The general group of pharmacological agents commonly known as hallucinogens can be divided into three broad categories: psychedelics, dissociatives, and deliriants. These classes of psychoactive drugs have in common that they can cause subjective changes in perception, thought, emotion and consciousness. Unlike other psychoactive drugs, such as stimulants and opioids, the hallucinogens do not merely amplify familiar states of mind, but rather induce experiences that are qualitatively different from those of ordinary consciousness. These experiences are often compared to non-ordinary forms of consciousness such as trance, meditation, conversion experiences, and dreams.
Psychedelics, dissociatives, and deliriants have a long history of use within medicinal and religious traditions around the world. They are used in shamanic forms of ritual healing and divination, in initiation rites, and in the religious rituals of syncretistic movements such as União do Vegetal, Santo Daime, and the Native American Church. When used in religious practice, psychedelic drugs, as well as other substances like tobacco, are referred to as entheogens.
DMT occurs naturally in many species of plants often in conjunction with its close chemical relatives 5-MeO-DMT and bufotenin (5-OH-DMT). DMT-containing plants are commonly used in several South American shamanic practices. It is usually one of the main active constituents of the drink ayahuasca, however ayahuasca is sometimes brewed without plants that produce DMT. DMT occurs as the primary active alkaloid in several plants including Mimosa hostilis, Diplopterys cabrerana, and Psychotria viridis. DMT is found as a minor alkaloid in snuff made from Virola bark resin in which 5-MeO-DMT is the main active alkaloid. DMT is also found as a minor alkaloid in the beans of Anadenanthera peregrina and Anadenanthera colubrina used to make Yopo and Vilca snuff in which bufotenin is the main active alkaloid. Psilocybin, the active chemical in psilocybin mushrooms can also be considered a close chemical relative for the psilocybin molecule contains a DMT molecule at the end as with other close chemical relatives
The psychotropic effects of DMT were first studied scientifically by the Hungarian chemist and psychologist Dr. Stephen Szára, who performed research with volunteers in the mid-1950s. Szára, who later worked for the US National Institutes of Health, had turned his attention to DMT after his order for LSD from the Swiss company Sandoz Laboratories was rejected on the grounds that the powerful psychotropic could be dangerous in the hands of a communist country.
Inhaled: If DMT is smoked, the effects last for a short period of time, usually 5 to 30 minutes (dependent on dose). The onset after inhalation is very fast (less than 45 seconds) and peak effects are reached within a minute. In the 1960s, some reportedly referred to DMT as "the businessman's trip" due to the relatively short duration of vaporized, insufflated, or injected DMT. Although the smoke produced is described as harsh by some, it can be mixed with cannabis or one of many smoking mixtures and be used in a pipe, a waterpipe (popularly known as a bong), or a vaporizer. This helps to improve the smoothness of the smoke, ultimately making the substance easier to ingest.
Insufflation: When DMT is insufflated, the duration is markedly increased, and some users report diminished euphoria but an intensified otherworldly experience.
Injection: Injected DMT produces an experience that is similar to inhalation in duration, intensity, and characteristics.