What is DMT?
DMT, or N,N-dimethyltryptamine, is a psychedelic chemical found naturally in many plants and animals. It is the main ingredient in ayahuasca, the centuries-old South American brew used by many indigenous communities for medical and spiritual purposes.
Depending on how it is manufactured or extracted, DMT can come as crystals, powder, or a soft clumpy material. It often has a yellow-orange or brownish color, and a distinctive odor similar to mothballs or shoe leather.
To make ayahuasca, a plant containing DMT is boiled together with a second plant containing a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) such as harmaline, and the resulting brew is drunk. DMT is destroyed in the stomach if consumed orally without an MAOI.
What are the effects?
Crystallized DMT is most commonly smoked in a glass pipe, vaped as a concentrate, or (less commonly and with higher risk) injected. Direct flame will destroy DMT.
Effects from smoking DMT are felt within seconds, with peak effects lasting about 5-10 minutes.
Small inhalations can produce mild perceptual distortions like color enhancement and cartoon-like visuals.
Larger or multiple inhalations can produce profound experiences, like visiting other worlds and talking with aliens or beings from other dimensions.
A full detachment from reality is known as “blasting off.” These experiences can be inspiring and transformative, or they can be overwhelming and terrifying. Total ego dissolution (“ego death”) is common, in which time stands still and the user loses all sense of separateness from the universe.
There is usually an abrupt return to baseline after 5-10 minutes, although the user can be “taken back” momentarily a few more times during the comedown experience.
What is a typical dose?
A common dose of smoked DMT is between 10 and 40 mg. While many people don’t measure their dose, it’s a good idea to.
If you’re vaping DMT out of a pen, the intensity of the experience will mostly depend on how long you draw, how deeply you hold the vapor in your lungs, and how long you hold it.
Most people take two or three full hits to “blast off,” but one big hit can do it. Holding the smoke/vapor in for as long as possible is generally the most important (and difficult) part of the blastoff process.
Effects from ayahuasca are felt within 20 to 60 minutes and last 2 to 6 hours. Dosages will usually depend on the recipe used and the person administering it. Lingering after-effects can last for several more hours.
The rapid onset and extreme intensity from smoking DMT can be overwhelming. Do not be fooled by the short duration! DMT is one of the most powerful psychedelics on the planet.
As with other psychedelics (and emotionally intense drugs in general), people who have personal or family histories of mood or psychotic disorders may be at increased risk of psychological upset after smoking DMT.
Injecting DMT is not typically advised, since improper drug sourcing or injection methods can be catastrophic.
More harm reduction tips
Ayahuasca is almost always consumed ritualistically in a group, with a trained guide/healer who prepares and administers the brew. The official title for this guide varies between cultures, locations, and contexts, and it is important to note that the word “shaman” is not broadly accurate or applicable to all guides/healers who administer ayahuasca.
As with all psychedelics, “set” and “setting” are important factors in determining whether someone has a positive or difficult experience. “Set” is a person’s mental state (their thoughts, mood, and expectations), while “setting” is the physical and social environment in which the drug is consumed. Being in a good mental state, with trusted people in a supportive environment, reduces the risk of having a difficult trip on DMT.