooms, both chemically and in terms of its subjective effects, but known to be far more intense due to its availability in smokeable form.
- DMT used to be quite obscure, but has been increasing in popularity lately.
- Usually available in smokeable form as a powder or crystal that is white to yellow and has a distinct aethereal smell. The Ehrlich reagent can be used to detect the presence of tryptamine psychedelics.
- Have somebody else light your tokes for you! It is very dangerous to be holding a hot pipe full of liquid DMT while you are tripping your face off!
- DMT is not physically harmful, but like other psychedelics, it has very intense mental and spiritual effects that are to be taken very seriously.
- DMT is one of the few psychedelics that can be smoked, and the quick and extreme peak of smoking a psychedelic leads to a very sudden and intense subjective experience compared to the usual doses of orally ingested psychedelics like LSD and mushrooms.
- DMT trips only last about 10 minutes, with a come-up that is less than a minute and a similarly fast comedown, but one should still take time to process the experience despite the short duration.
DMT is a psychedelic drug of the substituted tryptamine chemical class, which includes psilocin, the active ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms, and serotonin, a human neurotransmitter. DMT’s chemical formula is very similar to that of psilocin, differing from DMT only by the addition of one hydroxy group on the 4 position of the indole ring’s benzene ring. Both psilocin and DMT are also similar to the neurotransmitter serotonin, which presumably is why they partially activate the 5-HT2a receptors, one of 14 serotonin receptor subtypes, which are responsible for the psychedelic effects. It is hypothesized that partial 5-HT2a agonism in the layer V pyramidal cells in the multisensory cortex causes the neurons in this part of the brain to be unable to regulate perceptual signal feedback, leading to perceptual feedback loops that cause psychedelic effects on perception. This process is known as recurrent excitation. Citation
DMT occurs naturally in the metabolism of the human body at low concentrations, and is present in the metabolism of many plants and animals, and is very widespread in nature. DMT has been popularized in Western culture by ethnobotanist Terence McKenna, and by psychiatrist Rick Straussman. It is speculated that DMT acts as a neurotransmitter in humans at sub-psychedelic concentrations, and there are many wild guesses as to what a molecule that is such a powerful psychedelic in higher concentrations might play in the human body, such as mediating the imagination or perception of everyday life, being the cause of consciousness, and playing a role in near death experiences at psychedelic concentrations. Despite the profundity of this, DMT has never been studied in enough detail to either confirm or disprove the speculations about its role in the human body.
The discovery of DMT in the human body stimulated much less fanfare than did that of endorphins. Anti-psychedelic-drug sentiment sweeping the USA at the time actually turned researchers against studying endogenous DMT. The discoverers of endorphins, in contrast, won Nobel Prizes… – Rick Strassman
How is DMT used?
DMT has been used for at least centuries, if not longer, in the form of ayahuasca by the Indigenous people of the Amazon. If DMT is ingested orally by itself, it is broken down by the monoamine oxidase enzyme in the stomach far too quickly for a psychedelic concentration of DMT to be absorbed and reach the brain. Ayahuasca is a brew that is made with a combination of a plant that contains psychedelic concentrations of DMT with a plant that contains harmala alkaloids, which block the effect of the monoamine oxidase enzyme, which are known as monoamine oxidase inhibitors, or MAOIs. This prevents DMT from being broken down in the stomach, and it is absorbed orally, and crosses the blood brain barrier. If one is using ayahuasca, one must be aware of drug combinations that can lead to serotonin syndrome, a dangerous medical emergency, with the MAOI component of ayahuasca. Ayahuasca is dangerous in combination with MDMA, SSRIs, DXM, Tramadol, and other drugs that have an effect on serotonin. If you are on any uppers or prescription medications, beware of the combination risks with MAOIs in ayahuasca. Note that pharmaceutical MAOIs have a stronger effect than harmala alkaloids, and are not a substitute for harmala alkaloids for making DMT orally bioavailable.
In the Western countries, DMT is most often available in a crystal or powder form that is smoked/vaporized in the same type of glass pipe that is used to smoke meth. DMT cannot be smoked with a naked flame like cannabis, and needs to be heated with indirect contact with the flame. DMT is able to be absorbed through the lungs without the need for an MAOI like with oral ingestion. This route of administration produces very sudden and intense plunge into the realm of the psychedelic experience, since DMT is absorbed very quickly through the lungs. DMT lasts only about 10 minutes when it is inhaled, as the monoamine oxidase enzyme breaks it down very quickly.
Ayahuasca is also occasionally available in Western countries, although it is more likely that one would encounter “pharmahuasca”, which contains DMT+ Syrian Rue, rather than the very specific plant mixtures that are used by Amazonian shamans. If DMT is taken orally with harmala alkaloid MAOIs in the form of ayahuasca or pharmahuasca, the onset and duration is similar to psychedelic mushrooms, with the come-up from T+30-60 minutes, peak from T+1-4 hours, and offset from T+4-8 hours.
How to use DMT as safely as possible
“ Sometimes people say, is DMT dangerous? It sounds so crazy, is it dangerous? The answer is: yes, only if you fear the possibility of death by astonishment.” – Terence McKenna
Practice spiritual harm reduction: Even though DMT is physically benign, similar to other classical psychedelics like LSD or mushrooms, the extreme nature of the psychological and spiritual effects are to be taken into consideration- Terence McKenna’s quote above really sums up how it is in terms of that aspect of DMT.
Spiritual harm reduction involves things like only tripping during a suitable set and setting, having trip sitters around, considering what dose one can handle, and leaving time to allow one to integrate the experience of the psychedelic trip into one’s day to day life. Even though smoked DMT only lasts about 10 minutes, 10 minutes means nothing during a DMT breakthrough when one is in a realm where time and space as we know it no longer apply, with an extremely fast transition from sobriety to an extremely strong psychedelic experience that takes only seconds. DMT should only be used while sitting comfortably, as it can cause complete loss of awareness of one’s place in “normal reality” within seconds.
It’s totally normal to feel extreme nerves and butterflies before blasting off, even if one has taken preparations for the experience. For even most experienced psychonauts, the fast come-up may be terrifying, but the fear may settle once the peak effect is reached, with extreme gratitude after one comes back.
Have someone else light it for you: This is a very important safety tip that is often overlooked! The last thing you want while you’re tripping your face off is to worry about what to do with a hot pipe full of liquid DMT. Smoking DMT can take you from sober to tripping so hard that you can’t even see the pipe anymore within 15 seconds. Discuss with your buddy/facilitator how to communicate that you don’t want another toke, such as waving your hands, as it can be very difficult to communicate normally while blasting off into another realm.
Test before you ingest: Bring a small sample into Trip! HQ (168 Bathurst St.) to send it off for GCMS testing! Or, use the Ehrlich reagent to test your DMT. The Ehrlich reagent turns purple in the presence of molecules that contain an indole ring, which includes psychedelics such as LSD, LSA, psilocin, DMT, etc. The Ehrlich reagent is able to rule out the presence of psychedelics in the substituted phenethylamine chemical class, such as the 2C-x drugs, 25x-NBOMe class, and DOx class, which do not contain an indole ring. Since DMT can be extracted from plants via relatively simple means, adulteration is not as common for DMT as it would be for something like MDMA, but it still cannot be entirely ruled out. The main one to watch out for would be 5-MeO-DMT, which is also present in plants, but cannot be detected with the Ehrlich reagent. It is more potent and has slightly different pharmacological effects that give it a heavier body load and serotonin syndrome risk when combined with certain drugs such as SSRIs and MAOIs, which is not the case with DMT. 5-MeO-DMT also has a reputation for being a more psychologically challenging psychedelic than DMT, as it causes very extreme ego loss relative to visual effects compared to DMT. This is why starting with one light toke to test it out is helpful, so that you wouldn’t end up take a terrifyingly high dose by accident just in case it is 5-MeO-DMT.
What does DMT feel like? How does it compare to acid or shrooms?
“And language cannot describe it—accurately. Therefore I will inaccurately describe it. The rest is now lies… I mean you have to understand: these are metaphors in the truest sense, meaning that they’re lies!”
– Terence McKenna
TL;DR- similar to a mid dose of shrooms in lower doses, completely and utterly unEnglishable and unimaginable to the sober mind in higher doses. Contact with entities is a common feature of DMT experiences. Start with one small toke and be ready for an intense journey if going beyond one small toke!
DMT experiences are often divided into what are known as “sub-breakthrough” and “breakthrough” doses. Although the difference between a sub-breakthrough and a breakthrough dose is subjective, it is generally used to refer to the difference between a dosage level that produces psychedelic effects but with awareness of “normal reality” still remaining intact, versus a breakthrough dose, where one breaks through into another kind of reality that is of an entirely different order than anything imaginable in “normal” reality. Sub-breakthrough doses are a lot easier to describe than breakthrough doses- breakthrough doses elude all attempts of description or imagination, and only metaphors can convey what it is like due to the limits of language and imagination in being able to portray such a far out experience.
A typical breakthrough dose is between 40-60mg, which is difficult to gauge by number of tokes due to variations in lung capacity and smoking technique, despite Terence McKenna’s famous three tokes speech. It is recommended to use a scale if possible, and if one is eyeballing it, it is recommended to start with a very small toke to gauge how much it takes for a certain intensity of effects. If one has made an informed decision about intending to break through, it is recommended to fully exhale the air in one’s lungs before taking a toke to take in the most DMT possible, and keep toking until the pipe is not visible anymore. If you can still see the pipe, you need to keep toking if you want to break through- taking another toke in this situation takes incredible amounts of courage. In this situation, preparation and courage of the tripper and the presence of a trip sitter lighting the tokes for the tripper are MANDATORY! It is recommended that one have a history of very high LSD and/or mushroom doses before embarking on a DMT breakthrough.
A very distinct character of the DMT experience that tends to be especially present with DMT compared to other psychedelics is the completely undeniably obvious sense that there are conscious entities or beings in the experience. A lot of mystical experiences with DMT involve contact with entities.
Contrary to popular belief, DMT is not necessarily a more intense psychedelic in of itself than LSD or mushrooms, as breakthroughs into other planes of existence can be achieved with extremely high doses of mushrooms or LSD (5-10+ dried grams of mushrooms or over 500 micrograms of LSD). However, since mushrooms and LSD cannot be smoked like DMT, it’s much easier to reach a breakthrough with DMT with a route of administration like smoking that leads to a such a sharp, fast peak of effects that far exceeds most people’s’ highest dose LSD or mushroom trip, with a dizzyingly fast onset of seconds rather than hours.
At sub-breakthrough doses, the character of the DMT experience is overall very similar to about a couple to a few grams of mushrooms, but with a much faster onset and shorter duration. The style of visual geometry is curved and warpy like it is with mushrooms, compared to the crisp, angular geometry of LSD. DMT visuals contain a lot of hyperbolic geometry, such as saddles, vortexes, helixes, etc., which might explain why it is so astonishingly ineffable. More on that here. The geometry of DMT can take on both an “organic” or “ancient” aesthetic like with mushrooms, or a more futuristic “cyber” aesthetic like with LSD. The sense that the geometry is conscious or alive may occur, with the geometry being more than just trippy shapes, but rather conscious geometric creatures that are dancing around in one’s vision- eyes often appear embedded among the masses of geometry. .
One of the differences compared to mushrooms is the headspace at sub-breakthrough doses. At sub-breakthrough doses, DMT is remarkably clear headed compared to mushrooms at doses that feature a comparable intensity of psychedelic geometry. There is usually a very wide gap between the intensity of open eye vs. closed eye visual geometry, and at a sub-breakthrough dose of DMT, one may be able to see extremely detailed and immersive scenes of 3D psychedelic geometry with closed eyes and then open their eyes and be able to describe what they just saw to a friend with minimum mental impairment.
Alex Grey is a well known psychedelic replication artist. This art portrays an example of the style of psychedelic geometry that may be encountered beneath closed eyelids at a sub-breakthrough dose of DMT, or what may appear right before breaking through. Right before a breakthrough, people often report of experiences of going through a tunnel that may look something like this, where one bursts through to an ineffable plane of existence once one reaches the “end” of the tunnel.
Note the presence of 2D hyperbolic geometry (the curved nets of squares), which is a very distinctive feature of DMT geometry that might explain why DMT experiences are so astonishingly ineffable. The curvature of the 2D plane that the squares are embedded in allows for them to connect in ways that would not be possible if they were on a Euclidean, or flat, 2D plane. At breakthrough doses, the plane of 3D space becomes hyperbolic, or curved through a higher spatial dimension, which cannot be depicted, let alone imagined, in “real life” where one is constrained by the limits of 3D Euclidean space.
“What happens is, the world is completely replaced. Instantly, 100%, it’s all gone. And what is put in its place, not one iota of what is put in its place, was taken from this world. So, it’s a 100% reality channel switch. They don’t even retain 3 dimensional space and linear time. It’s not like you go to an exotic place- Morroco or New Guinea. It’s like, you- reality is swapped out for something else. And when you try to say what it is, you realize that language has evolved in this world and it can serve no other, and… or it takes years of practice. So, what you’re looking at is literally the unspeakable. The indescribable falls into your lap. And when you try- you’re loaded, right, you’re there- and you’re trying to explain to yourself what is happening, and so, this is like you try to pour water over the transdimensional objects in front of you, the water of language, and it just beads up and flows off like water off a duck’s back. You cannot say what’s there. ” -Terence McKenna
The clear headspace that accompanies the vivid visions of sub-breakthrough doses gives way to the ultimate displacement of “normal” reality at breakthrough doses, with breakthrough doses having an ineffably different headspace than sub-breakthrough doses.
Once one achieves a breakthrough dose, even with eyes wide open, the visual geometry of the psychedelic trip completely begins to fully envelop the entire perception of “ordinary” reality within seconds, and there is a complete and all-encompassing transition towards an ineffably alien plane of existence. One fully loses awareness of where they are in “the real world”. What is experienced during a breakthrough dose is often regarded as being mind-bogglingly impossible. The laws of mathematics, physics, and Euclidean geometry that seem unquestionably fundamental to not only existence, but imagination itself, do not apply to the DMT breakthrough realm of existence. Seemingly fundamental aspects of reality such as pi being 3.141592…, the fact that it’s impossible for a cube to have any number of sides different than 6, 1+1=2, no longer apply in this realm. One may see what a circle would look like if pi was 6, what an 8 sided cube might look like, or how 1+1 can equal 3.
This is often accompanied with contact with entities that inhabit this realm. The entities are often personified as being elves, aliens, fairies, angels, ancestors, religious figures, etc., but usually the way that they actually appear is beyond anything imaginable, and the personifications are usually the result of one’s memory creating a metaphor to bypass their unimaginability. These entities are usually described as being very cheerful and grateful about one’s visit to their realm, although this can vary from person to person.
The entities are usually very eager to show the tripper all the impossible things from their realm, and uncovering the fundamental secrets of existence. The entities usually communicate with direct sharing of experience, with language being unable to convey the extremely mystical experiences they are communicating. A fraction of trippers who break through on DMT experience glossolalia, or speaking in tongues, which occurs when one finds out how to communicate pure experience back to the entities, which for some reason manifests as gibberish “in the real world”. The glossolalia is usually accompanied by an extremely cheerfully exuberant celebratory response from the entities, kind of like how a parent might become overcome with joy when their child speaks its first words.
As soon as one comes back from a breakthrough experience, it becomes very difficult, if not impossible, to even be able to imagine what one has just witnessed moments prior, because the laws of math that were broken during breakthrough reality cannot be broken again after one comes back to “normal” reality, not even in one’s imagination.
Integration of DMT Experiences
Just like how planning the set and setting plays a role for psychedelic experiences before and during the experience, it is equally important to set aside some time after the experience for integration of the psychedelic experience. Integration refers to the process where the contents of the psychedelic experience are consolidated into one’s memory, thoughts, and perspective of life after the experience. In other words, it is how one processes the experience.
Compared to the usual doses of mushrooms or LSD, which tend to contain insights that are easier to extrapolate towards one’s everyday experience of life and emotions, the insights of DMT breakthroughs may be difficult to apply to one’s everyday life, as the experience itself is so far beyond everyday life. One of the aspects of DMT experiences that can make integration challenging is how difficult, if not impossible, it is to recall the experience within the confines of one’s sober imagination, and the very obvious sense that one’s memory of the experience is not even close to what actually happened, which may be frustrating. It’s important to accept that it may be difficult, if not impossible, to “bring back” the things from the other side, over to this side, and that it is probably for a reason that can only be comprehended during the experience itself.
Thinking about who or what the entities are: The experience of contact with entities is an aspect of the DMT experience that is very commonly reported, and more consistently so than with other psychedelics. Although it may seem like the entities can be written off as a hallucination, the experience of entity contact seems so real that even the most rationally minded people may have a hard time writing it off as just a hallucination. Even Rick Straussman, a psychiatrist who performed one of the few scientific studies of DMT, has investigated every possible rational explanation he was able to come up with to explain the consistent entity contacts, and has eventually come to the conclusion that these entities truly are real, and exist in some other plane of existence that can be accessed with DMT, and he concluded that there is no other possible explanation for how so many people of all different backgrounds all reported contact with the same entities.
Ultimately, who or what these entities are, and whether or not they really are just a hallucination, can never really be answered empirically as of now. Some people think they’re aliens, some think they are those who have passed away and have not been born yet, and other think they are humans from an advanced future. Even if they are of purely neurological origin, that still does not diminish the extremely significant and profound nature of the experience of encountering them. Regardless, it is important to accept that this is beyond the realm of empirical knowledge, and in the meantime, it’s okay to go with the interpretation that sits best with one’s spiritual inclinations if it is causing excessive rumination. This is part of the beauty of spiritual experiences- it’s not about being right about anything, it’s about finding what is meaningful to you.
New perspectives of sober, waking reality: One of the most frequently reported interpretations of breakthrough DMT trips is the immense realization that the assumption that sober, wakeful reality is the most “real” of them all is unfounded, and how the possibility of the existence of usually unseen realities that are “more real” is taken for granted.
It’s kind of like like how while one is dreaming, one may make an unfounded assumption that the dream reality is “real” despite the glaring differences that become apparent after one wakes up. Launching into a DMT breakthrough may make it seem like waking life is a decades long “dream” that one is able to “wake up” from after a breakthrough dose of DMT.
Just like how it may suddenly “click” that what is a siren in a dream is actually one’s alarm clock in “real life”, it may seem to suddenly “click” after one breaks through on DMT that various aspects of “real life” that seem to be a certain way are actually much different in the more “real” version of reality of a DMT breakthrough. Just like how many aspects of existence of waking life disintegrate after one falls asleep and starts dreaming, the aspects of this “higher” reality are lost after one comes back to “real life” after a DMT breakthrough. However, the sense that there is more to it than one can perceive may persist, with the knowledge that one’s experience of waking reality is not the “highest” version of reality being comparable to how lucid dreamers may be aware that their dream reality is not actually the “highest” order of reality there is.
It’s important to be aware that even if it may seem like “real life” is not actually the highest level or reality, that this does not mean that “real life” experiences are to be diminished. Even if a dream is not real, it doesn’t matter how real it is or not when one is in the middle of a dream, and making decisions in dream reality that make the difference between a great dream and a nightmare. Likewise, even if “real life” may indeed be not as real as this higher DMT reality, one is still going to spend decades in this reality- and no matter what happens in the DMT realm, one can still make the best of “real life” reality.
For some, DMT experiences may seem like they uncover a reality that is always there, but is normally unseen, with one’s choices in “real life” being the result of one’s course in this “higher” reality.
“I think the most important lesson that the DMT entities taught me is that the cause and effect relationship between the subjective and objective world is not strictly only that objective things can only affect subjective experiences. It’s not like that. This isn’t some clockwork universe where you are swept up in some objective mathematical clockwork that you can’t think your way out of. This is such a helpless perspective. You can move hyper-dimensional structures with your voice. Every decision and thought you have shifts the timeline of the universe, whether you are aware of it or not. It just doesn’t seem that way because this is not visible to the biosurvival filters that your sensory organs put on. I think it shows that it’s not only that reality creates you, but also that you create reality. You are not helplessly being swept away in a raging torrent of clockwork existence. You can manifest the things you want with your thoughts. It’s just not linear. You won’t win the lottery by thinking about it. It’s not like some superhero movie, which is what I think most people expect when they hear of manifestation. It’s a lot more complicated and less linear than that, and I don’t think it’s even possible to understand how you are doing it, other than just having faith in your ability to do it. Don’t just expect the results- let the results also expect you.” – Celestina Aurora Mądry