How Long Does DMT Stay in Your System?

Man Taking a Pill
DMT Is a psychedelic compound. BSIP/UIG/Getty Images

DMT (N, N-Dimethyltryptamine) is a psychedelic compound that naturally occurs in some plants. Trace amounts are also naturally found in the human body. It can cause instant hallucinations and the effect is short-lived.

DMT is the primary hallucinogenic component of ayahuasca tea, which is made from the South American plant of the same name. In the United States, DMT is often available as a white or yellow crystalline powder.

It can also be synthetically produced and goes by the street name of "Dimitri."

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classifies DMT as a Schedule I drug. Not only is it illegal, this means that it has a great potential for abuse and no accepted medical applications in the United States. DMT is not tested for on standard drugs screenings, though some tests may be able to detect it.

How Long DMT Lasts

DMT acts on serotonin receptors in the brain. Compared to other hallucinogens, such as LSD, it acts very quickly when administered by sniffing or smoking. Some users prefer to use a vaporizer or roll the powder with tobacco, cannabis, or other herbs to be smoked. In rare cases, it may also be injected.

Even small doses of DMT can instantly produce visual hallucinations and auditory distortions. Users can begin hallucinating within 45 seconds and the peak of the effect is felt in the first five minutes.

Depending on how it is taken, the dosage, and the person, the effects typically last no more than 30 to 45 minutes. This fast onset led to its nickname as the "businessman's lunch trip."

DMT has no effect if taken orally by itself as it is quickly broken down by monoamine oxidase in the digestive tract.

For an oral dose to be active, it is taken with a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI), which also produces a longer effect. This is seen in ayahuasca tea, which includes a plant-based MAOI ingredient. The effect can last for three hours with this mixture.

Effects on the Brain

DMT produces hallucinations and euphoria. The fast onset can leave the user vulnerable. The specific effects include an increased heart rate, agitation, and hallucinations that can include body and spatial distortions. If ayahuasca is taken, the user may experience severe vomiting as well.

Because DMT is a hallucinogen, a user can experience unexpected side effects. Some hallucinogens can affect the action of the brain chemical serotonin, which regulates mood, sensory perception, sleep, hunger, body temperature, and muscle control.

It is recommended that people with schizophrenia or similar mental health conditions avoid DMT and other hallucinogens. This includes people who have a family history involving these conditions, even if they have not been personally diagnosed with a condition. Though rare, reports have attributed DMT and ayahuasca as triggers to severe psychotic episodes.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that, like most hallucinogens, DMT is likely not addictive, though more research is needed.

It is possible, however, for frequent users to develop a tolerance that may lead them to take higher amounts, which increases the risk of overdose.

Preventing an Overdose

According to the NIDA, in high dosages, DMT can produce the following effects:

  • Hallucinations
  • Memory loss
  • Cardiac and respiratory arrest
  • Physical distress, including dangerous changes in blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, and body temperature
  • Marked psychological distress, including feelings of extreme panic, fear, anxiety, paranoia, invulnerability, exaggerated strength, and aggression

Additionally, using DMT with high doses of alcohol or other central nervous system depressants can lead to respiratory distress or arrest.

This may result in death.

Drug Testing

DMT is metabolized by the body very quickly. The typical blood or urine analysis that is run on the most common hallucinogens generally only find trace amounts shortly after use. These are very difficult results to confirm.

DMT is not tested for and, therefore, not detected on standard drugs of abuse screens used for law enforcement, employment, and treatment purposes. It might be detected if a specific test is used and can be detected in the lab in urine and hair follicles.

A suspected substance can be tested to see if it is DMT.

A Word From Verywell

Though it may not show up on most drug tests, DMT may appear on certain tests. That said, the risks of using either DMT or ayahuasca should be weighed carefully before you consider taking it. The potential side effects and legal consequences may not be worth the effects you hope to experience.

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