DMT Addiction and Abuse

DMT may not be as common as heroin or cocaine, but it still poses dangerous consequences to the mind and body. Because it occurs naturally, you may consider it safe for consumption. However, DMT is a Class A drug because of its highly addictive nature and severe side-effects. Yet, it is often consumed recreationally. DMT addiction is real, and recognising the symptoms before it’s too late can save you or a family member from a lifetime of regret.

This article provides information about how to identify the signs and pinpoints the necessary steps towards rehabilitation.

DMT Addiction

An addiction is an unhealthy fixation with anything that threatens to disrupt the normal pattern of your life with adverse consequences. Addictions generally occur in two forms:

  • Drug or substance addiction
  • Behavioural addiction

DMT addiction falls under the drug/substance category and can be traced back to the 1960s when the drug becomes widely popular. It’s taken recreationally for its psychedelic effects and people often spiral into a web of addiction after their first experience with the drug.

History of DMT

Although DMT became largely popular as a recreational drug in the 1960s, its properties were known centuries ago and used by ancient tribes for spiritual and sacrificial functions. For this reason, most people attribute DMT usage to religious experiences.

However, DMT does not usually produce psychoactive effects when taken orally, because it is quickly metabolised by the enzyme, monoamine oxidase. Because of this, it’s combined with some compounds to prevent metabolising. Amazonian native tribes take it with Ayahuasca to inhibit metabolisation and produce the psychedelic effects.

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Recognising DMT

To understand the risk of DMT addiction and how to overcome it, it’s important to know what DMT is beyond its psychoactive properties. DMT (or Dimethyltryptamine) is a naturally occurring hallucinogen found in plants but also exists in limited quantities within humans and some animals. However, the popular version of DMT currently being sold as an illicit drug is synthesised in underground laboratories.

In its pure form, DMT is a white crystalline solid or powder. However, it is very rare to find pure DMT, so the more common form is its impure version – an orange, yellow or pink solid, or powder.

DMT is usually sold under wraps, containing between 1/8th to 0.5 grams of DMT. It costs £25 and above, with the price increasing with purity. The drug may be smoked, snorted or injected intravenously. Injecting the drugs (PWID) also puts you at a high risk of infection by HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B.

What Is DMT Addiction?

DMT is a highly-addictive, psychoactive drug. This means it can induce a hallucinatory experience when ingested. This experience, otherwise known as a ‘trip’ is the reason behind the drug’s popularity. People who find trips exciting tend to use DMT recreationally and have a high chance of abusing the drug.

When you take DMT, the chemical root structure – which is somewhat similar to sumatriptan (anti-migraine drug) – acts as a non-selective agonist on most (or all) serotonin receptors in the brain, particularly on the serotonin 5-h2a receptor.

This impacts the pleasure pathway and floods the nucleus accumbens with serotonin, inducing the feeling of ‘euphoria’ experienced by users. Repeated use of this drug causes the serotonin receptors to build tolerance, which eventually leads to dependence (addiction) on DMT.

Causes of DMT Addiction

Addiction has been linked to a variety of causes. In the past, people believed addicts were vulnerable because they were immoral or weak-willed. Far from that, modern research has discovered that the brain is chiefly responsible for how susceptible people are to addictive tendencies, as well as extrinsic actors.

  • Genetic causes

People who have a history of addiction in their family tree are at a high risk of becoming dependent on substances too. It may not necessarily be the same substance their relative was addicted to. Scientists are studying the possibility of the existence of an addiction gene.

  • Environmental Causes

Where a person grows up can influence their behaviour. It’s been observed that people who live in areas of high drug usage or production tend to become users themselves. For instance, the poppy plant is a common cash crop in Afghanistan, so it’s not uncommon for many Afghans to be smokers.

  • Biological Causes

There are also biological causes of addiction. If an accident or brain defect in the pleasure pathway causes an individual to develop pleasure-seeking habits, they are likely to become addicted to DMT or some other hallucinogenic drug.

  • Social Causes

Age, employment status and social lifestyle also play a part in an individual’s drug use habits. For example, young students who attend parties and clubs frequently can easily pick up drug habits. This is because of the prevalence of the drug in these circles. Another example of social cause is peer pressure.

The Progression of DMT Addiction

The first time a person takes DMT (or any psychedelic drug) is usually the most intense experience because the brain has never known the feeling before. This pleasurable feeling is usually the reason many people go for a second, third and subsequent ‘hit(s)’.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to get that first-time feeling with subsequent uses. Most users don’t know this, so they take the drug repeatedly. As the DMT floods the serotonin receptors, the brain learns to adjust its functions to the sensations, thereby increasing tolerance to the drug.

Once tolerance is formed, the person develops dependence and starts to exhibit negative symptoms (withdrawal) if they don’t take the drug. This is known as ‘withdrawal’, which is the brain reacting to the inability to function normally without DMT.

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What Makes DMT Use So Addictive?

DMT is a powerful, fast-acting psychoactive drug, with an average trip lasting about an hour. People who want longer bouts of intoxication often abuse DMT easily. Fast-acting drugs are easier to binge, and this sort of abuse hastens the progression of addiction.

People who abuse DMT become addicted because the brain quickly develops tolerance to its effects.

DMT Addiction in Young Adults

Young adults between the ages of 18 – 25 are most exposed to DMT because it is usually sold at parties and nightclubs. It’s also popular on university campuses as a recreational drug. In a 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, it was revealed that under 1% of Americans 12 years and older have used DMT at least once.

Although its abuse is rare, DMT prevalence is on the rise. Recently, 24% of new drug users attempted DMT; this is the highest proportion of first-time users at any time.

MT Abuse: The Risks and Dangers of DMT

DMT has a molecular structure like serotonin. The condition serotonin syndrome is, therefore, a legitimate health risk amongst users. People who use antidepressants are mostly at risk of this complication.

Serotonin syndrome occurs when the body builds up significant quantities of serotonin. It happens when a person combines several different drugs. However, excess serotonin in the body can cause:

  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Hypertension
  • Poor muscle coordination
  • Headaches

In higher doses, DMT usage can cause respiratory arrest, seizure or coma.

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DMT Addiction Symptoms, and Side Effects

People who use DMT do so looking for the elusive first high. Naturally, people react differently to trips. What they see or do really depends on their subconscious. Unfortunately, each trip is different for everyone, with some having the potential to go ‘bad’.

Like most drugs, there are certain physical and psychological side-effects of using DMT. These effects are also good indicators of DMT abuse or addiction.

Signs and Symptoms of DMT Abuse

Though signs are visible ways to detect possible drug abuse, the symptoms are more like adverse effects of using the drug. For example, a sign could be a sudden change in character or noticeable results of drug abuse, while a symptom can be a negative health consequence.

Do you suspect a family member of DMT abuse?

Here are some signs to consider:

  • Traces of DMT powder on their clothes or in their room
  • Spending a lot of time with other DMT users
  • Having a false sense of time
  • Altered perception of what’s real and what’s not
  • Quick changes in mood/demeanour
  • Tendency to forget things easily
  • Sudden changes in body temperature
  • Appearing to be out of sync with their body

While signs can easily be detected by a keen observer, symptoms require closer diagnosis and medical tests in some cases. They’re often divided into short and long-term effects.

The Effects of Using DMT: Issues with DMT Overdose

The effects of using DMT are psychological as well as physical. Although DMT is psychoactive, the trip is not always a mental experience. There are certain intense changes that occur in the body, such as increased blood pressure and elevated heart rate. Trips can manifest themselves in many ways; some users tend to feel that time has slowed down (or sped up) for them.

Because they are illegal, most addictive substances are synthesised under poor, unregulated conditions. This means concentrations of the drug are not standard throughout the market and there is always the risk of an overdose or a bad trip.

Bad trips are more likely to occur if you have a pre-existing mental health condition. People with schizophrenia who use DMT will experience both visual and auditory hallucinations. Overdosing is very dangerous and common symptoms include increased heartbeat, profuse sweating, seizures, respiratory depression, coma or even death.

If you see someone who may have overdosed, call for emergency health assistance immediately.

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DMT Effects: Long-Term

The long-term effects of DMT use are more damaging. People who abuse the drug for a long time may experience the following symptoms:

  • Paranoia
  • Mood swings
  • Deviated septum (people who snort)
  • HIV/AIDS (people who inject with infected syringes)
  • Depression
  • Impaired memory
  • Hallucination Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD)
  • Respiratory infection (for smokers)

HPPD or flashbacks occur when people suffer visual disturbances, even long after the last usage.

DMT Effects: Short-Term

DMT produces bouts of euphoria at first, but when the drug starts to wear off, certain uncomfortable side-effects can be felt.

Short-term effects/symptoms of DMT include:

  • Serotonin Syndrome (too much serotonin in the CNS)
  • Increased heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • Digestion issues
  • Panic attacks
  • Dilated pupils
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Lung irritation

However, not everybody experiences these side-effects. Most of the time, they are not severe enough to discourage people from using DMT.

Risks of Abusing DMT

Given the highly addictive nature of DMT and the uncertainty of concentration in a typical dose, the risk of abusing it is very high. People who want to feel ‘high’ take it repeatedly to escape their reality.

Over time, the brain learns to recognise DMT and adjusts its functions to subsequent usage. A user will often find their tolerance increasing and will naturally use more to get an intense experience. Unfortunately, tolerance paves the way to psychological dependence.

People who become dependent on a drug are addicted and will exhibit withdrawal if they suddenly discontinue usage. Withdrawal can be unbearable and forces most people to relapse. Therefore, many addicts find it hard to quit, even when they want to.

Warning Signs of DMT Abuse in a Loved One

It can be difficult to watch a family member or loved one fall victim to drug addiction. It doesn’t only affect them, but the lives of those around them. It helps to recognise the warning signs before the damage becomes severe or irreparable.
How do you know your loved one is using DMT?

  • They experience cravings (seen as restlessness)
  • Dilated pupils
  • Uncoordinated eye movements
  • Appearance of disconnection from reality
  • Loss of interest in grooming
  • Obsession with exploring the self and the world
  • Unusual interest in religion and spirituality
  • Social isolation

If you can verify DMT abuse, approach the individual with empathy and genuine care. You can seek help from a professional to proceed with the next step.

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Factual Dangers

DMT abuse can exacerbate into something more dangerous if you don’t address it quickly. From risk of overdose to co-occurring disorders, the dangers of abusing are real. Co-occurring disorders are mental health issues that develop because of drug abuse. In the case of DMT, they could be:

  • Alcoholism
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Schizophrenia

Bad trips can lead to psychosis for a person already suffering from schizophrenia or a similar mental health problem. Although rare, overdosing on DMT can cause health problems such as respiratory depression, falling into a coma or even death.

Treatment for DMT Addiction

Many rehabs are starting to include specialist treatment for DMT addiction. This is because of the increasing number of people abusing the drug. DMT usage declined in the 1980s and 90s but resurfaced again with the popularity of illegal drug sales over the internet. A recent report revealed that over 246,000 people are reported to have a hallucinogen use disorder.

Treatment starts with an evaluation by a professional. They will determine the severity of the addiction and suggest a suitable rehab option between the inpatient and outpatient rehab service. Detox is the first step, after which counselling and behavioural therapy may follow. When you leave rehab, a strong support network is key to preventing relapse.

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DMT Detox Treatment

Most addiction treatment often begins with detoxification. This is the process of thoroughly removing any lingering traces of DMT from your system. It involves going through withdrawal which is usually unpleasant but necessary. Withdrawal is the psychological and physical symptoms that occur when a drug-dependent user discontinues using the drug.

Common withdrawal symptoms of DMT:

  • Onset of diarrhoea
  • Hypertension
  • Problems with coordination
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Feeling of depression
  • Long-term psychosis
  • Muscle spasms

It’s advisable to always detox in the presence of a medical professional. In a good rehab facility, you will have access to 24-hour medical assistance and medication to alleviate the discomfort of withdrawal.

Best Voted Treatment Centres

The rehab you choose is vital to the quality of treatment you get and the recovery progress you make. According to Google customer ratings, the following are the best-voted treatment/rehab centres in the UK:

  • Castle Craig Hospital, West Linton
  • The Providence Projects, Bournemouth
  • Sanctuary Lodge, Halstead
  • Rehab 4 Addiction, London
  • ARC- Drug & Alcohol Rehab Centre, Portsmouth
  • Remar, UK, Sheffield

This list is by no means exhaustive and there are many good rehab facilities in the UK that are not mentioned. If you need help choosing one, call an addiction helpline.

Cost of Addiction Treatment: Paying for Rehab

While there are expensive, luxury rehab centres, there are also affordable clinics that are comfortable and accredited for treatment. If you can afford it, you may opt for a plush looking rehab with luxury facilities. However, it is the quality of the treatment programme that matters most.

Some rehabs request a minimum deposit before starting treatment, while others expect a lump-sum payment. If you would rather pay in instalments, there are rehabs with such arrangements too. Always ask to ensure you are satisfied with the terms before committing to treatment.

After Treatment Support

In rehab, you will receive counselling from an addiction psychiatrist to help you identify the underlying cause of your problem. They will also use various behavioural techniques to help you overcome cravings and avoid relapse when you leave the facility. Some centres apply alternative treatments such as massage therapy, meditation therapy, animal therapy, music and arts and crafts.

After treatment support is the ongoing care that continues post-rehab. It encourages you to leverage your support network in challenging times. A support network consists of a therapist, family members, former users, sponsors, trusted friends and anonymous associations. Sobriety is an ongoing exercise and your support group will help you maintain it, as well as live life comfortably as a brand new you.

DMT Statistics

DMT abuse and addiction is a growing concern in the UK. Although it is not currently known to many drug dealers and abusers, experts fear that this may change in the future. DMT is currently considered the ‘starter’ drug for first-time drug users.

According to a recent survey, 24% of new drug users tried DMT as their first ever hallucinogenic drug. In the US, fewer than 1% of individuals 12 years or older have admitted to using DMT at least once in their lifetime.

In the UK, there are signs of its growing popularity amongst adolescents and young adults aged 18 – 25 years.

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Drug Information

There is some evidence that DMT is produced endogenously in our pineal gland (in the brain). When smoked, the average dose of DMT is between 35 to 150 milligrams (mg) and the effect can be felt almost immediately. It hits its peak at three to five minutes, before gradually wearing out. The total experience lasts for 30 to 45 minutes.

When drunk in liquid form, the standard dose is 35mg to 75mg. The effect kicks in after 30 – 45 minutes, peaks two to three hours later and wears out completely after four to six hours. People who inject DMT feel its psychedelic effect instantly, but it wears out after a few minutes.

Street Names for DMT

As an illicit drug, DMT has a string of slang names used by dealers and buyers to maintain discretion. DMT is originally the contracted name for dimethyltryptamine. Other common street names are:

  • Dmitri
  • Businessman’s trip
  • Fantasia
  • Businessman’s special
  • 45-minute psychosis
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DMT is often referred to as ‘businessman’s trip’ because a trip rarely lasts up to an hour. That’s the average time it can take to travel to a quick meeting and back. While DMT has a similar structure to LSD, its effect is generally more powerful than the latter.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is DMT?

DMT is dimethyltryptamine, a highly-addictive psychoactive drug. That means it can induce a hallucinatory experience when ingested. While it is generally synthesised in a lab, there are minute quantities in humans and animals. DMT is currently a Class A drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971). However, people still use it recreationally for its psychedelic effects.

How Does It Affect the Brain?

DMT acts as a non-selective agonist on serotonin receptors in the brain, with emphasis on the serotonin 5-ht2a receptor. This neurotransmitter is responsible for mood, social action, appetite and sexual behaviour. By inducing this chemical, DMT generates a pleasurable experience. Users have described this feeling as “euphoric” and psychedelic.

What Does DMT Look Like?

DMT is a white crystalline powder extracted from plants found in South America, Mexico, and some parts of Asia. In pure form, it is completely white, but impure forms come in other colours like orange, yellow and pink. It can be smoked in a pipe or drunk as a brew, like ayahuasca. Some users snort or inject it intravenously, but this mode of administration is quite rare.

Is DMT Addictive?

Yes, it is. A single dose (50 – 150 milligrams) can induce psychoactive sensations in the user. Some people attribute it to a spiritual experience, but it is really a manifestation of the subconscious. To relive this experience, users take it repeatedly, until the brain develops tolerance and forms dependence to the drug.

Is Treatment Necessary?

Addiction is an ailment of the mind and body. If it’s not treated immediately, it can ruin a person’s life. Treatment ensures that you experience a happier, more fulfilling life, doing the things you love. Without the right care, addiction can affect your relationship with family, friends, career and health.

Who Can I Talk to If I Don’t Trust My Family?

The family is usually part of the support group, but if you cannot talk to yours, there are several alternatives. An addiction specialist can help, or you may visit a Drugs Anonymous centre in your area. However, you can also call a reliable referral service and be referred to a licensed addiction expert.

What Happens After My Treatment?

Treatment doesn’t end automatically after rehab. Sobriety is an ongoing exercise, so you will be advised to maintain contact with your therapist or find a sponsor to help you when you encounter challenges. Attending weekly meetings with your support group is also critical to complete recovery.

Is a DMT Addiction Possible?

Yes, it is. DMT shortens the pleasure pathway and influences the production of serotonin. This has the potential to create tolerance and cause addiction.

What are the Effects of Taking DMT?

Users typically feel a quick rush of euphoria, as well as elevated heartbeats and body temperature levels. However, as the drug wears off, common side effects will include anxiety, perspiration, diarrhoea, tremors, muscular weakness and mind alteration (difficulty in telling reality from fantasy).

Should I Use an Intervention?

If your loved one or family member is in denial, you can get help from an intervention specialist to get them into rehab. The specialist will plan the process so that it achieves its goal. Remember, intervention is an empathetic and soul-baring moment, not a confrontational one.

What About Withdrawal?

Withdrawal is the adverse reaction of the brain to the absence of DMT. It is also critical to treatment. During detox, a doctor will administer medication to help you manage withdrawal better. Never detox on your own or without a physician present, as it could cause complications.

What Chain of Events Precipitate DMT Addiction?

Addiction can be traced to a variety of factors. People looking for a more intense euphoric effect take larger doses of DMT. Unfortunately, the brain builds a tolerance for the drug, thereby allowing them to consume more. After a while, tolerance leads to addiction, because the brain becomes strongly fixated on DMT to function normally. It reacts negatively to the absence of the drug.

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