DMT Signs, Symptoms and Side Effects

Last Updated: May 30, 2023

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

DMT is a psychedelic drug that produces a hallucinogenic high. It may be injected, smoked, or snorted as a synthetic powder. DMT is also found in ayahuasca tea. DMT is naturally found in the brain in small amounts and when it’s consumed it causes the brain to become flooded with serotonin.

DMT side effects are short-lived, resulting in a “trip” that often lasts for less than an hour. During this period, someone using DMT may experience many other side effects that are harmful to their health. If high doses of DMT are taken, the drug may even result in brain damage, organ damage and cardiac or respiratory arrest.

Is DMT Addictive?

Scientific research on DMT use is slim, and so the question of DMT’s addictive nature remains largely unanswered. So far, there is little evidence that DMT produces physical tolerance. In the case of some hallucinogenic substances, tolerance occurs when the body quickly becomes used to the presence of the drug and a user needs to take increasingly higher doses to get the same high. Some research has been conducted with people who regularly use ayahuasca tea as part of religious ceremonies. The research indicated that ayahuasca doesn’t produce a physical addiction.

It is important to note that very little research has been conducted using synthetic DMT. When people take the laboratory-made compound, and especially if they combine it with other substances, it may affect their body in unknown ways.

Some research shows that people may experience a psychological DMT addiction. People who use DMT sometimes experience cravings for it, indicating that it may change a person’s brain chemistry and make them want to continue abusing it. A person who combines DMT with other addictive substances is especially at risk for developing a substance use disorder.

Signs of DMT Use

While DMT doesn’t appear to be physically addictive, people who use it are still at risk of psychological addiction. Signs of mental dependence on DMT include craving the drug, neglecting relationships or responsibilities in order to use DMT or having difficulty quitting or cutting back despite recognizing that DMT use is causing problems.

Taking DMT can cause people to have out-of-body experiences and see hallucinations. Some people may enjoy the feeling of being separated from reality and may become psychologically dependent on it as a way to escape their problems. If someone is finding that they crave DMT, is losing motivation in other outside activities or are engaging in risky behavior to get more DMT, then this may indicate that their DMT use is becoming an issue.

Symptoms DMT Use

Most of the negative symptoms of using hallucinogens are psychological, with people experiencing extreme negative emotions like fear, sadness, anxiety and paranoia. There has not been enough information collected about DMT use to determine how often these “bad trips” occur. One study showed that a similar hallucinogen, psilocybin, caused negative psychological experiences about 30% of the time.

A DMT trip is also sometimes accompanied by physical health issues such as:

  • High blood pressure and heart rate
  • Coordination problems
  • Chest pains
  • Digestive issues like diarrhea and vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Kidney and liver damage
  • Brain damage
  • Coma

More serious problems such as respiratory and cardiac failure have occurred when people took high doses of DMT. Sometimes, DMT or ayahuasca use resulted in death. Someone who is using DMT should seek help if they recognize any of these symptoms after taking the drug.

Side Effects of DMT

Side effects of DMT on the brain may include permanent alterations in brain chemistry. When a person mixes multiple drugs that activate the brain’s serotonin receptors, including antidepressants or other hallucinogenic compounds, they may experience serotonin syndrome. This potentially fatal syndrome leads to symptoms like agitation, disorientation, tremors and heart arrhythmias.

Short-Term Effects

DMT short-term side effects include:

  • Dehydration
  • Dilated pupils
  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Rapid eye movement
  • Dizziness or problems with coordination
  • Chest pains or chest tightness
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Hyperthermia
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Seizures
  • Coma

These side effects can be felt after taking DMT only once. More serious problems such as failure of the heart or lungs may arise when DMT is taken regularly or in larger doses. People who have used DMT and are starting to experience these symptoms should seek medical help before it gets worse, especially if they have combined DMT use with other substances. There have been deaths associated with DMT or ayahuasca use.

Long-Term Effects

Long-term DMT side effects are still largely unknown. A limited amount of research has been done into this substance, particularly with people who use ayahuasca for religious purposes. More research is needed to better understand the addictive potential and long-term effects of DMT.

There is some evidence that ayahuasca can cause various changes within the body, such as changes in cognitive function, increases in stress hormone levels and changes in the immune system. Additionally, at least one study found that long-time ayahuasca use produced structural changes in the brain. Other studies indicated that people using ayahuasca during religious ceremonies don’t seem to have any major long-term changes to their physical or mental health. However, these results may vary for other groups of people who use DMT in its synthetic form, especially if they unknowingly take it in high doses or alongside other substances.

While the effects of DMT on health are still being investigated, the long-term side effects of other hallucinogens are better understood:

  • Flashbacks and recurring hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Changes in mood
  • Brain damage and cognitive problems
  • Psychological addiction
  • Seizure disorders
  • Kidney and liver damage

If anyone regularly using DMT starts to experience these side effects, they can seek help at their doctor’s office, a counseling center, or a rehab center to prevent negative symptoms from getting worse.

Effects of DMT on the Brain

In one study of Australian DMT users, 31% said they tried the drug because they thought it might help manage mental health issues. Some people suggest that ayahuasca may have some antidepressant effects, although scientific research into this claim is still ongoing. Others claim that ayahuasca can help with anxiety. Again, limited scientific research hasn’t provided good evidence of the drink helping with anxiety. Overall, there isn’t currently any indication that people should take ayahuasca or DMT to try to help with mental health disorders.

There are a few mental health problems that can develop when people use DMT. One disorder, serotonin syndrome, arises when someone takes multiple drugs that activate serotonin receptors. There are a lot of drugs in that category — not only hallucinogens like DMT, but also medications like antidepressants and over-the-counter cold medicines. Rarely, when a person takes too high a dose of one of these drugs or takes multiple drugs within the same amount of time, their brain becomes flooded with serotonin. The serotonin flood can lead to a high fever, hyperthermia, muscle tremors, coma and death.

Other brain disorders people may develop after taking DMT include Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD) and persistent psychosis. These disorders involve flashbacks where a person experiences hallucinations or other effects of the drug despite being sober. While these disorders are rare, they can happen in anyone who has used DMT. HPPD and persistent psychosis may be more likely in people who have a personal history of mental issues. Sometimes, antidepressants or antipsychotics can help people manage their symptoms.

Some people have had psychotic episodes after using DMT or ayahuasca. These episodes were rare, and there were other factors that may have played a role. For example, some people who had psychotic episodes had a personal or family history of psychosis. In several cases, patients had used DMT alongside other substances like cannabis.

Visual Effects of DMT

DMT is a psychedelic drug. Like mushrooms and LSD, it can cause hallucinations. DMT can also create feelings of joy or epiphany, cause people to have out-of-body experiences and make people see their environment differently. However, these feelings and experiences can turn negative. Signs of a bad DMT trip include:

  • Feeling out of control
  • Being confused or flustered
  • Having terrifying thoughts that you can’t control
  • Feeling angry, anxious, sad or aggressive
  • Feeling paranoid that you’ll die or go insane
  • Reliving unpleasant memories

There has not been enough information collected about DMT use to determine how often these negative experiences occur. One study found that a similar hallucinogen, psilocybin, caused negative psychological experiences about 30% of the time.

Duration of Effects of DMT

The effects of DMT come on very quickly, typically within 30 to 45 minutes. Some people prefer this substance over other hallucinogens like LSD because it doesn’t last as long. When DMT is taken in its synthetic powder form, trips can last as little as 15 minutes. When people drink ayahuasca, DMT visuals tend to peak at about 30 minutes.

DMT Deaths

Taking too high a dose of DMT can lead to very uncomfortable mental or physical sensations, but the drug itself is not usually life-threatening. However, there have been a few reported cases of cardiac and respiratory arrest in people who took a high dose of DMT.

DMT deaths can occur because of how the drug modifies peoples’ behaviors. Those who take DMT are much more likely to do risky things, like attempting extreme physical feats and these actions can make someone on DMT more likely to become injured or die. Someone may feel extremely depressed and suicidal while on DMT and may act on those feelings. People who use DMT also often take it in combination with other substances, sometimes unknowingly. Mixing DMT with other drugs or alcohol can make it more likely that a person experiences harmful effects.

Key Points: Understanding DMT Side Effects and Addiction

Keep the following key points in mind when considering the side effects of DMT addiction:

  • DMT and ayahuasca produce psychedelic trips that usually last for a short time
  • Use of DMT may not result in physical addiction, although more research needs to be done in this area
  • DMT addiction may exist in the form of mental dependence. People who use it regularly may crave it and lose control over their ability to stop using it.
  • DMT side effects include things like dehydration, a rapid heartbeat, nausea, vomiting and hyperthermia
  • Ayahuasca or DMT use can lead to death, in the form of respiratory or cardiac arrest, risky behavior or suicide attempts
  • The long-term effects of DMT and ayahuasca use are still largely unknown

DMT use can potentially lead to negative health consequences. If you or a loved one struggle with using DMT, help is available. Call The Recovery Village Ridgefield to learn more about treatment options for people who have substance use disorders.


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