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Summertime Fun (For Some): DMT’s Return Leads to Hallucinogenic Trips


As a consequence of the contemporary designer drug phenomenon, some 1960s-era hallucinogens have come back into vogue. One drug in particular has seen resurgence in use that is probably related to the overall popularity of hallucinogenic drugs with younger users. The name of this drug: Dimethyltryptamine, or DMT for short. For readers on the west coast, this advisory is of particular importance. DMT is a drug that has a definite west coast history and root system; Northern California in particular has been a cauldron of DMT activity in the past years. 

DMT use today has resurged. Perhaps the bath salt phenomenon has in part prompted a return to drugs with hallucinogenic roots. Bath salts impart a partial hallucinogenic experience; they are psychedelic to some degree. DMT however is an entirely psychedelic experience, a trait that it shares with other hallucinogens such as LSD and mescaline. 

DMT is a drug that is best absorbed by smoking. Although there are some devotees who believe snorting of the powder is better, safer and smoother, the real veterans subscribe to the “free base” smoking of the drug. Using cocaine or methamphetamine pipes, users will smoke up to 50 mg in a single dose. The drug is smoked just like someone who is smoking crack cocaine. The user holds his or her breath for as long as possible before inhaling another lung full. The powder gives off a pungent odor that users describe as burning tires or smoldering plastic. In any event, the taste of the smoke is not pleasant. DMT smokers can be picked out of a crowd based on the rancid bad breath that they exhibit. 

DMT is purchased as an off-white powdery substance. It’s bundled in wax paper or small glass ampoules. In some cities, DMT is nearly impossible to find. In other cities, it may be as ubiquitous as marijuana. West coast communities are more versed with DMT. College towns, especially in times where students are returning to campus, DMT may be around. 

In any event, DMT is a naturally occurring hallucinogen that can be found in a long list of plants and trees. Perhaps the acacia tree is best known as a natural source of DMT. But this substance is also synthesized in underground labs as well. The processes involved are not easy to undertake, but it only takes a little production of DMT in order to make significant quantities of single dose allocations. DMT is a powerful hallucinogenic drug. In fact, LSD users often graduate to DMT use following their mastering of the LSD experience. 

Once the drug enters the bloodstream it exhibits significant affinity for several centrally located serotonin receptors, a trait that it shares with other hallucinogens such as LSD and mescaline. In addition to, and in quite a novel fashion, the drug appears to also interact with the D1 dopamine receptor. These functional aspects of DMT make it powerfully hallucinogenic, but also a stimulative provocative. Reading and listening to the clinical reports of people who use DMT, one is struck by the complexity of the drug high and the significant emotional toll that it takes on the user. DMT is not a drug for the novitiate. DMT is a drug that can be unwieldy and frightening. And like all hallucinogens, a DMT high is an experience that potentiates foundational psychological baselines. For instance, someone who is down, morose or given to fits of depression, DMT will likely drive that “high” further down. Conversely, if a user has a more positive outlook on life and of those around him/her, the “trip” will likely be a tangent of that mood and disposition. In user “speak,” don’t take this drug if you’re in a “downer mood.” 

Within 5-10 minutes of smoking, symptoms become obvious to the user. Almost immediately there are powerful distortions of color and sound. Sensory inputs are wildly distorted and potentiated. Once this has happened the user typically begins the “trip.” Alien beings, time transportation, and unusual music pervade the experience. The user has a sense that he/she has been taken somewhere else. And oftentimes that trip somewhere else allows the user to meet other beings that happen to live in the outer limits of one’s mind. 

For very veteran users, DMT is a precursor drug to later use of LSD. In that sense, DMT is a light cocktail before the main course is served. But for most DMT users, the excitement of that experience is enough. The symptoms exhibited by a user will be classically hallucinogen. A DRE or DAR trained person will discover very dilated pupils that react well to light. There will be no nystagmus, nor will there be any lack of convergence. The internal clock will likely be tilted to the fast side, perhaps very fast. Pulse will be elevated, perhaps very elevated. Systolic blood pressure will be elevated; diastolic pressure will be near normal. Piloerection, flushed skin and ruddy facial appearance may also be evident. A user will have a difficult time responding to questions; there may be 30-60 second delays in answering basic inquiries such as “What is your home address?” or “What is your telephone number?” The high will subside by the fourth hour; by the eighth hour the user will be back close to baseline. The drug is not known to cause or trigger flashbacks. 

(More information about DMT can be obtained from DARSYS by contacting the Drug Abuse Recognition Systems (DARS) Program at


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