"DMT has been found to occur normally in the blood of
Law 91-513 specifically proscribes unauthorized possession of any
material which contains DMT in any quantity. Under this law, which
exemplifies the rampant idiocy that prevails whenever drugs are treated
as a legal problem, any individual human being is guilty of such
|In 1961, the American expatriate
novelist William Burroughs was injected with a large dose of an
extremely powerful but short-acting 'new' entheogen called
dimethyltryptamine (DMT). He reacted to the experience with awe-filled
terror, gulping down some of his ‘metabolic regulator’ apomorphine
as an antidote. In typical Burroughsian style, he recorded this
experience and "sounded a word of urgent warning" to the other
entheogen users of the time.
Were it not for Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert,
and Ralph Metzner, the terror drug would have been excluded from the
"Psychedelic Age." Although these three had heard nothing but
negative reports about the effects of this compound, undaunted they
decided to test the drug on themselves. They discovered that when one
observes the rules of 'set' and 'setting,' DMT produces a short but
The history of DMT did not begin with Burroughs
or the notorious Harvard three. Its use in the form of plant
preparations extends far into the remote past.
History, Plants, and Preparations
The first recorded use of a DMT preparation
comes from a friar employed by Columbus' second expedition to the
Americas. In 1496, on the island of Hispaniola (now called Haiti), he
observed the Taino Indians snuffing a potent entheogenic powder that
they called ‘kohhobba’ and which was "so strong that those who
take it lose consciousness,"
Kohhobba or ‘yopo’ snuff is prepared from
the flat, dark brown seeds of Anadenanthera peregrina, a member
of the Leguminosae or pea family. The seeds are collected
before spring, moistened, pulverized and gently dried to the consistency
of paste. The paste is then gently heated, yielding a grey powder
suitable for sniffing. Some tribes mix calcined lime into
the powder, but no other plants are admixed. The powder is sniffed using
bone or other tubes, but much more powerfully than modern cocaine
sniffing. Similar preparations are made from other DMT plants of the
The potent entheogenic drink ‘vinho de jurema’
is prepared by eastern Brazilian natives from the roots Mimosa
hostilis, another Leguminous DMT plant in the same genus as the ‘sensitive
plant,’ M. pudica.
The snuffs prepared from DMT plants of the
genus Virola (Myristaceae or Nutmeg family) vary in names
and preparation techniques from one locality to another. Essentially,
the preparation involves stripping the bark from the slender trees, then
pounding and boiling it and collecting the dark red resin it exudes. The
water is boiled and evaporated off and the residual tar is carefully
toasted in the pot until dry. It is then finely chopped and pulverized
with a knife. The resultant powdered snuff is blown into the nostrils,
'blow dart' style through long tubes, and is often sniffed individually.
There are references to the smoking of certain preparations.
Both the vine Banisteriopsis rusbyana
and bush Psychotria viridis, a member of the coffee family,
contain high concentrations of DMT in their leaves. Neither of these
plants is ingested alone. Instead, they are
used as admixtures to brews containing plants possessing entheogenic
alkaloids of the beta-carboline class (harmine, harmaline, harman,
tetrahydroharmaline, etc.). In addition to DMT, B. rusbyana and P.
viridis contain other closely related compounds which are also
active and which contribute to the overall effects of these
preparations. Some of these DMT analogs will be discussed below. There
are many other less important species of DMT-containing plants used in
South American shamanism.
DMT, or N,N-dimetryptamine, was first extracted
from the roots of Mimosa hostilis by the Brazilian ethnobotanist and
chemist Gonçalves deLima in 1946. He named the alkaloid ‘nigerine.’
Nigerine was later found to be identical to DMT which had been
synthesized fifteen years earlier by the British chemist Richard
Manske. The white crystalline substance has a melting point from
44-50°C. Much of the DMT which is sold on the illicit market in this
country degrades over time from white crystals to a light orange or dark
salmon-colored moist substance. It is often see in the latter form.
Often illicit market DMT is mixed with parsley or some other herb, to
DMT has a characteristic odor that defies
description, and which many find quite obnoxious. The odor and taste of
the burned material is similar, though stronger. Many liken the smell of
DMT to the smell of burning plastic.
DMT is available legally to researchers
licensed by the Drug Enforcement Administration, from pharmaceutical
companies, for $16.00 to $20.00 per gram. The drug is illegal for
members of the general populace, and is controlled by the same laws
which regulate LSD, psilocybin, and other drugs. DMT sold on the illicit
market is valued at $20.00 to $60.00 per gram.
In 1957, over a quarter century after its
initial synthesis, the pharmacologist Stephen Szara determined that DMT
caused entheogenic effects in human subjects when injected
intramuscularly. Within five minutes of injection of 50-60 mgs of the
substance, subjects experienced the onset of the entheogenic state. The
peak effect occurred within a quarter of an hour. This was characterized
by visual hallucinations both with the eyes open or closed. The
entheogenic effects tapered down to normal consciousness within 30
minutes to an hour. At doses exceeding 125 mgs, subjects became
catatonic and/or lost consciousness. Overdosing on DMT can be
terrifying, as Burroughs discovered!
DMT is not active orally. Doses up to a gram
have been ingested (over 30 times the normal injected or smoked dose)
with no effect. If DMT is inactive when ingested orally, how do Native
Americans derive entheogenic effects from the drinks prepared with M.
hostilis, B. rusbyana, and P. viridis. Dr. Richard Evans
Schultes, the world-famous ethnobotanist, and perhaps the man who has
done the most work with DMT plants, has postulated that other compounds
in the drinks (especially the beta-carbolines) open up pathways in vivo
which somehow render DMT active orally. So far as we know, this theory
remains untested in human subjects, using the pure chemicals.* Although
DMT plants have been used by man for centuries, there are no data on the
effects of sniffing pure crystalline DMT. Moreover because of the tacky,
viscous nature of most illicit market DMT, it would be quite hard to
DMT has been found to occur normally in the
blood of human beings. The function it may serve in vivo remains
obscure. Public Law 91-513 specifically proscribes unauthorized
possession of any material which contains DMT in any quantity. Under
this law, which exemplifies the rampant idiocy that prevails whenever
drugs are treated as a legal problem, any individual human being is
guilty of such possession.
Experimental work has been conducted on
structural analogs of DMT. It has been shown that diethyl-, dipropyl-,
and dibutyl-tryptamine (DET, DPT, and DBT respectively) are also
psychoactive in human subjects. Smoked or injected, DET produces a two
to three hour trip, lacking the colorful visual effects of DMT.
DPT and DBT are even less potent than DET These two compounds have
probably never appeared on the illicit market.
5-methoxy-DMT (5-MeO-DMT) has been sold on the
illicit market. This interesting compound is found in many DMT plants.
It resembles DMT only in duration and mode of administration. It is
about five times as potent as DMT. Its effects are qualitatively
different, eliciting a powerful ‘rush’ sensation, followed by either
mild or extreme paranoia. Usually the colorful imagery of DMT is
lacking. In his booklet, Psychedelic Chemistry, M.V. Smith has
compared the effects of this drug to having a large elephant sit on
one's head. While we cannot verify this observation, owing to the
narrowness of our experience, we do feel that this drug has little
recreational value. It is not a controlled substance.
Bufotenine (5-hydroxy-DMT, an isomer of
psilocin) naturally occurs in the sweat-like secretions of certain
species of toads (Bufo species), and is also found in seeds of A.
peregrina. It occurs, along with DMT, in several species of edible
mushrooms suggesting that this compound, too, is inactive orally. One
study using prisoners as 'volunteers' found that the drug was
entheogenic when injected. This finding has been contradicted by later
studies. Even though bufotenine probably lacks entheogenic activity, it
is a controlled substance available only to licensed researchers.
Use And Effects of DMT
In the present drug culture, smoking is the
preferred way of using DMT. The reasons for this are many: when smoked,
the drug acts with greater rapidity and elicits a shorter trip than via
intramuscular injection; less of the drug is needed to produce the
entheogenic effect, and one does not need to deal with the paraphernalia
necessary for intramuscular injection. Furthermore, more of the DMT
produced by underground chemists is not water soluble, and hence is
unfit for injection.
When smoked, fifteen to thirty milligrams of
pure DMT is sufficient to produce entheogenic effects. This is a small
amount, too small to be easily estimated without some reference. We
suggest, if you have some DMT to spare, that you weight out 15 to 30
milligrams as a reference. We do not recommend measuring doses while
Even though a DMT trip is short, one should
observe certain precautions. DMT should not be used in the carefree ways
marijuana often is. Smoking DMT while driving is extremely dangerous,
and could harm the user unlucky enough to be involved in an accident. It
is best to be in a calm and relaxed state before smoking DMT. If one is
tense or anxious, it would be unwise to smoke DMT. Most users prefer to
be sitting down or reclining before and during the trip. The smoking
should be carried out in a setting free from unexpected intrusions by
visitors, a ringing telephone, etc. The rules of set and setting apply
to DMT as much as to LSD or any other entheogen.
When smoking the pure crystalline substance, a
glass 'hash oil' pipe should be employed. A dose of crystals is first
placed directly in the bowl. Shortly before toking, the bowl should be
heated by flame until the crystals have melted and begin to produce a
pungent smoke. The flame should be kept under the bowl during the toke,
which should be initiated as soon as the DMT begins to smoke. All of the
DMT should be vaporized during the toke. Often there is a dark brown
residue left in the pipe. If the crystals are merely placed in the bowl
without melting preceding toking, they will be aspirated without
If hash oil pipes are unavailable, a regular
pipe with a fine screen will serve. The crystals should not be placed
directly on the screen, lest they be aspirated before they can be
vaporized. Instead an herb (preferably non-psychoactive) should be
placed on the screen and the DMT added atop the herb.
When smoking DMT-soaked parsley, it is often
difficult to gauge the proper dose. The only recourse, other than
solvent extraction and isolation, is to use the 'bioassay technique.'
Basically, one should try a small amount of the mixture, increasing the
dose on successive days until the desired effects become apparent. It is
unwise to use DMT more than once daily. The drug elicits rapid tolerance
which may persist for 24 hours. Smoking DMT when one is tolerant only
wastes an expensive and rare drug. DMT is often misrepresented on the
illicit market. There are analysis services available to the general
public, but the Drug Enforcement Administration, in keeping with its
marplot role, has stopped such services from performing quantitative
analyses (they will only inform you what is in a certain substance, not
DMT should only be smoked by one person at a
time. After placing a dose of DMT in the pipe, one person should smoke
the entire dose, preferably at once. The bowl should then be refilled
for the second person, etc. The person who is filling the pipe with
doses of DMT should be the last to smoke, as he will be incapacitated
shortly after smoking. Passing the pipe around, as though it contained
marijuana or hashish, will not give uniform doses, and by the time the
pipe comes around for the second round of hits everyone will have built
up tolerance to the effects.
To derive the optimum DMT effects, a full dose
should be ingested in one long toke, the smoke being retained in the
lungs as long as possible (this may be hard, owing to the unsavory
nature of the smoke). The first effects are often noticeable within
fifteen seconds. The first sensation experienced, the 'rush,' is similar
to the effects of acceleration on the body, like rapid takeoff in an
aeroplane. This feeling may be accompanied by vertigo and dizziness,
giving way to color hallucinations similar to LSD or psilocybin in
nature and intensity. When the eyes are closed, the subject becomes
aware of swirling patterns, often geometric in shape. The peak
experience occurs within three minutes, during which time most users are
speechless. Many people become ecstatic or euphoric, others become
meditative and concentrate of the eidetic imagery with eyes closed.
Sometimes, especially during the initial stages of the inebriation,
there can be a slight feeling of paranoia, but this is seldom more than
momentary. After the peak, the effects taper off, leaving the user at
normal consciousness within 25 minutes.
After Leary, Alpert, and Metzner set the record
straight regarding the use of DMT, the drug began its rise as a
recreational entheogen of the sixties. It became known as the
'businessman's trip' because of its short duration (the trip could be
taken during a lunch hour, hence the epithet). DMT, along with LSD,
mescaline, and psilocybin was made illegal by Federal and State laws
enacted from 1966 through 1969.
At about the same time, a few pamphlets
appeared describing techniques for the synthesis of DMT. These were sold
through advertisements in the underground press and through the budding
'head shop' business. The most important of these pamphlets were The
Turn On Book, The Psychedelic Guide to Preparation of the
Eucharist, and leaflets distributed by the Neo-American Church, a
hippie outfit that used DMT as a sacrament. In the following decade many
books were published describing similar syntheses.
DMT synthesis techniques are of little use to
the layperson. Only an experienced chemist should attempt the
manufacture of drugs. Even for the chemist, drug making is difficult,
Lithium aluminum hydride and other chemicals needed for the synthesis of
DMT are watched closely by the Drug Enforcement Administration and are
therefore difficult to obtain. Underground chemists usually manufacture
only the most lucrative drugs possible. When they can obtain the
reagents needed, they will usually opt for synthesis of LSD, which
yields so many more doses per unit weight. Consequently, DMT is seldom
seen on the illicit market.
DMT would appear to be an ideal entheogen. It
produces color hallucinations as do LSD and psilocybin Moreover, the
drug is short acting, and the user need not commit a large block of time
to the experience, as is the case with most other entheogens. Why, then,
is DMT not a popular drug today?
We can only speculate. Probably the most
important factor relates to the myth that DMT causes brain damage.
Though there is no evidence for this, it appears that some early users
became frightened by the rapid onset of the effects, the chemical taste
of the smoke, and the potency of the drug, and responded by generating
myths. The idea that DMT caused brain damage became entrenched in the
counterculture, and is still parroted today.
Some of the 'DMT' sold on today's illicit
market is actually PCP, and this misrepresentation may have tarnished
the reputation of the drug. PCP is often sold as a yellowish crystalline
substance, similar to DMT in appearance. Although PCP is active orally,
it is most often smoked. Parsley or another herb is saturated with PCP
The mixture is commonly called 'angel dust' or 'hog.' The smoke of PCP
tastes very much like DMT smoke. PCP is an entheogen of sorts, but not
in the sense that DMT or LSD is. When smoked, PCP is much longer acting
than DMT. Many people have unpleasant reactions to PCP, though in all
fairness we must say that it has its adherents. There is some evidence
that PCP may cause brain damage.
5-methoxy-DMT has also appeared on the market,
represented as DMT. As we have discussed, this compound is quite
different and has disagreeable effects. The misrepresentation of noxious
drugs as DMT is probably the chief reason the drug has such a poor
reputation in the counterculture.
It is unfortunate that such a unique and
desirable drug as DMT is not freely available and widely used. We feel
that anyone who likes entheogenic drugs would do well to try DMT, if
given the chance. Not only are the effects enjoyable, but most users are
astonished to learn that a drug can so rapidly produce such profound
effects which have such a short duration. DMT may be the quintessential
‘wonder’ drug, for the novice cannot help but wonder at its
* The Ayahuasca Mystery Solved:
In the fall of 1978, a year or so after the above article was published,
and after waiting for someone else
to determine if the mixture of oral DMT and ß-Carbolines were psychoactive
and thus caused the entheogenic effect of ayahuasca, and
having been made weary of listening to the endless debates of academics speculating about it,
I performed a series of experiments. These experiments started
with active doses of ß-Carbolines and worked their way backwards to
determine subthreshold doses (i.e. doses which did not produce any
effect.). To avoid tolerance and not interrupt work, experiments
were made one week apart. For the ß-Carboline part of the
admixture, I settled on harmaline because I had experienced the least
negative effects from it at the active doses. DMT freebase was then
ingested orally by itself up to 200 mg without effect. Finally a subthreshold dose of the ß-Carboline harmaline was mixed with 100 mg of
DMT and the effect was rapidly apparent (15 minutes or less) and lasted
about three hours. The effect was stunning and required that I be
seated or reclined. Eidetic imagery welled up inside me and
splashed colorfully against my closed eyelids. These experiments showed
conclusively that the subthreshold harmala
alkaloids provided enough MAO inhibition to make DMT active orally, but
at doses higher than is normally smoked. In all the experiment
lasted some four months.
the time, the luminaries of the field were uninterested in these
experiments. At the time, Terence McKenna and his wife Kat were
still trying to sell their
"spores from outer space" theories and co-author Jonathan Ott was still
trying to foist off Amanita pantherina as an entheogen and
eating a lot of chocolate for his book, The
Cacahuatl Eater. Only later did the McKenna and Ott come
around to experimenting with this mixture in forms other than Ayahuasca.
his booklet, Psychedelic Chemistry, M.V. Smith has compared the
effects of [5-Meo-DMT] to having a large elephant sit on one's head.
While we cannot verify this observation, owing to the narrowness of our
experience, we do feel that this drug has little recreational value. It
is not a controlled substance.
are analysis services available to the general public, but the Drug
Enforcement Administration, in keeping with its marplot role, has
stopped such services from performing quantitative analyses (they will
only inform you what is in a certain substance, not how much).