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What is DMT?

Michael Anissimov
Updated May 21, 2024
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Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is a powerful psychedelic drug, and a type of tryptamine alkaloid. It is a naturally occurring substance, found in various plants and animals, and in small quantities in the human brain, where its function is unknown. DMT is famous for its power. Though the psychedelic trip it creates only lasts 5 to 30 minutes when smoked, the effect is profound and remarkable, with the feeling that the user is transported to a completely different place, immersed in kaleidoscopic sounds and images. In its pure form, the drug is a white to yellow crystalline solid.

DMT has been consumed throughout history and into prehistory by indigenous peoples, especially in South America, where it is consumed during shamanic rituals and called ayhuasca. This is done by combining plant material that contains it with a monoamine oxide inhibitor, a special chemical that allows the drug to avoid digestion by the stomach and reach the bloodstream. Evidence of DMT consumption by indigenous peoples in South America stretches back to at least 2130 BC. A pipe made from puma bone of that age was tested positive for the substance. Smoking it would give the users visions and feelings that they associated with magical sources, putting them into contact with "spirits" they could consult on matters of plants, disease, etc.

Some of the most unusual psychedelic trip reports come from users of DMT, who report "revolving quadrate vortices," conversations with intelligent alien-type creatures, and so on. These reports are unusual because of their intensity and the sensation of meeting intelligent beings, which is reminiscent of what happens to many people each night in dreams. Though scientific investigation of the effects of the drug has been limited, cognitive science may be able to learn more about the human brain by seeing how it changes its operation in response to tryptamines. Spiritualists may be inclined to believe that the beings that people "meet" under the influence may actually exist on parallel planes, which has introduced alternate religious belief systems or worldviews based on the experience.

DMT is a powerful hallucinogen, meant to be carefully administered in a calm environment to someone who has prior experience with other psychedelic drugs. The drug is relatively rare due to the lack of commercial demand and the scarcity of people with the knowledge and motivation to isolate it from plants. Still, as a molecule, it seems like a terrain ripe for discovery. Untested speculations have argued that the DMT found naturally in the brain may be implicated in certain neurological states, and if it is artificially administered, it may pull these "switches and levers" in ways that can be more precisely characterized and studied. As the human brain is the most complex known object in the universe, determining the precise way in which it interacts with complex molecules like this may be one of the largest scientific challenges of all time.

All The Science is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Anissimov
By Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov is a dedicated All The Science contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism to his articles. An avid blogger, Michael is deeply passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. His professional experience includes work with the Methuselah Foundation, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and Lifeboat Foundation, further showcasing his commitment to scientific advancement.

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Discussion Comments
By anon999568 — On Feb 03, 2018

It's about time, knowing through my own experiences with little chemical help and allowing natural sources to do their best with me, and by a friend telling me DMT. I knew about its existence but not the name. I am planning to extract it and use for my own discretion. And by it I will empower my own self. Being thus the most important of all materials the earth could provide.

As for critics, keep continuing reading for the rest of your lives and listening to the mass financial companies who provide all sources and spend billions of dollars to make sure any of us don't get close to managing and controlling our own being.


By anon997114 — On Nov 16, 2016

To the people who say you don't need "drugs" to get a better understanding of oneself, how do you know what someone doesn't need? We are all different and have issues that maybe you haven't gone through, so let people be free and learn in their way.

By anon995392 — On Apr 25, 2016

I have experienced the purple dawn of creation. I was shown the alchemic symbol for the philosopher's stone, I have seen the aeons that reside beyond the veil. The shimmering darkness is full of light.

By anon994662 — On Feb 26, 2016

First guy, "Dude I've been trying this thing where you inhale this gas called 'air', and you keep on living! Its so intense, cause you get to go on like living and having these new experiences! And best of all, it occurs naturally! You should totally try it!" Second person, we'll call him "Smart Guy", he says: " that's so disgusting. Intelligent people don't need to do drugs like that..."

This interaction is exactly how this whole discussion sounds. I'm surprised that nobody has made this point yet. DMT is a naturally occurring chemical in our bodies, therefore not a drug. To call it as such would be the same as calling the blood that pumps through our veins a drug. Those of you trying to sound smart or intelligent by shunning DMT really need to sit down and think about your words and the reality of things before you speak. Or in this case, type.

By anon990108 — On Apr 06, 2015

DMT shouldn't be illegal at all! Otherwise we'd be all put into prison for having illegal "drugs" within our pineal gland right in the center of our brain! We produce significant amount of DMT in our pineal gland during birth, death and during dreams. Not only us! All species on earth, plants, animals! So, does it even make sense to call this substance illegal? Are those guys who make this illegal thinking they are smarter than nature or something?

By anon989104 — On Feb 19, 2015

I have never done DMT in my life, I would really like to try it. I came across DMT in high school but I wasn't ready to try it then, I was too scared and didn't really know much about the drug then and wasn't too experienced with psychedelics. I tried LSD about a year later and that was the best day/night of my life. I had a spiritual awakening and it helped me get out of my depression. I always say to everyone I explain my trip to that I'm crazy, but it's like you can feel Earth you can feel Earth's feelings. I've been searching for DMT everywhere but I believe the God would put it in my path again when he feels I'm ready. I am open to try it and to see where it takes me,

By anon956316 — On Jun 12, 2014

I tried DMT and had a third person experience that elevated me above everyone else (including myself) in the room. It was crazy and I have always been interested in trying it again since. I was literally along the ceiling for a high that felt like an hour plus to me but only lasted about 5-10 minutes, according to everyone else witnessing me smoke it.

By anon951965 — On May 19, 2014

I got some DMT off Silk Road. Crazy visuals. Only lasts about 15 minutes. Intense fear, but it doesn't last long, and the visuals make up for it. Plus you feel great after the trip is over, so great that it is worth the price of the fear. If it were not crazy illegal, I would get it more often, but since I'm on probation, the last thing I need is for someone to open my mail and find out what I've been ordering.

Maybe I'll get some again as a treat for Christmas. I would classify it as a soft drug--sure the effects are intense but the drug is safe--using it won't kill you, and you don't get addicted to it.

By anon948612 — On Apr 30, 2014

My daughter's experience with DMT a few years ago has left her dead in her mind and she still wants to die, as the schizophrenia from her mother's side of the family tree was released into her world. She was cool before the DMT experience, and now, she is in the limited mental facilities that handle madness, and she is still cool. She is not a weak minded person. She just wants to die. To be happy, she thinks this body must die.

I need some help and knowledge on this subject. Without DMT, I have had the experiences myself using various other substances like mushrooms, I admit, so that my baby girl understands that life is where her feet touches the ground. And death is like the energizer bunny.

By anon345120 — On Aug 16, 2013

All these comments seem legitimate to each person, but with this great experience, what are you doing about your life since and are others less fortunate in sharing what you have gained outside of taking this drug?

By anon336965 — On Jun 02, 2013

This drug may be very powerful, but there are other powerful things of this world, such as the powerful, privileged beings who walk it, as well as the mind.

Being what I am, I can already see energy, go into other dimensions, go into trances, communicate with spirits and beings from other dimensions. Most of all, the power of the mind has no limit.

As adidas has said: "impossible is nothing" and I absolutely agree. What is impossible? Nothing. It's just the walls and objects that you put there. If you can't do something in this dimension, you can do it in another, so you don't really need this drug. Find your inner self and break free from the chains of humanity, the chains of you, the chains of the mind. Be free

without the assistance of drugs.

This is in reply to most of the previous posts.

By anon326862 — On Mar 24, 2013

@anon200795: Only one good trip of 15 minutes of DMT is more than a life on acid. It's not about "fun" or "take crap" or "make crazy things" or "spent more money for little doses." It's about spirit and the greatest enigma you can put in your life -- something bigger than all you know shows you, and you never will see reality as you did before. --alienobserver

By anon322626 — On Feb 28, 2013

@anon320836, Post 28: You're absolutely correct.

By anon320836 — On Feb 19, 2013

Those who won't try this drug are either scared to find a new truth that is different than what they have grown to know or were brainwashed into believing. Those who are willing to cross into a true reality are the true spiritual warriors, just like the ones of old. With these new insights from this wonderful drug we will communicate a spiritual understanding less understood, but widely sought after by false religions and teachings. Wake up!

By anon320499 — On Feb 18, 2013

I haven't tried it, but I am becoming increasingly more interested in it. The damage to the body is little to none and the benefits are outstanding. Science is now only just opening up to the fact that everything is energy and that that energy is our consciousness. These drugs don't look into the physical; they look inside of us, into our spirit. They keep trying to understand the brain but in a physical sense. The more they look at physical, they already know that there is always something else the deeper they go. They will never get to the bottom of it that way. Surely they must be aware that this is the only way to see things as they truly are.

It stands to reason that most who do this stuff end up turning against the government. They see things right and know it's crap. The government knows that this happens, and that's why they are suppressed. If it were to become accepted worldwide, governments would fail and come crashing down. I personally believe that nobody would seek to control over anybody else.

By anon311029 — On Dec 28, 2012

This is such an under-studied drug, very, very, very misunderstood, and for some reason, feared. I use it quite often, a couple times a week, and I personally have never experienced anything as beautiful and spiritual in my life (and this is coming from someone who was an atheist prior to trying DMT).

Those who say it causes psychotic, fearful episodes either aren't built for psychedelics and/or did way too much at one time. That can definitely be crazy and frightening. But treat it with respect, and it will reciprocate. And to those who say its disgusting, cocaine, heroin and meth are disgusting drugs. They are ones that ruin peoples lives, are addictive and cause crime and violence.

DMT has been used for thousands of years, and will continue to be for thousands of years. It occurs naturally in our body in small amounts, and is present in almost every ecosystem on the planet. You will never experience anything like it, and I get that that fact alone makes it not for everyone.

But don't put down people who use it, or say that its disgusting. To each their own. Hard drugs are disgusting, not this one. Much love, everybody.

By anon293198 — On Sep 24, 2012

I would never knowingly try this drug.

By anon278505 — On Jul 07, 2012

DMT is what connects all. It's in the earth, plants, animals, humans, and I'm sure on other planets as well. DMT is the truth about all that is and will ever be.

By anon274399 — On Jun 11, 2012

Intelligent people don't need drugs to simulate experiences, spiritual or otherwise. We have our superior mental faculties. I have mixed feelings of pity and contempt for all who have tried any drug, let alone dmt.

Next time people are tripping, they need to look in the mirror, and maybe, just maybe that alien will give them that one true revelation that they've been seeking, and that would be that a lot of people can't or won't deal with reality on its own terms.

By anon203971 — On Aug 07, 2011

I tried dmt more then once. The first time I did it I was looking at the rug and each stain had almost a kaleidoscope image around it, and it looked like wires with electricity moving through it. It's hard to explain but it was like I could almost see the power, energy.

I've tried it since then and no crazy visuals, but mostly just patterns and feeling really good inside, and then after I come down I feel kind of slow -- like not feeling as smart and very tired.

By anon200795 — On Jul 28, 2011

People aren't all over DMT because it's hard to come by the 'real' thing. Yes, what you are being sold is working, but not at full effect because the stuff sold to you is a crappy yellow powder.

I don't know why you would ever want to smoke this. You pay 60-80 bucks for a baggie about the size of two thumbnails for ten minutes of fun. Whe in all reality acid, or LSD, does the same thing, and is more powerful than the fake DMT you are buying, but lasts anywhere from 6-12 hours.

DMT is a disgusting drug that smells like burning plastic as it's being burned. And is nowhere near worth the amount of money being spent on it.

By anon185915 — On Jun 13, 2011

How or where do I find it?

By anon170913 — On Apr 28, 2011

DMT is incredible. It's amazing. Doesn't seem very dangerous to me. See the real way the worlds works. Open your eyes, look around and enjoy. There's nothing better.

By anon154167 — On Feb 20, 2011

I tried DMT and let me tell you my experience. I was sitting in a comfy chair. This Alien being was pounding on a drum, and kept saying "live your life, it's not over yet, but this is just the beginning of a remarkable Journey" He repeated that three times.

I saw a light shine above me, and it had solar systems that connected one after the other. I got sucked in, and it was frightening at first, but then I heard some calming music.

I swear I did not have my IPOD or Zune, no headphones. The music is just calm and mellow and I saw many random faces swirling, random mountains shifting in different directions, and a man that wants to teach me the way of life.

He discussed the meaning of life to me. He talked to me about what life is really about. I really can't remember the exact words, but he told me that the meaning of life is within you. The choices you make, etc.

I remember myself crying, and the tears were really big, then those tears turned into a hard gel-like substance.

I saw more, but can't remember everything. Coming down from it just really changed my life. I have a really different view of the world now, and I really am blessed to try this wonderful drug.

By anon136902 — On Dec 24, 2010

I tried DMT for the first time last night. It was the strangest and most exhilarating, spiritual, experience I have ever had!

I had a few comments though This is a very spiritual experience and setting makes a defined difference.

Take this with someone you know, have them help you administer it (let them light and hold the pipe)

Put on some positive or mellow mantras, or methodic drum and bass -- maybe Enya.

My buddy was knowledgeable and very positive about the experience. Hopefully you can find someone to help you “set the mood.” He had a light machine and mystical paintings in the room.

In any case, good luck with your experiences. Mine will continue to grow. Do your research first, and if you don’t know, you can take enough to portal into another life plane.

By anon136666 — On Dec 23, 2010

I've done dmt three times. Each time it gets more intense. It is not a "trippy" drug or something you do to party. It is extremely powerful.

I actually met interdimensional beings that communicated without speaking to me. It is literally the spirit molecule. Your life will not be the same afterwards and it's one of the biggest secrets on earth.

I was an atheist before smoking it and i thought i had seen it all since i had taken acid and mushrooms and mescaline. Anyway, when you are ready the teacher will appear. DMT is literally everywhere, in every ecosystem. So don't worry; it's not going anywhere.

By anon135058 — On Dec 17, 2010

I did dmt for the first time two days ago, i took the hit and went into a weird world. i didn't remember what happened at first until i traced my steps. I saw a light on top of a massive mountain covered with trees, and there was a light up top. i traveled to it but never reached it.

The reason why dmt isn't on high demand is because it's not for a lot of people. I've done a lot of intense hallucinogens in my life and dmt is the only one that completely overwhelmed me, so not too many people can handle this intense drug.

By anon133389 — On Dec 10, 2010

all right so i smoked some last night. didn't see anything. my body just felt really relaxed and numb.

By anon127023 — On Nov 14, 2010

I smoked it once. With my eyes closed it was amazing. Color patterns, slow, liquid like and intense moving, but then I opened my eyes and everywhere I touched on my body broke off into my hand, very real. very intense, seeing your hand severed from your arm. it was nuts. I'd do it again, though in a controlled environment.

By anon115685 — On Oct 04, 2010

i smoked d.m.t with weed in it the other night. i don't remember that much but i was tripping hard! my vision blacked over with my eyes closed and i went into a trance but the whole experience only lasted about five minutes.

By googlefanz — On Aug 06, 2010

@musicshaman -- I've never smoked DMT, but from what I hear there are some side effects, including a sense of paranoia and fear.

Apparently, according to a site called deoxy.org, the trip can be really heavy, and you can feel out of control.

Also you apparently come down pretty hard.

I think that's why many people mix it with other things to smoke, like marijuana, since in that form it is more likely to make you giggly than scared.

By musicshaman — On Aug 06, 2010

I'm kind of surprised there isn't more of an illegal market demand for this.

If it's such a trippy drug, I would think that people would be all over it.

Does it have some horrible side effects or something? Or is it just too expensive?

Inquiring minds...

By FirstViolin — On Aug 06, 2010

This is a cool article -- I had seen the documentary DMT: the Spirit Molecule, by Rick Strassman, which is what got me interested in DMT to begin with.

I think that it's a shame this substance is so understudied.

The very fact that so many mysteries about it remain alone is is such a good reason to study it, much less the fact that it has such fascinating effects.

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov is a dedicated All The Science contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics, biology...
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