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DMT can be smoked, vaped, or ingested in an herbal brew, provoking intense but short-lived psychedelic experiences. Observers may notice its distinct smell, paraphernalia like freebase pipes and plant matter, the user’s dilated pupils and distorted sense of time, and, in the event of a bad experience, their anxiety and paranoia.

What does DMT look like?

In its pure form, DMT is a white, crystalline powder. However, impure DMT, in shades from yellow to pink, is more frequently encountered.[1]

Usually, DMT is derived from organic material, such as the root bark of the jurema tree, which appears slightly purple, and the leaves of the chacruna shrub.[2]

DMT is often consumed in the form of ayahuasca, a brewed drink, typically made from chacruna leaves and caapi vine although other recipes exist. When brewed, ayahuasca is a reddish-brown liquid.

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Does DMT have a smell or taste?

People report that DMT, when smoked, smells like burnt plastic, mothballs, or new shoes.

Ayahuasca has been said to smell and taste like dirt, burnt coffee beans, burnt chocolate, or even A.1. steak sauce or old Guinness beer.

How is DMT taken?

DMT can be smoked in a pipe, usually a glass freebase bong. Some people use cannabis pipes or bongs and put the DMT between two layers of burnable herbs, usually mint or cannabis. Others “spike” herbs such as parsley or caapi vines with DMT and smoke them in a joint, a form called changa.

The recent explosion in the popularity of vaping and technological advancements in vaping devices have led to the creation of DMT cartridges for vapes. DMT vapes allow people to have more control over dosage. But vapes also make taking DMT more casual, raising concerns because the drug has such intense psychedelic effects. 

DMT can be mixed into e-liquid and inhaled through ordinary high-powered vapes. A DMT pen or DMT vape is simply an ordinary vape that’ is vaporizing DMT rather than nicotine or cannabis. 

DMT isn’t ingested alone because enzymes present in the stomach would break it down before it took effect. Pairing a DM- containing plant with a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI), as in the ayahuasca drink, prevents this breakdown, keeping the DMT active and leading to a longer high than through inhalation. Ayahuasca usually features DMT-containing chacruna leaves and caapi vine, a source of MAOI, and other herbs.

More rarely, DMT powder can be snorted or injected.

How much does DMT cost?

When vaping DMT, people often mix the drug with e-liquids themselves or buy cartridges with premixed DMT—usually a half or full gram—for between $100 and $150.[1]

DMT can vary in price drastically depending on the location and what type of DMT is being sold. 5-MeO DMT, or toad venom, can also have varying costs. Click here to learn more about toad venom

How can I tell if someone is on DMT?

DMT produces vivid, intense, and short-lived psychedelic hallucinations. Someone in the throes of a DMT experience will report seeing and hearing things that aren’t there, having a warped sense of time and distorted senses, or act irrationally. They may have dilated eyes and rapid rhythmic eye movements and appear agitated or confused. Ayahuasca can induce nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

People on DMT report feeling as if they’ve died and entered a new plane of existence. For some people, this is eye-opening while for others it's terrifying.

Someone having a bad experience on DMT will seem anxious, paranoid, disoriented, sometimes rapidly swinging between these emotions and euphoria. They may panic or attempt to run away. At the extreme end of the spectrum, a bad trip can resemble paranoid psychosis. 

For an external observer, it can be difficult to tell the difference between someone on DMT or another psychedelic drug with similar effects. Only the brevity of the DMT experience should clue you in. While the effects of LSD last six to 12 hours, and psilocybin experiences last four to eight, DMT can last as little as ten minutes when smoked.

Read here to learn more about the warning signs of drug use.

Helping someone having a bad experience

People taking DMT or another psychedelic hallucinogen should always be supervised by someone who isn’t using the drug, a “trip sitter” in common parlance.

If you’re sitting for or encounter someone having a bad experience on DMT, you should move them into a safe space, says the Zendo Project, a harm reduction organization that provides psychedelic safe spaces at musical festivals such as Burning Man. A safe space is somewhere they’ll be comfortable, away from bright lights, loud noises, and crowds, which can contribute to sensory overload and disorientation.

A safe space is also a place where they’re at low risk for harming themselves or others or running away. This means leading them away from heights, open windows, traffic, and bodies of water.

You should offer the person blankets and water and ask for permission before touching them. If they enter a mental health crisis, have another health emergency, or become violent, you shouldn’t hesitate to seek appropriate help, typically emergency medical services.[2]

Fortunately, DMT is a very short-acting drug. If it’s been smoked, the effects should fade within, at most, 45 minutes and sometimes in less than ten minutes. Ayahuasca experiences can last longer, up to four hours.