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  • What is DMT – The Spirit Molecule

What is DMT - The Spirit Molecule?

Table of Contents
Table of Contents

Some people refer to DMT as the “spirit molecule” due to its intense psychedelic effects on one’s mind and body. Naturally occurring in many plants and animals, DMT has the potential to entirely shift reality. It is not anything like other psychedelic drugs such as LSD or magic mushrooms, the DMT experience is something completely different, and perhaps out of this world.

DMT Explained

DMT stands for N, N-Dimethyltryptamine. As a powerful psychedelic drug, DMT induces rapid and intense psychedelic experiences, often referred to as a ‘DMT trip’, due to its serotonergic effects on the brain.

DMT occurs in many plants, animals, and even humans. There is hard evidence that there is endogenous DMT production in our bodies. This indicates that DMT is produced, most likely in the pineal gland of the human brain.

The experience DMT provides is usually characterized by strong visual hallucinations, that involve powerful entities, and is often linked with deeper meaning. This meaningful occurrence is often called a “DMT breakthrough”. Most of the time DMT is smoked.

Similar to other psychedelic tryptamines such as 4-AcO-DMT, 5-MeO-DMT, and psilocybin, DMT binds to serotonin receptors and induces psychedelic experiences. According to the National Institute of Health, endogenous hallucinogens such as 5-MeO-DMT are naturally occurring components of mammalian body.

DMT has its role in human history as well, an N-dimethyltryptamine-containing plant ayahuasca has been used by shamans all over South America for ages. Most of the time it was brewed as a tea, in combination with chacruna shrub, which acted as a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI), making the ayahuasca more potent and the experiences more intense.

How Is DMT Used and What Does It Look Like?

DMT produces strong visual hallucinations and can be found in various forms, each form is suitable for a different way of consumption, and this alone will alter the duration of the DMT experience. In its pure form DMT is a white crystalline powder, but most of the time it’s commonly found as a yellowish powder or solid. It can be found in herbal mixtures called “changa” as well.

DMT can be consumed in various ways, some of the most common methods being:

  • Smoking DMT – This white crystalline powder can be smoked in a pipe or a bong. It could be vaporized as well through the use of vape pens

  • Smoking Changa – Changa is a herbal mixture that contains both DMT and MAOI extracts from different plants. This combination of psychoactive drugs is built upon the principle of ayahuasca, where MAOI prolongs and even increases the strength of a trip. Changa can be rolled into a joint and smoked, also it can be used through a bong or a pipe.

  • Consumed Orally – DMT can be consumed this way as an ayahuasca-infused tea.

  • Snorting – It can be consumed by snorting powdered DMT, but this is a rare occasion.

History of DMT

DMT consumption dates back thousands of years. Indigenous cultures used DMT-containing plants often as a part of religious rituals. There is evidence of its use on the island of Trinidad, at the time of Spanish colonists’ arrival. DMT is the active ingredient in ayahuasca, which has been used traditionally in South America and brewed as a DMT-infused tea, for its psychoactive effects.

First DMT Chemical Synthesis

In 1931 DMT was synthesized for the first time in the laboratory. German-Canadian chemist, Dr. Richard Manske synthesized DMT but never studied its potential pharmacological and psychoactive properties on humans.

Uncovering DMT’s Psychoactive Properties

In 1956, DMT’s psychoactive properties were taken into the account, and they were scientifically evaluated for the first time. Dr. Stephen Szára, a Hungarian chemist and clinical psychiatrist, administered synthetic DMT to 20 volunteers via intramuscular injection.

Convention On Psychotropic Substances

In 1971, the international community signed a UN agreement to implement a control system on psychoactive drugs, restricting imports, and exports and limiting their use to scientific and medical purposes. Many psychedelic drugs were scheduled, as having no medical benefits, despite hard evidence that suggested that they may actually be beneficial for one’s health. This agreement marked a long halt in DMT clinical research as well as for other psychedelic drugs.

DMT Pharmacology

DMT works by blocking the brain’s action of serotonin.

DMT (N, N-Dimethyltryptamine) is in a tryptamine class of serotonergic hallucinogens. A serotonin hallucinogen affects serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that carries signals throughout your body. As serotonin regulates mood, sleep, feeling of well-being, and other important body functions, they are all affected when DMT is consumed. Low levels of serotonin are associated with a variety of physical and mental health issues.

Acting as a non-selective agonist, DMT affects most or all serotonin receptors, especially the 5-ht2a receptor.

Stimulating this particular receptor may help induce the hallucinogenic effects. Serotonin produced after ingesting DMT inhibits both adrenaline and dopamine.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter as well as serotonin, and it’s involved in many neurological and physiological functions. It plays a role in the brain’s reward center and impacts function such as memory, mood, attention, and other.

DMT’s hallucinogenic effects are different depending on the way it is taken

The way of ingesting DMT affects how fast will the effects be felt. For instance, DMT, when injected comes faster through the vein or muscle, as opposed to taking it orally, as it has to break down in the digestive tract.

When DMT is smoked, the effects may happen instantly. It’s really hard to determine how long it takes for the drug to peak when ingested this way.

When consumed orally as ayahuasca vine for example the effects may take around 2 to 3 hours to reach the peak. Although, ayahuasca vine is a combination of DMT and monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI), which when combined, intensify the pharmacological effects.

The Effects Of DMT

Psychedelic experiences

Induced DMT experiences are subjective, but from conducted surveys, researchers have discovered profound similarities in DMT trip reports. These experiences included time dilation, prospective distortions, and visual and auditory hallucinations, that firsthand defy verbal or visual description. Visualization of hyperbolic geometry and Escher-like impossible objects was a common effect.

Under highly controlled and safe conditions, several scientific experiments have attempted to measure subjective experiences of altered states of consciousness induced by hallucinogenic drugs.

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Dr. Rick Strassman conducted a five-year-long DMT research at the University of New Mexico in the 1990s. The results of the study provided insights into the subjective aspects of psychedelic experiences. In this particular study, participants received DMT intravenously, and the findings suggested that different doses caused different psychedelic experiences. At lower doses, DMT acts by producing emotional and somaesthetic responses, such as mood elevation, and relaxation without hallucinogenic effects. On the other hand, when administered with higher doses, patients described strong visual images, and intense colored, geometric patterns, which contribute to the effects of the hallucinogenic drug.

Additionally, Strassman stressed the significance of the context in which a drug was taken. According to him, DMT has no positive effects by itself, but rather depends on the context in which one takes it.

It appears that the subjective effects of DMT can induce a state where a person believes he is communicating with other intelligent life forms. Sense of another intelligence is most common in higher doses of DMT.

Encounters with External Entities

Online forums as well as annals of academic literature are filled with reports of “machine elves” and other forms of extra-terrestrial life forms appearing before DMT users. The regularity of these experiences has given a rise to the theory of alien abductions being a result of an overproduction of DMT in one’s brain.

The term “machine elf” was coined by ethnobotanist and psychonaut Terence McKenna for the entities he encountered while under the influence of DMT. He encountered the “machine elves” for the first time after consuming DMT in Berkeley in 1965. His speculations regarding DMT hyperdimensional space have inspired many great artists and musicians.

Dr. Strassman noted similarities between the self-reports of his study participants about encountering these entities with the mythological descriptions of beings described in ancient religions, including both angels and demons. He also argues for similarities in his research participants’ descriptions of mechanized gears, wheels, and machinery, with those described in visions of Living Creatures and Ophanim of the Hebrew Bible.

Dr. Strassman’s participants also note that some of the entities they encounter resemble creatures more like aliens or insects. He stated that these experiences left him confused and concerned about where the spirit molecule was leading us.

In 1958, Dr. Szara’s study participants also reported encountering strange creatures. He described that one of his subjects while under the influence of DMT experienced an encounter with dwarfs or something similar when the effects of DMT started to peak.

Near-death experience

A study conducted in 2018 found a significant resemblance between a DMT trip and a near-death experience. A more recent study in 2019, found a link between ketamine, DMT, and Salvia divinorum trip and near-death experiences.

Speculation Regarding Endogenous Effects of DMT

According to the transmethylation hypothesis, the endogenous production of psychoactive agents may explain hallucinatory symptoms in some psychiatric diseases in the 1950s. Endogenous DMT may play a role in certain psychological and neurological states, according to several speculative and yet untested hypotheses. In small amounts, DMT is found in rat brain, human cerebrospinal fluid, and other tissues of mammals and humans. In addition, mRNA for the enzyme that produces DMT is expressed in the human cerebral cortex, choroid plexus, and pineal gland, suggesting that DMT plays an endogenous role in the brain.

Medical Use Of DMT

DMT’s benefits on mental and physical health

As you already know, Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) has been consumed in the form of ayahuasca, and it has a long history of medicinal use for numerous indigenous tribes across the Amazon. The therapeutic potential of ayahuasca in psychotherapy has generated noteworthy clinical interest. Several clinical trials were conducted regarding DMT’s medical benefits, and they all reported that taking DMT could be a great treatment for depression and addiction.

The growing appreciation for the therapeutic potential of this hallucinogenic tryptamine drug, as well as other psychedelics has generated interest in scientific studies. Scientific research has demonstrated similarities between DMT and psilocybin, as DMT acts is able to produce mystical experiences, similar to that of psilocybin.

Research suggests that psilocybin alters brain activity similarly to DMT, enabling the brain to reset. Thus, recent evidence has shown that changes in the human body, when taking DMT could be of therapeutic value. These similarities suggest that DMT may have similar therapeutic potential as psilocybin in the treatment of various mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

Does DMT help with depression similarly to other psychedelic drugs?

Due to its strength, DMT acts by affecting both physical and mental health.

Working similarly to antidepressants, DMT targets the serotonin receptors, “reviewing” the brain and changing the mood. Altering neurotransmitter serotonin in this manner, DMT may potentially be effective in the treatment of depression.

Although, more is not always the better, as people who consume large quantities of DMT, or combine DMT with antidepressants are at risk of developing a potentially life threatening condition serotonin syndrome.

Serotonin syndrome is caused when users take too much of a drug that increases serotonin levels in one’s body. Too much serotonin can be dangerous as well as too little.

Symptoms of serotonin can be:

  • Anxiety

  • Tremors

  • Excitement

  • Diarrhea

  • Shivering

  • Disorientation

  • Rapid Heart Beat

  • Abnormally rapid breathing

  • Restlessness

Psychiatrist Dr. Rick Strassman is currently an Associate Clinical Professor at the University of New Mexico. He studied the pineal gland as a potential biological point for spiritual experiences in his research on DMT. In his book, “The Spirit Molecule”, he stated that naturally released DMT by the pineal gland facilitates the soul’s movement in and out of the body.

Learn More: Magic Mushrooms for Depression

How Does the Hallucinogenic Tryptamine Drug DMT Affect Anxiety?

DMT, as well as other drugs, may trigger existing mental health problems in some people.

It’s possible for DMT to intensify the symptoms linked with anxiety such as rapid breathing, panicking, and feeling nervous. People with existing mental health problems are more at risk of experiencing negative symptoms.

On the contrary, there is a discussion about the use of DMT and other drugs such as psychedelics as a treatment for various mental health disorders like depression, PTSD, and anxiety when administered in conjunction with therapy.

Is DMT Legal?

The consumption, sale, trade, shop, possession, and production of DMT is prohibited or controlled in some countries, but not in others, where it is allowed, permitted, lawful, and legal.

North America

The Schedule I category of psychedelics prohibits their manufacture, purchase, possession, distribution, or consumption.

Recently, some cities in the United States have decriminalized DMT as well as other psychedelics. However, under state and federal law, DMT is still considered illegal.

Psychedelics are listed in the Schedule I controlled substance category because they allegedly have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, like many other illegal drugs. They are considered recreational drugs that could contribute to psychological risks as well as general health risks.

There are some loopholes, for example, In order to use DMT for research purposes, researchers need approval from both the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Possession and consumption of DMT could lead to legal consequences that could include fines or even prison, depending on what part of the United States you live in.

Canada – DMT is classified as a Schedule III drug under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, but is legal for religious groups to use.

On the other hand in Canada, under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, DMT is classified as a Schedule III, but it is legal for use in certain religious groups.


In most parts of Europe DMT and its derivatives are Illegal, or controlled. Some of the places where it is classified as illegal are France, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Netherlands, Serbia, Russia Sweden, United Kingdom, and Belgium.


In Israel, DMT is an illegal substance, and producing trading, or possessing is considered a crime. More serious punishments for possessing, producing, or transporting DMT, is in India, where people can get a minimum sentence of ten years for such a crime.


In New Zealand, DMT is classified as a Class A drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975.

Australia listed DMT as a Schedule 9 prohibited substance under the Poisons Standard 2015. Schedule 9 is described in the Poisons Act of 1964 as a substance that may be misused or abused, therefore manufacturing, possessing, selling, or using is prohibited by law, except when required for scientific or medical purposes, for research or analytical teaching.

Australian Federal Government was considering changes to the Australian Criminal Code between 2011 and 2012. These changes would classify any plants containing DMT as “controlled plants”.Under the current laws, DMT itself was already controlled. The proposed changes included other similar bans for psychoactive substances naturally occurring in plants, such as a ban on all plants containing Ephedrine or Mescaline.

The proposal was not realized after the political embarrassment, this ban would make the official Floral Emblem of Australia, Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha), illegal. Federal authority and The Therapeutic Goods Administration had considered banning the same plant, but this was withdrawn in 2012, due to DMT-containing plants holding potential entheogenic value to native people of Australia.

Side Effects Of DMT

The effects of N-dimethyltryptamine are mainly psychological, with intense visual hallucinations, euphoria, and an altered sense of time and space.

Out-of-body experiences are inevitable at higher doses, many users describe these experiences as profound and life-changing. Visiting other worlds beyond ours, and talking with spiritual entities or aliens, most of the time referred to as “DMT elves” or “machine elves”, a total shift of reality, identity and perception are what makes DMT a true spirit molecule. As DMT is a powerful psychedelic, it’s extremely important to be prepared before consuming it and to have an appreciation for the experiences it provides.

However, like with many other drugs, even with prescription drugs like Aspirin, for example, having side effects is possible. Some of the possible side effects of DMT are:

  • rapid heart rate

  • dilated pupils

  • agitation

  • increased blood pressure

  • chest pain or tightness

  • dizziness

  • rapid movements of the eyes

In extremely large doses, DMT can cause more serious side effects like:

  • seizures

  • respiratory arrest

  • and coma

When taken orally, like the ayahuasca-infused tea, DMT can cause nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.

The DMT experience solely depends on the individual who is consuming it. It can range from overwhelmingly pleasant and exciting to terrifying. The experience can be so powerful that users may have difficulty integrating and processing the trip into their real life.

As DMT mimics a near-death experience, some people may find using DMT traumatic. Mental side effects may last for many days or weeks after taking the drug.

Risks of Taking DMT

N-Dimethyltryptamine affects the neurotransmitter serotonin, as being structurally similar to it. If used heavily, or with other drugs containing serotonin, it can cause a life-threatening condition called serotonin syndrome. Individuals taking antidepressants are at higher risk of having this complication.

Users with pre-existing psychological problems or mental illnesses who consume DMT are at higher risk of facing side effects. For instance, schizophrenia, psychosis, and bipolar disorder may increase the likelihood of having an unpleasant experience, and there is even a risk of these conditions getting exacerbated.

DMT Addiction and Potential for Drug Abuse

There is not much evidence suggesting that DMT can cause physical withdrawal symptoms, dependence, or even tolerance. However, research advocate that there it can be psychologically addictive. As a result, some DMT users develop a strong desire to keep taking the psychedelic drug and experiencing its powerful hallucinogenic effects. Some people even use DMT as a therapy, consuming it every day to make them feel better.

Some studies suggest that regular users can develop cravings for DMT and the intense psychedelic experience it provides, although this is more common in people who are prone to substance abuse. It is possible to feel psychologically distressed when not using this substance. Behaviors linked with this level of dependence include taking high doses of DMT, consuming it frequently, and spending large sums of money on this particular drug.

Although recreational abuse of DMT is not common it can happen. People who want to try DMT on their own should learn as much as possible, and practice harm-reduction strategies, such as not combining it with other drugs, especially antidepressants.

Nevertheless, DMT, like many other psychedelics, has been linked to potential addiction treatment, in users who are addicted to other drugs. Pure DMT is being studied for its potential health benefits in the treatment of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and depression. With relatively low chances of abusing DMT, it may be a great treatment for such conditions as well as substance abuse.


DMT is a potent psychedelic drug, and it is nothing like other psychoactive substances such as LSD or psilocybin. DMT experiences are otherworldly, they are able to detach the human brain from this reality and put it in a higher state of altered consciousness.

Affecting serotonin levels like other psychedelic drugs, an N-dimethyltryptamine trip is commonly followed by a state of euphoria and curiosity for the unknown. DMT trips are followed by strong visual and auditory hallucinations, nothing similar to other hallucinogenic drugs.

DMT produces the visualization of colorful geometric patterns, and spiritual entities that are commonly referred to as “machine elves” or “aliens”, and being able to communicate with these, strange intelligent beings from another universe, is a mind-bending experience.

The physical effects of taking DMT can also be noted as it contributes to elevated blood pressure, dilated pupils, rapid heartbeat, and dizziness. When taken orally, in form of ayahuasca tea, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are common side effects. In some rare cases, when consumed in extremely high doses it can cause respiratory arrest and even coma.

DMT is not only used as a recreational drug, it has shown healing potential in treating several mental health problems, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As its structurally similar to serotonin, it can rewire the human brain in such a manner that when combined with psychotherapy it tends to produce excellent results. It is also been linked with profound results in addiction treatment, like alcoholism and excessive drug use.

DMT-induced altered state of reality should be approached with respect and gratitude, as it is an outstanding psychedelic, with truly unique effects, that could be used in the healing of one’s body and soul.

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