DMT Abuse & Addiction
Up to Date
Last Updated - 07/26/2022View our editorial policy
What is DMT?
DMT stands for dimethyltryptamine. This is a hallucinogenic drug that naturally occurs in plants and animals. It’s similar in some ways to more well-known and commonly used hallucinogens such as mushrooms and LSD.
DMT has a long history, and it has been used in religious ceremonies and rituals for hundreds of years. This hallucinogenic and psychedelic drug creates a brief set of experiences that can include both visual and auditory hallucinations, and it’s currently a Schedule I controlled substance in the U.S.
This means that it doesn’t have current standards of safety, it has no medical use or treatment, there’s a high abuse potential, and it’s illegal to buy it, make it, or possess it.
The use of the drug in religious rituals is common in South America, and it’s a powder that’s found in plants not only in South America but also in locations like Mexico and Asia. It can be vaporized, smoked in a pipe, or brewed in teas such as ayahuasca. Less commonly it may be injected or snorted.
DMT has a chemical structure similar to certain medicines used to treat migraines, and the peak effects of the substance usually start within 3 to 5 minutes, and the total length of time the drug effects are felt is usually 30 to 45 minutes. This may be somewhat longer if it’s brewed and consumed as tea.
People take DMT because they want to gain spiritual insight or just have a psychedelic experience, and it may lead to feelings of euphoria, altered sensations, and hallucinations. Some people who use the drug describe the experience they have on it as life-changing or incredibly profound, whereas other people feel panicked or have a sense of terror or extreme anxiety. The differences in experiences is just one reason this drug can be dangerous.
Some of the physical side effects of DMT can include an increased heart rate and blood pressure, agitation, rhythmic eye movements, and when taken orally it often leads to gastrointestinal side effects like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Some of the mental side effects can last for days or weeks after a person takes DMT.
Understanding DMT Addiction
People frequently wonder if DMT is addictive, and it’s somewhat of a gray area when it comes to answering this question.
DMT is a psychedelic substance that’s in the same class as drugs like peyote and LSD, and it impacts the brain areas that use serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter. While some people might want to argue DMT isn’t addictive, because of the fact that it changes the way neurotransmitters in your brain behave, and the way signals are sent to one another, it can lead to a psychological addiction or dependence over time.
Addiction or dependence to DMT is different however from addiction to other drugs, because it doesn’t lead to withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking it. However, DMT abuse is a real problem.
Some of the signs you have a problem with DMT include being obsessed with it and thinking about it often, trying to control your use of the drug and being unsuccessful, developing a tolerance to it, or continuing to use DMT even when it interferes with other areas of your life. Another sign of a problem with DMT occurs when someone participates in risky or dangerous behaviors or activities when they’re using it.
As with other drugs, determining whether or not an addiction to DMT exists is complex, and there may also be situations where someone with a DMT problem also uses other drugs and exhibits signs of a polydrug addiction, or where underlying mental health issues exist.
DMT isn’t necessarily physically addictive, at least not in the sense that it produces withdrawal symptoms. However, there is some evidence to indicate that it can lead to the development of tolerance rather quickly.
What this means is that as you take DMT your body starts to adjust to it, and you need higher doses to feel the same effects, so while it may not be a full-blown physical addiction like you get with other drug classes, some elements manifest themselves as a type of physical addiction.
Is DMT Chemically Addictive?
A lot of understanding the risks of DMT relies on understanding the chemical effects it has on your brain. DMT has a structure that’s very similar to serotonin which is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter found in your brain. When you take DMT, it raises your serotonin level, which is why you may have positive feelings or a euphoric experience associated with it.
However, this can also lead to risks if you’re taking antidepressants which also raise your serotonin levels. If so, you may accumulate so much serotonin that you have something called serotonin syndrome. Some of the symptoms of this can include high blood pressure, confusion, headache, and a loss of muscle coordination.
Understanding the relationship between DMT and serotonin is important because it shows that this drug does have the potential to impact the chemicals in your brain, and that can create a type of addiction, although more research is still needed on the topic.
With DMT and other psychedelic drugs, people also tend to develop an addiction to the experiences surrounding the drug, so they continue to seek it out to replicate those feelings or the emotions they had while on it.
DMT Side Effects
Since DMT has a long history in religious and cultural ceremonies and is a naturally occurring substance, there is the unfortunate misconception that it’s safe, and this isn’t necessarily the case. There are DMT side effects, and some can be dangerous.
When a person takes DMT, it produces a hallucinogenic experience, similar to what happens when someone takes mushrooms or LSD. The person taking DMT will have a brief experience that includes both auditory and visual hallucinations.
There is currently no approved medical use for DMT in Colorado or the U.S., and it’s a Schedule I controlled substance, yet people use it regardless.
One of the primary side effects that can occur with DMT is something called serotonin syndrome. DMT is an agonist of serotonin receptors, so it plays a role in how the brain produces and uses serotonin. If you’re taking something else that raises your levels of serotonin or availability of the neurotransmitter, serotonin syndrome may occur. Symptoms can include rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, twitching muscles or stiffness, sweating, agitation, confusion, dilated pupils, and diarrhea.
Along with the possibility of serotonin syndrome, other DMT side effects include an intense hallucinogenic experience, which usually includes a sense of euphoria, and an altered sense of time and space. While some people enjoy the trip that comes from the use of DMT, for some people it can be scary, anxiety-producing, or create panic. There’s really no way to know how a DMT experience will go.
Other possible DMT side effects include:
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Chest pain
- Rapid eye movement
Some of the psychological effects of DMT may last for weeks after it’s taken.
While research is limited on DMT, there is also a belief that DMT side effects can become severe and include seizures, respiratory arrest, and coma. There can also be very dangerous side effects of DMT for people who have underlying mental health disorders such as schizophrenia.
Side Effects of DMT In the Long-Term
There are possible side effects of DMT in the long term as well as the short term.
While DMT isn’t addictive in the sense that many drugs are, it can lead to psychological dependence. For example, people may start to want to continue having the same feelings or experiences over and over again, and it can make DMT a focal point of their life. It can also lead to social and emotional isolation for people who use it frequently.
For someone who is heavily using DMT, it can be difficult to maintain relationships and keep up with responsibilities and that person may find they’re spending the majority of the time trying to get DMT and then using it.
Signs of DMT use can also include having cravings for it or continuing to use it despite negative consequences that occur as a result.
Other signs of DMT use are:
- Mood disorders or trouble organizing thoughts
- Ongoing visual disturbances and psychosis
With DMT symptoms, there’s also something called hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD) to consider. With this, the person experiences visual disturbances and symptoms that are similar to neurological conditions.
DMT Overdose Symptoms
DMT overdose symptoms can include:
- High blood pressure and heart rate
- Muscle coordination problems
- Severe vomiting
- Respiratory arrest
If you think someone is experiencing DMT overdose symptoms, call 911 to contact an emergency services provider right away.
DMT is becoming an increasing problem in Colorado and around the country, and as people start using it more often, they’re finding that it has negative consequences in their life. If you feel that you have a problem with DMT, The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake has a team of experts who can help you overcome your use of this drug, and we have national resources as well.
DMT Addiction Treatment
With most drugs such as opioids, there are often two different aspects of treatment that need to be addressed. The first is a psychological addiction, and the second is a physical addiction. With a psychological addiction, some of the signs there is a problem include continuing to use the substance even when there are negative consequences, being preoccupied with the use of the drug, or being unable to stop even if you try.
With a physical addiction, your body has become dependent on the presence of that drug. Your body sees it as normal to have the drug in your system, and if you stop using it suddenly, you will go through withdrawal symptoms, which vary depending on the drug and the severity of the drug use.
With many drugs including opioids and alcohol, withdrawal can include nausea, vomiting, sweating, aches, and other symptoms, but this isn’t going to happen when you come off DMT. While physical dependence doesn’t occur, you can develop a tolerance to DMT, meaning that you need continuously higher doses to get the same effects.
With DMT, there isn’t a physical addiction, but instead, DMT addiction treatment focuses primarily on the psychological addiction or dependence you may have on this drug.
Treating psychological dependence to DMT is complex, and often requires many different factors which is why it’s important to choose the right DMT rehab facility, such as The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake, where we have experience in the treatment of DMT addiction.
As a psychedelic substance, when people take DMT it affects the neurotransmitter serotonin in their brain. It causes somewhat of a blackout experience, and anytime your brain is chemically impacted by the introduction of a substance, there is the possibility of psychological addiction. When you’re looking for DMT addiction treatment, it’s important to find a facility that has experience treating patients with similar addictions, because it’s unique from other drugs.
Something else that’s important to consider when comparing DMT addiction treatment options is the polydrug abuse element. Many people who use hallucinogenic drugs like DMT or LSD also use other drugs. For example, they may use benzos to calm down after having an experience with DMT. When someone has a polydrug use problem, treating them becomes even more complex and requires a unique approach.
Insurance May Pay For Addiction Treatment
DMT Rehab in Colorado
With inpatient DMT addiction rehab, patients live in a facility for a period that averages 28 to 90 days. During that time the patient addresses not only their addiction to DMT, but also receives treatment for underlying mental health disorders. This is a common scenario with DMT because people will often use this drug as a way to cope with painful emotions, escape from reality, or heal from past traumas. It’s not uncommon for people in DMT rehab to also receive dual diagnosis treatment for underlying mental health disorders.
During your time at an inpatient facility, you’ll also work with a team of therapists and do sessions alone, as a group with other patients, and in some cases, with your family.
Inpatient DMT addiction rehab is best if you do have an underlying mental health disorder or you are abusing multiple drugs. It can also be optimal for people who have sought out other DMT rehab treatment options, and they haven’t worked.
Outpatient treatment is generally better suited to someone who might use DMT recreationally but feels it is just starting to become a problem in their life, or if their only issue is the use of DMT.
DMT Treatment For Addiction
When you’re searching for DMT treatment for addiction, you should look for a program such as what’s offered at Palmer Lake, where there are individualized treatment plans and aftercare plans created for each patient. Every situation and experience is unique, and DMT rehab should reflect this.
The goals of DMT treatment aren’t just to help you stop using the drug, but are also to help you learn how to cope with triggers in your daily life, to uncover some of the factors that contributed to your addiction, and to help you have a fulfilling life without substances.
Much of the process of DMT treatment for addiction focuses on behavioral therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Does Insurance Cover DMT Rehab?
Cost is a big obstacle for a lot of people when it comes to receiving treatment for DMT addiction or any substance abuse treatment, but it is attainable.
First and foremost, many private insurance plans do cover DMT rehab and other substance abuse programs. They may cover all or a portion of it, in which case we can help you determine the costs you will be responsible for.
If you have public insurance or no insurance our intake coordinators can still help you identify ways to cover the cost of DMT addiction rehab.
If you’re in Colorado, including Denver, Boulder, or Colorado Springs and you’re struggling with DMT use we encourage you to contact our Palmer Lake facility. We also have treatment centers throughout the country.
If you think you might have a problem with DMT, there are resources in Colorado for residents of Colorado Springs, Palmer Lake, Denver, Boulder, and statewide to seek treatment in a safe, healthy and effective way.
Barker, Steven A. “N, N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), an Endoge[…]s Role and Function.” Frontiers in neuroscience vol. 12 536., August 6, 2018. Accessed June 8, 2021.
NIDA. “How Do Hallucinogens (LSD, Psilocybin, P[…]the Brain and Body?.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, June 2, 2020. Accessed June 8, 2021.
NIDA. “Hallucinogens DrugFacts.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, April 22, 2019. Accessed June 8, 2021.