DMT is a Schedule I controlled substance in the United States, meaning it’s illegal to use recreationally. It’s known for producing intense hallucinations. DMT goes by many names, including Dimitri, fantasia, and the spirit molecule.
DMT is naturally found in some plant species and combined with other plants to produce a brew called ayahuasca, which is consumed in spiritual ceremonies in several South American cultures.
There’s also synthetic DMT, which comes in the form of a white, crystalline powder. This type of DMT is typically smoked or vaporized, though some snort or inject it.
People use DMT for the intense psychedelic trip that feels like an out-of-body experience. But a range of physical and mental side effects accompany this powerful trip, some of which can be pretty unpleasant.
Healthline does not endorse the use of any illegal substances, and we recognize abstaining from them is always the safest approach. However, we believe in providing accessible and accurate information to reduce the harm that can occur when using.
The psychoactive effects may be what people are after when they use DMT, but the drug can cause a number of physical effects, too. Keep in mind that all bodies are different. Side effects can vary from person to person.
How much you use, any other substances you take with it (which isn’t recommended, by the way), and even your weight and body composition influence how it will affect you.
Possible short-term side effects of DMT include:
- increased heart rate
- increased blood pressure
- rapid rhythmic eye movements
- dilated pupils
- visual disturbances
- muscle incoordination
Increased heart rate and blood pressure can be particularly dangerous if you already have high blood pressure or any kind of heart condition.
Severe vomiting may also occur after consuming ayahuasca tea.
As with the physical effects, the psychological effects of DMT vary from person to person and depend on the same factors.
These effects include:
- intense hallucinations (think elf-like creatures, some friendly and some not so much)
- visual disturbances, such as kaleidoscope vision and flashes of bright colors and light
- auditory distortion, such as changes in volume and hearing strange voices
- depersonalization, often described as feeling like you’re not real
- floating sensation, sometimes as if floating away from yourself or your surroundings
- altered sense of time
- paranoia and fear
Limited data on the effects of DMT suggest that the drug doesn’t produce any significant comedown effects. But people who’ve used DMT will often tell you otherwise.
Some say the comedown experience is harsh and abrupt, leaving you feeling a bit unsettled, anxious, and preoccupied by what you just experienced.
Trouble sleeping, racing thoughts, and difficulty concentrating also seem to be part of the DMT comedown for some users, even after a “good trip.”
Experts aren’t sure about the long-term effects of DMT. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any, though. Anecdotally, some folks report experiencing lingering mental effects for days or weeks after using DMT.
Hallucinogenic drugs in general have been associated with persistent psychosis and hallucinogen persisting perception disorder. But according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, both conditions are pretty rare.
People with a history of mental health issues seem to have a higher risk, but it can happen to anyone, even after a single exposure.
Research on the long-term effects of DMT is limited. Based on the data available so far, DMT doesn’t appear to cause tolerance, physical dependence, or addiction.
Bad trips can happen with just about any hallucinogenic drug. They’re impossible to predict. You could have a bad trip with your first exposure to DMT or your 10th time using. It really is a crapshoot.
Around the internet, people have described bad DMT trips that have left them shaken for days. Vivid hallucinations you can’t control, falling or flying rapidly through tunnels, and encounters with scary beings are just some of the things people describe.
Your chances of a bad trip seem to be higher if you have a history of mental health conditions or use DMT while you’re feeling distressed.
An overdose from classic hallucinogens alone is rare but possible. Respiratory arrest and cardiac arrest from DMT use has been reported. Both can be fatal without immediate treatment.
If you or someone you know is planning on using DMT, especially with other drugs, it’s important to know how to recognize an overdose.
Seek immediate medical help if you or someone else experiences:
- confusion and disorientation
- irregular heartbeat
- difficulty breathing
- abdominal pain
- loss of consciousness
It’s important to tell emergency responders what drugs were taken so they can choose the best treatment option.
Serotonin syndrome warning
Taking a high dose of DMT or using DMT while taking antidepressants can result in a condition called serotonin syndrome.
Symptoms to watch for include:
- muscle spasms
- muscle rigidity
- overactive reflexes
- dilated pupils
Serotonin syndrome is a potentially life threatening condition that requires immediate medical treatment.
If you’re going to try DMT, there are a few things you can do to make the experience safer.
Keep the following in mind when using DMT:
- Strength in numbers. Don’t use DMT alone. Do it in the company of people you trust.
- Find a buddy. Make sure you have at least one sober person around who can intervene if things take a turn.
- Consider your surroundings. Be sure to use it in a safe and comfortable place.
- Take a seat. Sit or lie down to reduce the risk of falling or injury while you’re tripping.
- Keep it simple. Don’t combine DMT with alcohol or other drugs.
- Pick the right time. The effects of DMT can be pretty intense. As a result, it’s best to use it when you’re already in a positive state of mind.
- Know when to skip it. Avoid using DMT if you’re taking antidepressants, have a heart condition, or already have high blood pressure.
DMT provides a brief but intense psychedelic experience that’s enjoyable for some and overwhelming for others. In addition to its psychological effects, DMT also results in several physical effects.
If you or someone else is experiencing concerning side effects from DMT, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
If you’re concerned about your drug use, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides free and confidential help and treatment referrals. You can call their national helpline at 800-622-4357 (HELP).
Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow, or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.