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What is DMT? Understanding the Side Effects and Risks

Recreational use of a hallucinogenic drug called N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) has been steadily increasing in the United States since the early 2000s. But what are the side effects and risks of this potent illicit drug? And what treatments are effective in helping people safely stop using it?

At the Mandala Healing Center, we provide the treatment and support people need to put addiction behind them and live healthier sober lives. If you or someone you love need help with substance abuse or addiction, reach out to our knowledgeable specialists today.

What is N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT)?

N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is a hallucinogenic substance that occurs naturally in the human body and some plants.[1] When consumed, DMT produces quick, intense psychedelic effects. The effects of DMT develop rapidly and fade quickly, compared to other hallucinogenics like LSD. 

Recreational DMT can be plant-derived or synthetic. Ayahuasca, a tea brewed from plants that contain DMT, is a popular method of recreational DMT use. In synthetic form, DMT is usually a white powder. 

Because the effects of DMT are so short-lived, it is a popular drug among people who are curious about hallucinogenics but do not want to experience the long “trip” other drugs like LSD produce. 

Although it has been rising over the last two decades, the rate of DMT usage is generally low. People who use DMT are likely to use other illicit and recreational drugs. 

Understanding the Side Effects of N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT)

When people consume DMT, the drug interacts with serotonin receptors in the brain and produces a range of effects. DMT affects the parts of the brain associated with:

  • Mood
  • Sensory input
  • Sleep
  • Appetite
  • Body temperature
  • Sexual drive
  • Digestion

People often begin to experience the effects of DMT within seconds of consuming the drug. Effects are usually limited to a short period–15 to 60 minutes, depending on the amount of DMT consumed. People report auditory and visual hallucinations, including distortions in the environment, time, and space.

People who consume ayahuasca report heightened or altered states of awareness and seeing “otherworldly” visions. Users may temporarily lose touch with reality and the world around them.

Hallucinations are inconsistent and impossible to predict. People who consume DMT may be at risk of dangerous or harmful behavior when under the influence as they respond to their hallucinations. 

Using DMT can produce harmful side effects that could become a medical emergency. Some common short-term side effects of DMT include:[2]

  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Agitation
  • Seizures

Side effects related to ayahuasca also include the potential for increased blood pressure and severe vomiting. 

Recognizing DMT Abuse

Addiction researchers have not determined whether DMT is addictive or linked to compulsive use. DMT use does not appear to lead to tolerance–needing more of a substance to get the same effects over time. The drug also does not seem to cause withdrawal symptoms or physical dependence.

Still, hallucinogenic use is a cause for concern. Often, people who use DMT also use other recreational and illicit substances. Like all recreational drugs, DMT usage can be harmful to your health and safety. Over time, using DMT or other hallucinogenics can lead to serious health harm, including a substance use disorder (SUD) or hallucinogen use disorder. 

Some of the signs of a hallucinogen-related substance use disorder include:

  • Using the hallucinogenic drug in larger amounts or for longer periods than intended
  • Wanting to stop using the hallucinogen but being unable to do so
  • Having cravings for the hallucinogen
  • Neglecting responsibilities at home, school, or work because of hallucinogenic use
  • Continuing to use the drug despite negative consequences 
  • Isolating or giving up hobbies and social activities because of hallucinogenic use

In some rare cases, DMT use has been linked to severe, sometimes life-threatening effects. Some users have experienced seizures and coma–and the risk of severe side effects increases the more people use DMT. 

People must get help to overcome DMT and other substance abuse to avoid the severe short and long-term harm that can come from it.

Treatment for DMT Abuse

Most people who abuse DMT also use other substances–called polysubstance abuse. People who engage in polysubstance abuse are more likely to develop significant complications and require addiction treatment to stop using them. 

Addiction treatment occurs in stages.


In a medically-supported detox program, medical and support staff provide treatment to help people manage their withdrawal symptoms. Medications, emotional support, and holistic therapies help people have a safe, complete detox.


Substance abuse and addiction are complex conditions that require comprehensive treatment. Treatment programs must use evidence-based and holistic treatments to address the condition’s physical, behavioral, and emotional aspects. 

Treatments generally include:

  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Education
  • Medications
  • Mental health treatment
  • Holistic therapies like nutrition support, mindfulness, exercise, and massage

Treatment plans must be tailored to meet each person’s needs. After treatment, people must develop and follow an aftercare plan to stay active and engaged in their recovery for life. 

Find Help Now

If you or someone you love need help overcoming DMT or other substance abuse, reach out to the caring specialists at the Mandala Healing Center to learn more about our programs.