DMT Abuse and Addiction

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Updated 10/25/2022

Article Overview

  • Important points to remember about DMT include:
  • The drug naturally occurs in plant leaves and in human and animal brains, and can also be made in a lab.
  • It can cause complex visual hallucinations.
  • A high from the drug generally lasts only about 45 minutes.
  • The drug is a Schedule I controlled substance in the United States.

Understanding DMT

Ohio newspaper headlines are full of stories about people being arrested and charged for making a drug called DMT. In 2018, a young man even died from drinking tea containing the drug at an Ohio church. But what is DMT, and why are people being arrested for making it and dying from using it?

What Is DMT?

N,N-Dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, is a chemical present in plant species around the world. It has been used in rituals for hundreds of years. The drug can also be created in a lab. Scientists think DMT is naturally created in small amounts in human and animal brains as well. The body creates DMT using the amino acid tryptophan, which is contained in many foods.

The drug is best known for causing hallucinogenic trips. These effects occur because of how DMT impacts certain brain chemicals, namely serotonin. The drug has its main effect on areas of the brain that control perception, like the prefrontal cortex.


Legally, DMT is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance in the United States. This means that it has no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. It is illegal to make or possess DMT. Chemically, DMT is a hallucinogenic drug. Other drugs within the hallucinogenic classification include salvia, LSD, and psilocybin.

What Does DMT Do?

The drug is best known for getting into the brain and causing powerful and complex visual hallucinations. These tend to begin seconds after taking lab-created DMT and can last up to 45 minutes. However, visuals from plant leaves may last longer. In DMT visuals, an entirely separate reality is created in the mind of the person taking it. Sometimes, this reality is superimposed over what the person is seeing in the real world. This can lead the person to experience two different realities at the same time. While some people have reported these visuals are pleasant, others have described them as terrifying.

Dosage and Administration

Dosing for DMT can vary. When people have taken the drug in medical studies, they started hallucinating at the very low dose of 0.09mg per pound of body weight. However, usual DMT doses when used as a street drug may be higher, around 40 to 50mg, when smoked or inhaled.

People can use DMT in different ways. Most people do not take DMT by mouth unless they are drinking it in a brew such as ayahuasca tea. This is because DMT is not easily absorbed by mouth unless it is taken with chemicals that inhibit an enzyme called monoamine oxidase. Brews with leaves that have DMT may contain such a chemical, however, DMT from a lab does not. Therefore, the drug is often instead smoked, snorted or injected.

What Does DMT Look Like?

When created in a lab, DMT is a white crystal which can be crushed into a white powder. In turn, the powder may be put into capsules. When taken from natural sources, DMT is often brewed from leaves. A variety of plants contain DMT, and therefore the appearance of leaves with DMT may vary.

Other Names & Street Names for DMT

Many of the street names for DMT refer to the short duration of its high. For example, people started calling it “businessman’s trip” because the high might last about as long as a business lunch. Nicknames for DMT include:

  • 45-Minute Psychosis
  • Dmitri
  • Fantasia
  • Businessman’s special
  • Businessman’s trip

Side Effects of DMT

The drug can cause both psychological and physical side effects. Although the mind-altering effects of DMT are best known, some of the physical effects can be serious and even deadly. Some side effects of DMT are:

  • Complex visual hallucinations
  • Depersonalization
  • Distorted hearing
  • Changes in how you sense time
  • Changes in how you sense your body
  • High blood pressure
  • Fast heart rate
  • Agitation
  • Seizures
  • Wide pupils
  • Rapid eye movements
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle coordination problems
  • Coma
  • Respiratory arrest

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Using DMT While Pregnant

You should not use DMT if you are pregnant. While DMT has not been studied in pregnant humans for ethical reasons, it has been studied in animals. These animal studies have shown a risk of birth defects when DMT is used while the animal is pregnant. Birth defects linked to DMT include:

  • Cleft palate
  • Skeletal deformities

How Long Does DMT Stay in Your System?

The drug can stay in your body for different amounts of time, depending on what is being tested. It is important to remember that doctors think the human body makes small amounts of DMT on its own. Therefore, a trace amount may always be present. However, DMT is known to show up in parts of your system like:

  • Blood: DMT lasts in blood less than 15 minutes.
  • Urine: DMT stays in urine at least 24 hours.
  • Hair: DMT can show up in hair, but little data exists about how long it stays there.

Is DMT Addictive?

Doctors are not sure if DMT is addictive. But they do know that addiction has a close relationship with tolerance and physical dependence, neither of which is linked to DMT. According to current research, people who take DMT do not become tolerant to it. This means that they do not need to steadily increase the dose of the drug to keep getting high. Further, people who take DMT do not usually become physically dependent on it, meaning that withdrawal is rare.

View Sources

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Ray, Karla. “No Charges Filed After Death at Ayahuasca Church.” Dayton Daily News, October 13, 2018. Accessed August 19, 2019.

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Pichini, Simona; et al. “Ultra-high-pressure Liquid Chromatograph[…] Mushrooms Consumers.” Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis, November 2014. Accessed August 19, 2019.

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