Understanding the Risks of DMT

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What is DMT?

DMT is the slang term for the drug N, N-dimethyltryptamine – a psychedelic drug and hallucinogenic tryptamine. This chemical substance is said to produce a high similar to other hallucinogenic drugs like magic mushrooms or LSD. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) considers DMT to be a Schedule I chemical substance, meaning that it currently remains illegal and has no acknowledged medicinal value. According to a recently published article titled, “Everything You Need to Know About DMT, the ‘Spirit Molecule,’” DMT is illegal to purchase, possess, make and distribute, and despite the fact that some states have recently decriminalized hallucinogenic drugs it remains entirely illicit under state and federal law. DMT can either be naturally derived or man-made in a laboratory. This chemical substance is the active ingredient in ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic plant that has been utilized in religious ceremonies throughout South America for hundreds of years. There is a very common myth in circulation that suggests DMT is a chemical that exists naturally within the brain – one that is released whenever we dream. Some researchers believe this to be the case; others believe that DMT is a chemical that is released during birth and during death. However, there is not enough information available to confirm the natural preexistence of this specific chemical substance within the human body – at this point in time, DMT remains a hallucinogenic drug that is most frequently used for recreational purposes.

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Risks of DMT Abuse

Most people mistakenly believe that when used recreationally, hallucinogenic drugs pose a very little threat. They tend to believe that other than experiencing a “bad trip,” there are no real risks involved in taking drugs like DMT, magic mushrooms or LSD. In reality, this is far from the truth. There are numerous risks involved when it comes to taking DMT once – even more when the drug is being taken repeatedly. The intensity of each “trip” depends on several factors, including how much DMT is ingested, how it is ingested (smoked, injected, snorted or boiled to create a hot drink), whether or not the individual in question is taking DMT on an empty stomach and whether or not any other chemical substances are present in the system. People generally consume hallucinogens hoping that they will experience euphoria and hallucinations that are relatively mild and undisturbing – in other words, that they will have a pleasant “trip.” However, whenever ingesting a potent and unpredictable drug like DMT there is a good chance that it has the opposite effect.

Risks involved in DMT use include:

  • Frightening visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Feeling of floating above the physical body, which can lead to frightening and uncomfortable feelings of detachment
  • An altered sense of time and space, which can be dangerous
  • An inability to effectively interact with the outside world – Many individuals who decidedly ingest DMT choose to do so in a “safe space” for this very reason.
  • Depersonalization
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Dizziness, which can lead to nausea and vomiting
  • Extreme chest pain/tightening of the chest
  • Paranoia, which can lead to severe anxiety and panic attacks
  • Visual disturbances and rapid, uncontrollable eye movements

The above-listed risks might not seem too serious, but it is crucial to note that there are very serious risks involved when it comes to DMT use. If an individual has a pre-existing health condition, experiencing a spike in blood pressure or a dramatically increased heart rate can be exceptionally dangerous.

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The more serious and long-lasting risks of DMT use and abuse include:

  • A complete loss of coordination, which can result in serious physical injury
  • A severe level of confusion, which can be dangerous if an individual attempts to engage in day-to-day activities while intoxicated
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Psychosis (psychosis is more likely to occur in individuals who have previously diagnosed mental health conditions, like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia)
  • Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD) – This is a condition that results from repeated hallucinogen use, and results in disruptive and unwanted visual effects that are likely to crop up even when the individual in question is completely sober. He or she might see bright lights that are not really there and do not fade away and distorted colors or sizes. These symptoms can be extremely unsettling and can greatly disrupt daily life.
  • Serotonin syndrome disorder (SSD) – This issue occurs when too much serotonin builds up within the brain. Serotonin typically helps regulate several basic bodily functions, including breathing, blood flow, mood and body temperature. There are a wide range of symptoms that go hand-in-hand with SSD, including (but not limited to): anxiety, irritability, confusion and disorientation, tremors, muscle spasms, nausea, diarrhea, rapid heartbeat and high blood pressure.

Can DMT Be Abused?

According to a study published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and titled, “How Do Hallucinogens (LSD, Psilocybin, Peyote, DMT, and Ayahuasca) Affect the Brain and Body?,” psychedelic drugs like DMT can be psychologically addictive – however, they tend to be significantly less physically addictive than many other illicit chemical substances. The study suggests that other than addiction, the long-term effects of repeated use are not thoroughly researched or understood. “Long-term effects of DMT use and abuse and addiction liability are currently unknown. Unlike most other hallucinogens, DMT does not appear to induce tolerance,” the study concludes. Another article titled, “Dimethyltryptamine (DMT): Prevalence, user characteristics and abuse liability in a large global sample,” this one published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, suggests that those who have a pleasant “trip” the first time they use DMT typically reported a strong desire to use more.

If you have been abusing a hallucinogenic drug like DMT, you are not alone. Seeking professional addiction treatment is essential, however, to avoid lasting psychological and physical damage.

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At Guardian Recovery we offer a thorough and individualized multi-phased continuum of clinical care, serving men and women of all ages in Colorado, Florida, New Jersey and Maine as well as all surrounding areas. We sincerely believe that recovery is possible for all those who seek it. We also believe that quality clinical care should be readily available to all those who need it. For this reason, we have carefully developed an admissions process that makes the process of seeking treatment accessible and uncomplicated. Simply give us a call and our Admissions Counselors will walk you through a brief pre-assessment over the phone. This helps us gain insight into your personal background while helping us determine which level of clinical care is the most appropriate for you personally. Once the pre-assessment is complete we offer a free, no obligation insurance benefit check. Guardian Recovery works very closely with most major insurance companies, ensuring that those who are insured have immediate access to the treatment they so desperately need. If you are underinsured or uninsured, we have various alternative methods of coverage that we will gladly help you navigate. Our main priority is ensuring that you obtain the care you deserve.

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If you have been abusing a psychedelic substance like DMT and you are not sure what step to take next, entering into a medical detox facility is a great place to start. While the physical symptoms of DMT withdrawal might not be life-threatening, the psychological symptoms can be extremely distressing if not adequately and thoroughly treated by an experienced team of medical professionals. To learn more about the detoxification services offered by Guardian Recovery, or to learn about the extensive services we provide during every other stage of the addiction recovery process, feel free to reach out to us at any point in time. We look forward to speaking with you and getting you started on your own personal journey of healing as quickly as possible.

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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