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.