DMT is an incredibly strong hallucinogenic drug. If you’re hanging out in the Amazon rainforest and you’re offered ‘ayahuasca’ or’ yage’, beware, this tribal drink contains DMT. Here’s what you need to know.

crazy dmt owl

Take DMT, talk to owls. Apparently.

What is DMT?

DMT is the name for the hallucinogenic drug Dimethyltryptamine. It comes from plants in the Amazon which can be boiled to make a potent brew or ground to make a powder. It’s also made synthetically in the UK and comes in yellow crystals or powder.

How do you take DMT?

People mostly smoke DMT, though you can drink it, snort it, and even put it up your bum if you really feel the need to.

Why do people take DMT?

In short, to trip their brains out. People who smoke DMT are rapidly propelled into an intense alternative reality.

Users have described seeing the face of God, visiting other worlds and having conversations with aliens. A common experience is of visiting a desert populated by large grey owls and of being able to speak to them in an unknown language.

The trip doesn’t last long, but it’s about as intense as you can get.

What are the bad side effects?

If you have a ‘bad trip’, i.e. your brain takes you to a place you don’t like, the experience can be utterly petrifying. You’re thrown into a terrifying-yet-believable roller coaster of hallucinations and you’re powerless to stop it. Some users claim they thought they’d gone to hell.

Other complications include:

  • You’re often completely incapacitated and unable to move
  • It comes on so fast it can feel extremely overwhelming
  • If you’re totally convinced by your hallucinations, you might do something stupid or dangerous
  • The smoke is very harsh on your lungs and throat
  • Uncomfortable feelings in your stomach
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Dilated pupils
  • Flashbacks of your life (which can be great or traumatic, depending on your life)
  • Problems returning to ‘normality’ after an intense trip

How long do the effects last for?

DMT hits you almost instantly, usually within 10–60 seconds. If you smoke it, the trip lasts around 5-20 minutes. If you snort or drink it, the effects can last longer.

Lingering effects and a general feeling of weirdness can last for a few hours, and some people have unsettling thoughts for several days afterwards.

What’s the comedown like?

The trip usually ends abruptly, like reality has just decided to drop you off onto the kerb. Some people take days to recover and find themselves anxious, unable to sleep, and can’t concentrate on ‘normal life’ because they’re so preoccupied with what happened to them.

How addictive is DMT?

DMT’s not physically addictive. It could (potentially) become psychologically addictive, but it’s unlikely. Most people find it so intense they only do DMT once or twice in their lifetime.

Can DMT affect your mental health?

Some people find just one experience of DMT has a lifelong impact on their mental health. Some experience ‘flashbacks’ of the time they were on the drug. Others have even found it impossible to ever ‘return to normal’ after such a powerful trip.

Most importantly, anyone with a predisposition to mental health problems can find DMT ignites the bad feelings and sets them loose.

What is ayahuasca?

If you go travelling round South America, you may be offered the opportunity to drink ayahuasca (or yage). Lots of travellers drink ayahuasca as part of tribal ceremonies, particularly in Peru and Colombia, where it’s seen as a gateway to a spiritual world.

Ayahuasca makes you hallucinate like other types of DMT, but it’s also usually accompanied by some not-so enlightening vomiting sessions.

Is ayahuasca dangerous?

A number of people have died during ayahuasca ceremonies. There is a danger of overdosing, or unknowingly taking dangerous combinations of different plants in the drink.

You can pass out for up to six hours on ayahyuasca, so take it with a well-trained shaman in a place you feel safe.

How can I reduce the risks if I take DMT?

  • If you haven’t tripped before, or even if you have, it’s best to be with people you know in a safe environment, like your living room, rather than at a festival.
  • If you’re in the midst of emotional or psychological upheaval it’s advisable not to take DMT, as you risk a bad trip in which you may experience overwhelming hallucinations, anxiety, and fear.
  • Those with a family history of psychological problems are at risk of triggering such conditions in themselves.
  • Most individuals taking DMT do so with a partner, to take hold of the pipe once the experience begins. It’s impossible to stand up, talk, move or do anything once the trip starts, until you come down.
  • DMT can cause your heart rate and blood pressure to increase suddenly, so those with heart problems or high blood pressure should give this drug a wide berth.
  • Mixing DMT with other drugs is NOT advisable. It’s an overwhelmingly powerful drug and most users report that one or two trips are enough for them. Mixing stimulants with this drug should also be avoided because of the additional (potentially lethal) strain it puts on your heart.

What if I get caught with DMT?

It’s a Class A drug, so the maximum sentence is seven years for possession and/or a fine, and a life sentence and/or an unlimited fine for supplying. For more information about what to do if you’re caught with drugs, see our article.

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015

Photo of DMT owl by Shutterstock