Subjective effects of DMT

N,N-Dimethyltryptamine molecule diagram.
This article is part of an ongoing effort to document the phenomenological effects of select psychoactive substances by applying comprehensive and formalized definitions from the subjective effect index. This is initially being achieved by the sites founder employing her first-hand knowledge of the subjective effects induced by hallucinogenic substances. Eventually we will employ a small team ingesting psychoactive substances at a range of dosages, who will document their experiences through the use of standardized trip reports using our SEI form system. We will then analyse this collected data in order to further detail and substantiate which effects are induced at specific dosage ranges, their levels of intensity, style, and approximate frequency of occurrence. DMT is a smokable psychedelic hallucinogen within the tryptamine chemical class. It is also found as a naturally occurring byproduct within a huge variety of plants and animals. The substance itself induces a brief but extremely intense psychedelic experience, alongside a disproportionate amount of hallucinatory effects in comparison to more traditional psychedelics such as LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, and mescaline. This article exclusively discusses on DMT’s subjective effects. If you would like to learn more about DMT's chemistry, pharmacology, history, legality, and potential dangers, refer to its PsychonautWiki article here.

Duration

These durations only apply to DMT that is being smoked or vaporised. DMT is not active through oral ingestion unless an MAOI or an RIMA (such as syrian rue or B. caapi vine) is consumed approximately 30 - 60 minutes prior to DMT. This substantially changes the subjective effect profile of the compound, so much that it is usually discussed as distinct experience: “Ayahuasca” is DMT prepared for oral ingestion using traditional plant sources, while “pharmahuasca” colloquially refers to preparations made with crystalized DMT or psychiatric MAOIs. Besides vaporizing and oral ingestion, less effective (and consequently less common) routes of administration include insufflation, rectal suppository, and sublingual absorption. In clinical settings, DMT is typically administered intravenously, which can allowed for a prolonged immersive hallucinatory state. Recreational intravenous use is also uncommon as it requires medical equipment, training, and pharmaceutical-grade DMT. The duration of a DMT trip seems to progress through four separate stages of experience that each feel distinct. At heavy dosages the user may find themselves progressing through all of these stages in sequence, while low-dose experiences may skip over stages 2 or 3. These stages are described and documented below.

1. Taking off

The first stage of a DMT trip is the onset, which leads into what is commonly referred to as "breaking through". As the user smokes DMT, effects typically begins with the sudden onset of distinct visual enhancements, which are immediately followed by high-level geometry and a warm tingling sensation. At higher dosages, the user may find the pipe that they are using to smoke their DMT has transformed into an incomprehensible mass of geometry that is quite difficult to put down or hand off to someone nearby. There may be auditory hallucinations that resemble soft crackling. For example, some users report an extended tone that quickly rises in volume and pitch, as the intensity of visual effects also increases.
DMT drone replication
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The sound (which is replicated above) typically becomes all-enveloping and abruptly ends as one of several different “take off” variations are experienced. These include, but are not limited to:
  • increasingly intense geometry, which becomes so all-enveloping that the visible environment is completely blocked out and replaced.
  • feelings of being suddenly pushed through – and onto – the other side of a membrane.
  • the environment forming into a geometry-filled tunnel, which the user moves into as it widens and encompasses their vision.
  • the environment splitting into separated sections, leaving a gaping chasm filled with high-level geometry, as the user separates from their body and is then catapulted directly into it at a high speed.
This process of "taking off" typically occurs within the range of about 30 seconds to a minute, and leads directly onto the second stage of a DMT trip.

2. The waiting room

Almost immediately after a person has smoked enough DMT to “take off”, they sometimes find themselves spending approximately 10 - 30 seconds in what is often described as a psychedelic “waiting room”. It can take on any appearance, but most commonly presents itself as a tunnel, room, or space that is comprised of fast moving geometry. In fact, this "waiting room" feels distinctively different from the main bulk of the trip to such an extent that it has led me to personally speculate that it is potentially some sort of psychedelic loading screen, during which the upcoming trip is being generated and planned out by the subconscious mind. After “taking off”, the user will usually transition into the most impressive stage of the experience. However, in certain cases the user may feel stuck within the waiting room, and may even experience hallucinatory entities suggesting that they are not yet ready to proceed past it. It is also important to note that although still relatively common in its occurrence, the waiting room is the least consistent stage of a DMT trip, and many users will never experience it all and simply find that their DMT trips skip over it.

3. The other side

Namaste by Luke Brown - This image serves as an accurate replication of a DMT entity.
Once the waiting room stage is either finished or skiped over, the user will feel they have broken through into what is commonly referred to as the "other side". It is here where an incredibly wide variety of potential hallucinatory content can manifest itself. However, this intensified stage will still iusually follow somewhat consistent themes and archetypes that are reported by many people who experience the substance. These themes generally consist of visiting a hallucinated alternate reality that is sometimes reported to feel "more real" than everyday life. In terms of their visual aesthetic, these hallucinatory spaces usually consist of incomprehensibly complex psychedelic geometry that is condensed into settings or scenes. Examples of DMT spaces include landscapes, fractalscapes, rooms, buildings, cities, tunnels, caverns, non-euclidean structures resembling a hive or nest, womb-like environments, and an infinite variety of potential others. Within DMT spaces, there are often one or more autonomous entities within the user's perceived field of vision. These entities frequently act as if they have been waiting for the user's arrival, and are usually unphased by the person's sudden apparition. Upon noticing the user, DMT entities may enthusiastically greet them but reactions of surprise, indifference, or ambivalence are equally common. These entities may also convey a sense of urgency, as though attempting to demonstrate a multitude of incredible things during the short amount of time that they have before the effects of the drug wear off. During these experiences, entities may employ a variety of communication styles, including: spoken language, direct manipulation of the visual environment, telepathy, beams of energy or information, visual languages imparting intuitive geometric/linguistic/symbolic concepts, or any combination of these. Through means such as these, entities often seemingly attempt to either explain some message to the user, or exhibit some aspect of the DMT space which they inhabit. The message often feels personalized and related to the user's life or emotional well-being, but can also contain aspects that seem entirely nonsensical or ineffable when removed from the context of the DMT trip. These entities will often dubiously present themselves as all-knowing, and although they can take any visual form, some visual archetypes are more commonly experienced. These archetypes include humanoids, aliens, elves, insectoids, giant spheres, beings of light, plants, jesters, maternal or nurturing guardians, and complex robotic machines. At this point it is common for the user (unless they are very experienced) to be completely overwhelmed by the DMT trip, despite feeling relatively clear-headed. This sometimes results in the entities encouraging the user to stay calm, not to give into astonishment, and to simply try to pay attention to what is happening. Although they are common, it is worth noting that these entity-filled hallucinatory spaces do not necessarily occur for every person and are not entirely consistent in their manifestation between trips. A certain number of people do not seem to experience hallucinations at all, and instead simply find themselves engulfed in all-encompassing high-level geometry during this stage of the DMT trip. Thus, the frequency with which any given user encounters entity-filled DMT spaces varies. After 2 - 10 minutes of this experience, the DMT trip will begin to wear off while moving into its fourth and final stage.

4. Coming down

The final stage concludes the trip, with either the sensation of being pulled progressively further away from the DMT space, or the hallucinations becoming increasingly vague and ill-defined until imperceptible. During this process, the entities will sometimes bid farewall and encourage the person to return if given the chance. Once over, the user immediately finds themselves back in reality with strong level 4 - 5 visual geometry which quickly fades. Similar to how the content of a dream is forgotten upon waking, detailed memories about DMT experiences rapidly deteriorate upon returning to baseline consciousness. This amnesia can be counteracted by taking notes, recounting the trip to another person in detail, or recording a narration of the experience on audio or video. As the geometry becomes more mild and amnesia sets in, the user will often experience a sense of being bathed in euphoria and awe. The geometry typically persists for an additional 5 - 10 minutes before disappearing completely, leaving a strong body high that can persist for up to half an hour in extreme cases. This afterglow typically feels like a warm fuzziness and often leaves behind a sense of cognitive rejuvenation, well-being, and mental clarity which can last for hours, days, or even weeks after the trip. However, it is worth noting that if the user has consumed a dosage that is not strong enough to reach stages two and three, then this experience of coming down will simply manifest as a progressive reduction of intensity without any of the aforementioned effects or details.

Intensity Scale

This intensity scale breaks the subjective effects of DMT into six distinct levels, in which each level typically contains an expanding list of effects that proportionally intensify relative to the dosage consumed. The approximate frequency of occurrence is also listed alongside each effect. For an explanation of the terms used within this frequency measuring system, please see the article here. Although the dosages listed here are a useful average, it is important to keep in mind that the DMT dosage required to reach a particular range of effects varies between individuals depending on their body weight and respective neurochemistry.

1. Subtle (2 - 10 mg)

A subtle DMT experience is the level at which it first becomes apparent that the substance is producing effects. This is typically comprised of benign sensory and cognitive effects such as visual enhancements, visual distortions, and cognitive alterations. Although this experience is more distinct than a placebo, the drug effects may not demand the user’s attention and can be willfully ignored. For example. if the user is distracted they may not even notice the effects. At most, a subtle DMT trip may resemble an incredibly mild version of the "take off" stage of the experience, skipping over stages two and three. The specific subtle effects that generally occur at this level of intensity are described and documented in their own articles, listed below:

Sensory

Cognitive

2. Mild (10 - 20 mg)

At this level, the effects of DMT typically include a range of faintly perceptible effects such as defined visual distortions, subtle or indiscernible geometry, mild cognitive effects, and spontaneous bodily sensations such as a warm fuzzy tingling sensation that encompasses the body. The style variations of visual drifting experienced at this intensity generally incorporate intricate complexity, abstract form, fast movement, smooth motion, static permanence, and a realistic style. Increasing the dosage will also result in a complex mixture of the drifting subtypes, including morphing, breathing, melting, and flowing. Although these effects will have become noticeable and clearly distinct from sobriety, they usually remain at least partially in the background of a person's awareness. This level can, therefore, be mostly ignored by directing one's focus towards other things such as tasks or the external environment. At most, a mild DMT trip may result in a well defined version of the "take off" stage of the experience, while entirely skipping over stages two and three. The specific mild effects which generally occur at this level of intensity are described and documented within their own dedicated articles, each of which are listed below:

Sensory

Cognitive

3. Distinct (20 - 40 mg)

At this level the psychedelic effects of DMT become much more pronounced. These effects include a range of well-defined visual enhancements, visual distortions, complex geometry, mild hallucinatory states, cognitive effects, and spontaneous bodily sensations. The style variations of DMT’s visual geometry generally feature intricate complexity, abstract form, both organic and digital material composition, structured organization, bright lighting, a full or expanded color range, glossy shading, varied roundness and angularity, large size, rapid speed, a smooth perceived framerate, immersion, and consistent intensity. At higher doses, it is significantly more likely to result in states of level 8B visual geometry rather than level 8A. It is also worth noting that the geometry induced by vaporized DMT is widely considered the most profoundly intricate and complex visual experience of any psychedelic drug. Compared to the style of geometry produced by ayahuasca, the geometry appears more synthetic and digital in material composition, demonstrates colour schemes that are similar to those experienced on LSD, and organized geometric structure reminiscent to that produced by psilocybin. At this level, bodily sensations become pronounced and fully manifested. The style variations of these bodily sensations includes constant duration, feelings of movement, gentle character, all-encompassing placement, and euphoric emotion. This sensation typically maintains a consistent presence that quickly rises with the onset and hits a limit once the peak has been reached. It is capable of becoming very powerful at higher doses and can persist up to half an hour after the experience itself has ended. During a distinct DMT experience, the effects and the nature of the substance become well-defined enough that ignoring its effects is difficult. However, the user is still enough in control to be able to just about partake in normal behaviours, remain functional, and be able to communicate. Depending on the person's level of experience, the effects can be allowed dominate the user’s perception, or they may be ignored and made secondary to other chosen activities. At most, a distinct DMT trip may result in a well-defined "take off" followed by an ill-defined version of the "waiting room", while entirely skipping over stage three. The specific distinct effects which generally occur at this level of intensity are described and documented within their own dedicated articles, listed below:

Sensory

Cognitive

4. Strong (40 - 60 mg)

At this level, the effects of DMT become characterised by all-encompassing geometry and hallucinatory states. The user typically feels like they have broken through into the hallucinatory DMT space, as described above in the "other side" section. For most people, a strong dose of DMT will produce high-level internal hallucinations more consistently than any other psychedelic. The style variations of these internal hallucinations is that they are usually lucid in awareness, interactive, novel in subject, autonomous and non-controllable, and psychedelic in appearance. This is accompanied by other hallucinatory effects such as autonomous entities, sceneries and landscapes, and narrative scenarios. These hallucinations can involve an endless variety of themes that may be personal, religious, spiritual, futuristic, magical, surreal, nonsensical, or transcendental in nature. However, it is also worth mentioning that during the onset of this intensity range and above, the user will often experiences changes in their perception of gravity which commonly involve feelings of floating at extreme speeds either forwards, backwards, upwards, downwards, or in an unspecifiable direction. This will usually stop once the user has reached their "destination" but will often continue at a much slower pace if the hallucination involves moving around within a specific location. Although they are substantially less common than internal hallucinations, external hallucinations can also occasionally occur with heavy doses of DMT. These typically consist of a mixture of realistic- and geometry-based hallucinations of either real objects within the surrounding environment "coming to life", the entirety of the environment changing in its visual character, or sudden apparitions such as the appearance of autonomous entities. The style variations of these external hallucinations is lucid awareness, an immersed viewpoint, novel subject matter, autonomous and non-controllable, and equally likely to be either realistic in appearance or comprised of psychedelic geometry. Although external hallucinations are more common under the influence of DMT in comparison to other psychedelics, they are still quite uncommon and may never be experienced even by regular users. Despite intense hallucinations at this dosage range, the user will often still feel connected to their physical body even while traversing hallucinatory spaces. Most users will themselves automatically closing their eyes and allowing themselves to be immersed in the internal experience – however, if the user suddenly opens their eyes midway through the trip, they will likely leave the hallucinatory space. Upon interrupting their internal hallucinations, the user will typically experience much less-intense visual effects with their eyes open. These effects typically include strong visual distortions and highly complex geometry that almost completely cover the user's field of view. Upon closing their eyes again, the user may find themselves placed directly back into the same hallucinatory scenario, or they may simply experience high-level geometry while being unable to completely re-enter their internal hallucination. During less intense DMT breakthroughs experienced at this dosage range, many users report feeling surprisingly lucid and clear-headed in comparison to an equally-intense dose of psilocybin, mescaline, or LSD. However, the insightful and therapeutic cognitive effects that are heavily associated with psychedelic experiences are frequently either entirely absent or significantly reduced. This may be a result of DMT's extremely short duration, which does not allow the person much time to deeply contemplate or experience its cognitive effects. If the user is inexperienced with psychedelic substances while undergoing this dosage range or above, they may find themselves experiencing anxiety and fear throughout the duration of the trip. This is not because DMT is inherently anxiety-inducing, but is more likely a response to being thrust into a profoundly complex, bizarre, overwhelming, and unfamiliar situation. As with any hallucinogen, it is always safest to slowly increase an inexperienced person's dosage in small increments over the course of multiple trips, and at a rate which the user is comfortable with. A strong DMT experience is powerful enough to render the user mostly incapable of functioning normally, social interactions, or thinking in a sober manner. At this level of intensity, the effects of the substance are obvious and cannot be ignored in any capacity, leaving the user completely engaged in the experience whether they wish to be or not. In terms of its stages, a strong DMT trip will usually result in all four stages of the experience, but with the "other side" being distinctly present – although it will still become more defined at higher dosages. The effects that generally occur at this level of intensity are described and documented within their own dedicated articles, listed below:

Sensory

Cognitive

Physical

5. Heavy (60 - 80 mg)

At this level, the hallucinatory effects of DMT begin to become further characterised by a complete loss of the user's sense of self or ego. The user not only feels as though they have broken through to the “other side” of the DMT space, but also that they have also lost any ability to recall and comprehend even the most fundamental concepts in their long-term memory. These concepts can include everything from their name, hometown, memories, the awareness of being on drugs, what drugs even are, what human beings are, what life is, that time exists, what anything is, or that anything exists. During this state, the person will usually still experience typical hallucinatory content such as scenery, imagery, autonomous entity contact, etc. However, the hallucinations may become even further defined in terms of their visual clarity and overall complexity. Alongside this, the content of these hallucinations may be significantly more likely to adopt themes that are commonly interpreted as being "otherworldly", "transcendent", or from a "higher plane of existence". On the contrary, many people also report that at this level their hallucinations do not become better defined, but instead break down and become increasingly fast-moving, formless, rapidly shapeshifting, and incoherent. In regards to the person's cognition and general state of mind at this level, there is a much higher likelihood of intense transpersonal states and spirituality experiences. These commonly include experiences such as feelings of inextricable unity between oneself and the rest of existence, metaphysical insights into the supposed nature of reality, and feelings of deep spiritual reverence towards the universe as a whole. A heavy DMT experience is the level at which the practical upper limit of what the substance is capable of producing is reached. At this level, the user will be rendered incapable of functioning and communicating in a manner which will leave them completely disconnected from both their environment and their sense of self. In terms of its stages, a heavy DMT trip will usually result in all four stages of the experience. The specific heavy effects which generally occur at this level of intensity are described and documented within their own dedicated articles, listed below:

Sensory

Cognitive

Physical

6. Extreme (80 - 100 mg +)

An extreme DMT experience is the level at which the effects have become so powerful and pronounced that the person will typically be rendered unconscious and amnesic. At this level, the person will experience the effects typically associated with the previously described heavy dosage during the brief few seconds of the onset and for up to several minutes during the offset of their trip. Throughout the peak they will simply ego death, black out, and become unconscious for a prolonged period of time that can range anywhere from 10 minutes to half an hour. Although extreme psychedelic states may be attractive to certain individuals, it's important to consider that this level of intensity is both less therapeutic and explorative than the previous levels. However, it is also worth noting that when compared to extreme doses of other psychedelics, DMT is considerably less dangerous at this dosage range due to its extremely short duration and comparitive lack of intense physical side effects.

Personal Commentary

It would not remotely be an understatement to say that DMT is by far one of the most important and intriguing psychoactive substances in existence. The profound ease through which it can reliably transport the majority of people into incomprehensibly complex hallucinatory states is perhaps completely unmatched within the world of hallucinogenic compounds. However, it is because of these capabilities that this substance has developed a reputation which is surrounded by misconceptions and cultural mysticism that I feel the need to address within this section directly. For example, the claims that DMT is released by the pineal gland during birth, death, and dreaming are entirely unfounded by the scientific literature. This idea was first popularised by the Richard Strassman's book "The spirit molecule" in which it was stated as pure speculation more so than as an evidence-backed theory. Although it is true that DMT is found in trace amounts within a vast number of plants and animals (including humans), there is absolutely no evidence that it is specifically produced by the pineal gland or that it is released in psychedelic amounts during certain situations. In fact, the current scientific consensus regarding the prevalence of DMT within plants and animals seems to suggest that it is most likely a byproduct of biological processes that are entirely unrelated to that of the pineal gland. In regards to the specific claim that the neurological mechanism responsible for dream states is due to the pineal gland releasing DMT during REM sleep, I think it is worth mentioning my position that the people who believe this have it completely backwards. In my opinion, it's not that normal sleeping dream states occur because endogenous DMT is being released, but that waking dream states are temporarily induced when dosages of DMT and other psychedelics are ingested which are strong enough to cause the specific subjective effect known as internal hallucinations. My reasoning behind this is that there are some interesting commonalities between the behaviour of psychedelic induced hallucinations and dreaming that are too prevalent to discount as purely coincidental. For example, the four-tier levelling systems which I have devised for both internal hallucinations and autonomous entity contact communication can both be applied perfectly to dreams and dream character communication in a manner which does not require any substantial changes to their descriptions. Alongside of this, the amnesia that is commonly experienced during the offset of a DMT experience behaves identically to that of the amnesia which is frequently experienced after waking up from a dream. Last of all and in a more subjective sense, the general feeling of a DMT hallucination feels very dreamlike to me and is commonly described as such by many people. While there are some apparent aesthetic and behavioural differences between that of psychedelic internal hallucinations and normal dream states, in my opinion, these can be accounted for by the simultaneous occurrence of other subjective effects alongside these high-level internal hallucinations. For example, the simultaneous experience of psychedelic geometry during a hallucinatory state seems to result in it appearing to be physically comprised of ever-shifting and incomprehensibly complex condensed geometric forms in a manner which gives them their well known "hyperspatial" aesthetic. In terms of their behaviour, however, the simultaneous experience of an incredibly wide range of cognitive states such as ego death and various transpersonal effects seem to synergise and interplay with the specific effect of internal hallucinations in a manner which results in them displaying themes and concepts which would not ordinarily occur during normal dream states. Another even more outlandish although less common claim is that DMT literally transports the user's consciousness to an alternate dimension or higher plane of transcendental existence in which the autonomous entities are it's real and living inhabitants. While this idea has likely been around for as long as DMT has been used by human beings, it was seemingly popularised by Terence Mckenna and his recounts of visiting "machine elves" within what he claimed was a real space which legitimately existed somewhere outside of the human subconscious. From his perspective, McKenna hypothesised that the DMT was potentially an access point to a parallel universe, a tool through which extraterrestrials use to communicate with us, a space in which human beings from the future reside, or an afterlife which contains an "ecology of souls" of previously living and unborn ancestral spirits. On some level, I can definitely empathise with these perspectives as it is easy for me to see how a person could come to these conclusions given how absolutely incomprehensible and profound many DMT experiences can be. However, it is still worth noting that for a variety of different reasons, these conclusions almost definitely arise as a result of undergoing the DMT experience without a general understanding of occums razor, critical thinking, and scepticism. While these various forms of misinformation may seem relatively harmless, I would argue that spreading them as fact is harmful to our community as it gives people the impression that psychedelic users are irrational proponents of pseudoscientific ideas.

- Josie Kins


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psychedelic
substance
tryptamine

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