DMT is a hallucinogen drug that occurs naturally and can also be produced in the lab. DMT is illegal and has no approved medical uses in the United States. Although DMT does not produce an addiction like many other drugs, people may develop a behavioral addiction that results in the habitual use of the drug.
DMT does not produce withdrawal symptoms. People who use DMT are likely more concerned about the effects during and after a “trip” — especially a “bad trip” — or with the residual psychotic symptoms that can persist long after the previous drug use.
What Causes DMT Withdrawal?
Medical experts don’t fully understand how DMT affects the brain to produce its effects. Hallucinogens are the only class of drugs that impact the brain in the way that they do.
What is known is that DMT activates two important chemical messenger receptors in the brain by emulating those chemicals (the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine). Both of these neurotransmitters are heavily implicated in psychosis, which is likely related to the hallucinogen effects. Persistent symptoms are almost certainly due to residual effects on the brain’s ability to regulate these two neurotransmitter systems.
Diagnosing DMT Withdrawal
Since there are no DMT withdrawal symptoms, there is usually no indication that an individual used the drug. Lab testing will not identify the drug because DMT testing is not part of standard drug testing panels. The drug is undetectable in the blood one hour after use, and less than 1% of the drug is excreted in the urine.
For people who are getting residual psychotic symptoms after using DMT, the only way to diagnose the after-effects is for the individual to admit to the drug use. Otherwise, the symptoms may be diagnosed as a psychotic disorder.
DMT Withdrawal Symptoms
DMT is unusual among drugs of abuse — including other hallucinogens — in that there are no DMT withdrawal symptoms. However, during a “trip” people will appear detached from reality and may have dilated pupils. People may also exhibit some of the following symptoms:
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Elevated blood pressure and heart rate
- Dry mouth
- Profuse sweating
- Bizarre behaviors
- Rapid eye movements
- Chest pain
- Overwhelming fright
At high doses, DMT may cause seizures, respiratory arrest and coma.
The symptoms of fright and agitation may last for days after the previous drug use. Such elongated symptoms may be considered to be a withdrawal effect.
People withdrawing from DMT use may, at some point, develop persistent after-effects:
- Persistent Psychosis: Ongoing psychosis that persists long after the last drug use. The individual essentially develops schizophrenia.
- Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPDD): sudden, unpredictable flashbacks of hallucinations and other psychosis symptoms, lasting months or years after the drug was used previously.
How Long Does DMT Withdrawal Take?
Because DMT does not have a withdrawal period akin to other drugs, like opioids, the effects of DMT use wearing off (the “trip”) may be considered as DMT withdrawal. A DMT “trip” does not last very long. The drug is rapidly metabolized by the body so that the onset of its effects are only seconds to minutes from taking the drug and only lasts 15 to 60 minutes depending on how it was taken. On average, the drug’s effects start within two minutes and are negligible by 30 minutes.
Although a “bad trip” will last an hour or less, people often remain genuinely frightened for hours or days afterward and may not be able to function properly. Behavior may be erratic during this time.
DMT Detox Treatment for Withdrawal
DMT withdrawal is generally easy for people who have not recently used and who are not experiencing any residual symptoms. However, DMT drug addiction occurs in the setting of polysubstance use in nearly 90% of cases, and the withdrawal from other drugs may be complicated. This factor is especially the case for drugs that are very difficult to withdraw from, such as alcohol and opioids.
Dual diagnosis (the presence of an underlying mental health disorder) may complicate detox and recovery from DMT use, so diagnosis and treatment is important in such cases. DMT use may unmask or cause a mental health disorder in some people.
DMT Detox Treatment for Withdrawal
- Medically Assisted Detox
Medically assisted detox for DMT use includes supportive measures and sedatives for the after-effects, if any, of the drug use. Individuals are placed in a quiet and non-stimulating environment with direct supervision to prevent them from harming themselves or others. Suicide is common during bad trips. Sedation with a benzodiazepine may be helpful. Staff at medical detox centers are familiar with “talking down” individuals following a trip or who are having residual psychotic symptoms.
Medical intervention is required for people who experience any of the long-term complications of DMT use, such as persistent psychosis or drug use flashbacks. These symptoms can be highly disruptive of individuals’ ability to function normally, and may cause the same dangers to self and others as during a drug “trip.” Antipsychotic medications and psychiatric assessment may be required.
- Outpatient Detox
Outpatient detox involves accessing the expertise and medical care from an outpatient detox center. This treatment method may be an attractive option for people who are not experiencing after-effects from recent use and do not have complicating factors such as mental health disorder or other substance use. A safe, drug-free home and other people there to provide support are also helpful for outpatient detox.
- Dangers of Detoxing at Home
During the psychosis that accompanies drug use or may appear after the drug use and during flashbacks, people honestly believe that their hallucinations are real and that their paranoia is valid. They are detached from reality and prone to false beliefs and bizarre, high-risk behaviors. For example, they may believe that they can fly or that someone is trying to kill them. As such, they are prone to harm themselves or others by acting on their beliefs.
As “trip sitter” is advised when residual symptoms may develop. This individual will help ensure the person struggling with the effects of the drug remains safe. Home detox does not have the added safety of having medical professionals to check and treat high blood pressure, rapid heart rate and for other dangerous developments.
What to Expect During DMT Detox
DMT abuse does not result in withdrawal symptoms, so it is a relatively easy detox compared to most other illicit drugs. For people with polysubstance use, the use of other drugs may present a more challenging detox experience.
Detoxing from DMT should be focussed on planning for abstinence and recovery from the drug use by identifying any psychological dependence issues that may be responsible for continued use of DMT.
Finding a Detox Center
Undergoing medically assisted detox at an accredited facility is the safest and most effective way to detox from substance use and transition smoothly into treatment and recovery.
At a professional addiction treatment center, a team of healthcare professionals will have the expertise to help people detox and recover from any kind of drug use. The Recovery Village has treatment facilities throughout the United States that can help people address their addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders.
Key Points: Understanding DMT Withdrawal and Detox
Keep the following key points in mind when considering DMT withdrawal and detox:
- DMT does not have withdrawal symptoms, but people may experience short-term and long-term residual effects
- Residual effects may require medical detox support as they can be distressing, uncomfortable and may provoke unsafe behaviors
- Most people who use DMT also use other substances and that may produce significant withdrawal symptoms requiring detox support
- The presence of underlying mental health disorder — a dual diagnosis — may complicate detox from DMT
- DMT use may include a psychological dependence that requires identification and treatment
Contact The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health to speak with a representative about how professional addiction treatment can help you achieve your sobriety goals. You deserve a healthier future, call today.
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Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA). “Physical detoxification services for withdrawal from specific substances.” Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment, 2006. Accessed July 31, 2019.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Compound summary N,N-dimethyltryptamine.” PubChem, July 22, 2019. Accessed July 31, 2019.
Wu, Li; Ringwalt, et al. “Hallucinogen-related disorders in a national sample of adolescents: The influence of ecstasy/MDMA use.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, September 1, 2009. Accessed July 31, 2019.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.