Dr. Rick Strassman is a professor at the University of New Mexico. He was the first scientist in the U.S. to study hallucinogens using human subjects.
Between 1990 and 1995, Dr. Strassman conducted a study on 60 people who were given DMT for research purposes. The results of these studies led Strassman to publish the book DMT: The Spirit Molecule in 2000.
Hallucinogens are a class of psychoactive drugs that alter a person’s reality. Strassman was trying to learn how these substances affect the brain, and if there could be therapeutic benefits.
Marijuana is also technically a hallucinogen. But its effects are much different than DMT or other powerful hallucinogens, like LSD and psilocybin (magic mushrooms).
What exactly is DMT? And why was it described as “the spirit molecule”? What are the risks associated with it?
Read on to learn the answers to these questions.
What Is DMT?
Most people know or have at least heard of hallucinogens like LSD, magic mushrooms, and peyote. But when it comes to DMT, Americans aren’t as familiar with the schedule I substance.
DMT is short for N,N-Dimethyltryptamine. It’s a chemical compound that’s naturally found in the human body in small doses and in other plants and animals.
When taken recreationally, DMT is concentrated and usually comes in the form of a white powder. It might also be an off-white, yellow, or pink powder if it’s not entirely pure.
How Is It Taken?
It can be inhaled, smoked, or injected. It can also be taken orally, but because the body breaks down DMT quickly, this method is less effective.
Although scientists have discovered that DMT naturally occurs in the human body, they’re not sure exactly why.
One theory is that when we die, our body releases DMT into the bloodstream to make the moment of death less painful or frightening. People who have had near-death experiences report a sudden feeling of calm and serenity.
Many DMT users have reported a sense of communion with the universe. They claim to have taken a glimpse into what happens after we die and that it gave them a sense of peace and higher connectedness.
Who Takes It?
Hallucinogens have often been associated with “hippies” and the counterculture. These drugs alter your reality in a major way, and the effect is much different than opioids, stimulants or depressants.
Unlike some drugs that are used more commonly by certain age groups or in particular geographical areas, there isn’t any type of pattern for DMT users.
A Brief History of DMT
Chemists first started learning about DMT in the 1930s and ’40s. They were studying plants found in Brazil and trying to isolate the chemical compound. It wasn’t until 1956 that a Hungarian chemist discovered that the drug had hallucinogenic properties.
Around this same time, scientists discovered that native people in the Amazon were using the substance for religious ceremonies. Ayahuasca, a vine found in the Amazon, is very rich in DMT.
In 1970, the U.S. added DMT to the list of schedule I drugs. This means it’s highly illegal to sell or possess it. The only exceptions to this rule have been made for people using it for religious reasons.
DMT Effects on the Body
As mentioned, DMT has really powerful effects on the mind and body. It’s not something you want to take lightly.
Effects on the Mind and Body
Use of DMT doesn’t appear to produce a tolerance or dependence by its chemical compound. Instead, users like the hallucinogenic effects the drug gives them. But, there are side effects to taking DMT.
- Coordination problems
- Dilated pupils
- Increased heart rate
- Involuntary rapid eye movement
- High blood pressure.
- Vomiting (typically when taken in oral forms)
In some cases, users who took high doses of DMT went into respiratory arrest and/or a coma.
Long-Term and Short-Term Health Effects
Some common short-term effects include:
- Vivid hallucinations (visual and auditory)
- Increase in blood pressure and heart rate
- Sensation that time is speeding up or slowing down
- Out of body experiences
- Double vision
Because it raises your blood pressure, DMT can be dangerous for people with heart conditions.
Besides Dr. Strassman’s work, there has not been a lot of research into the long-term effects that DMT can have on the body. So there is actually no proof that DMT has any long-lasting impacts on someone’s health.
That being said, with any use of hallucinogens there is the risk of psychotic reactions.
The brain is a very mysterious thing, and we don’t really understand exactly how it works. For some people, their brain can have an adverse reaction to these type of substances. This can do permanent damage.
Exactly why it happens is unknown.
But Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD) is something that can occur in certain drug users. Its symptoms include:
- Experiencing hallucinations, even after the drug has left your system
- Seeing trails or halos around moving objects
- Other symptoms that can be mistaken for a stroke
- An inability to focus on work or life tasks
So even though there hasn’t been a lot of research about the risks associated with DMT, it’s clear that they do exist.
Using DMT with Other Drugs
While some hallucinogens can cause you to be under the influence of the drug for many hours, DMT has a much shorter duration. Depending on how much you take, its effects might last between 20-40 minutes.
When it’s taken in the pill form, the “trip” can last for several hours. Nausea and vomiting are very common when taking it in this form.
What Common Drugs Are Used with DMT?
In general, DMT is not associated with any other specific drugs.
Unfortunately, because it alters your reality so much, this could cause you to make irrational or dangerous choices. And because it impacts the seratonin levels in your brain, mixing it with other drugs could be potentially dangerous.
Taking DMT with prescription drugs and other legal substances can also put you at risk. This list of drugs is known to be unsafe when taken with DMT:
- SSRIs (certain types of antidepressants)
- High blood pressure medication
- Asthma medicine
- Diet pills
The chemistry in our brains is a very delicate thing, and tampering with it through drug use can lead to serious consequences.
Do You or Someone You Know Have a Drug Problem?
DMT is one of the more interesting drugs to learn about. It might seem a little less scary than things like heroin or methamphetamine.
But often people who are willing to experiment with these types of substances have a larger problem that they are trying to mask.
If you or someone you know has a drug or alcohol problem, getting help is a lot easier than you think. You can start right now, by reading about why rehab has been so successful for many people throughout the United States.
Help is only a phone call away.