DMT

Other names:

  • spirit molecule
  • Dimitri
  • businessman’s trip
  • elf spice

N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is a naturally occurring compound commonly found in plant and animal tissue. It’s one of only a few hallucinogens that’s naturally present in the human body, although its biological purpose is unclear. DMT is a central component of ayahuasca, which Indigenous people in the Amazon basin have used for religious, divinatory, or medical purposes for over a thousand years. It was first synthesized in 1931 by the Canadian chemist Richard Manske, but it wasn’t until 1956 that chemist Stephen Szára reported that DMT occasions psychedelic experiences similar to those of LSD. In 1990, Rick Strassman, a psychiatry professor at the University of New Mexico, received the first new approval from the U.S. government in decades to run human trials with DMT. Over the course of five years, Strassman supervised more than four hundred DMT sessions with sixty participants.

DMT can be used in its chemical form by vaporizing and inhaling it or by intravenously injecting it. Both routes bypass the digestive system to reach the brain more rapidly, allowing DMT to take effect almost instantly. Its effects are similar to those of other hallucinogens, including possible mystical-type encounters. At least one study found that “God-encounter experiences” were reported more often with DMT than with psilocybin or LSD.

The effects of DMT last only twenty to thirty minutes. Because the trip is so short, DMT has been called the “businessman’s trip” or “businessman’s lunch.”

Although the acute drug experience is short, research suggests that DMT can have significant impacts. Studies show that it could play a role in neuroregeneration, that it reduces chronic inflammation in the central nervous system, and that it may help in treating Alzheimer’s disease. It also has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression in rats.

In the United States, DMT is listed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. It’s illegal to use it recreationally or in therapy outside of specially approved research settings.

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