New on the Black Market: Vape Pens Full of DMT

Is vaping the most powerful psychedelic in the world a good idea? Only one way to find out.



That was a thoughtful read. I'm unclear on the potential value, though. -- "The vape hits also never created, for me, the kind of deeply beneficial trip that is the allure of DMT in the first place." -- I got that Strassman's subjects had experiences that they liked, but was there any lasting benefit? It sounds more like a vacation from reality, at most. You came out of your heavy mushroom trip with an important insight not because you dropped out of reality, but because you looked square at it in a new way.


I would like to ask you, Lester Black, do you think that DMT is a good thing? Should it be legalized and made available to the general public such as cannabis is now?


@2 did you read the article?


Interesting that you never experienced the sort of loss of self that some people say they have experienced. I participated in an ayahuasca ceremony in Cuzco once and it was similar. Completely different than the sort of ego splintering that can occur with a potent mushroom dose. Self remained intact but I did see some unbelievable stuff: hovering over mandalas composed of cones filled with lava that were also faces/vast opera houses filled with crowds looking up, forests of snaking scaly trees that emerged from the ground and disappeared into the sky, seas of eyes. Of course it lasts hours and hours when you quaff it rather than smoke it. Downside is that if you don't follow the special diet before and after you can get rather sick, most likely as the concoction is a purgative and disrupts your gut bacteria. Highly recommended to adhere to that diet.


Seems like if you want to normalize this kind of research, you should stop describing these experiences as "spiritual." "Spirit," "spiritual," and "soul" are all deeply subjective words and, semantically, we're never going to all be on the same page when we use them. What people who take large dozes of DMT are experiencing are hallucinations. That they have commonalities is interesting and might tell us something about the evolution of our brains and their behavior (like our dreams do), but they aren't and never will be evidence of a "spiritual realm" that exists apart from this one. Stop using these words and then claiming it's "for science." There's no spirit realm. There's no "breaking through."


Know only what I've read, but I believe ayahuasca is more about harmaline and other harmala alkaloids, with the DMT-family component there to potentiate it so to speak. I'm sure it varies quite a bit depending on what it's brewed from.


@1 Can a powerful hallucination be useful? Can there be lasting benefits? I'm familiar with psychiatry and pycho-pharmaceuticals. The answer you'll get from a psychiatrist about whether a drug "works" or if it's "beneficial" is usually that it does or is if it does or is. It's behavioral science, if someone who's depressed and acting depressed is less depressed and acting less depressed when they take a drug, than it does and it is. If it's not then it doesn't and it isn't. I'm been on a couple different regimens. All did and were in some ways and didn't and weren't in others.


@5 - I find "soul" appearing the article only in reference to Descartes' idea about the pineal gland, and that research isn't real current, so we don't actually have to worry about that one. I kind of sympathize with your objection to the use of "spiritual" in science, but the alternative - "it's hallucinations" - neglects an important dimension of the experience - important to the subject, and therefore to the researcher.

Whatever this implies in the way of a "spiritual realm" is left to the reader. My take is that it does not in any way require or demonstrate the existence of anything objective.


@7 If you are not aware of Michael Pollan's recent book on psychedelics might want to check it out. I have only read excerpts but they were real interesting. For sure not a 'spiritual' guy but he provides rather eloquent evidence of how these substances can provide lasting, potentially life changing insight.

I must say here, Lester Black, it is rather disturbing to read someone who obviously has plenty of experience with various substances be so cavalier about prohibition. The drug war is one of the greatest evils of our time, full stop. Addiction is a health issue, and there is no amount of damage legally available drugs could do that could equal the massive damage that has been and continues to be wrought by this insane puritanical crusade against something that is pretty fundamental to human nature: the desire/need to occasionally get out of your head. Just pause and think for a bit when you are casually musing 'should this be legal'. The alternative is it is banned. The status quo. Think about what that means: cops, jails, thugs knocking down doors shooting people, drugs cut with poison. Think about that.


@7 - sure! That's a field of study with objective results, though unfortunately suppressed as the author describes. I'm just going off the top of my head, but used "as directed" ... treatment of alcoholism, distress of terminal illness, etc. It may be a little different from antidepressants for example - you don't just write someone a prescription for 5 x 100mu LSD-25, it has to be delivered in a therapeutic setting and that setting AND the drug account for the outcome. Which will work and not work, and the numbers are to be evaluated statistically. (And then there are the computer geeks who use tiny doses to improve their work.)


While DMT has been on my drug bucket list for some time, as I have had very beneficial, introspective experiences from other psychedelics, the idea of a vape is intriguing and... disturbing. I had a dorm mate in college who had a daredevil damn the torpedoes buddy who for whatever reason took a hit while driving. He wrecked his truck and died shortly after. Definitely something that shouldn't be trifled with.


How did you end up speaking with Strassman? Your story seemed to jump from mentioning him in the abstract to suddenly chatting with him. Did you just call him up and tell him you had a dmt vape pen?

Also, if it tasted like burning plastic, it was oxidized. That usually means either it’s burning instead of vaping, or it was fairly old and oxidized over time. At least, according to my friends.


From what I've read DMT seems to have applications in treating serious depression and other mental health conditions like PTSD.

It's clearly not ready for prime time as a recreational substance, none of the more powerful psychedelics really are so I doubt we'll ever see them in the local rec store. But if they help people achieve breakthroughs in dealing with depression, etc., drugs like DMT should be available as treatments under medical supervision.

It never ceases to amaze me how nature has so many cures for human ailments. We should study them, not outlaw them just because someone stumbled upon some of the effects and actually enjoyed themselves.


Really interesting and well written article that has provoked insightful comments for your readers.




@11: He took a hit of DMT while driving?


Psychedelic DMT Mimics Near-death Brain Experience


@16 Yeah, he was one of those types that rarely live to see 30. I didn't know him personally, just through my dorm mate, the guy was a xtreme sports nut as well as a hardcore party person. Stupid and tragic yes, but that was the first thing I thought of when I read the article and the ease of administration with something like a vape pen.


@9 - I expect he has thought about the issues around prohibition. I don't know what he thinks, but what I think is: it's complicated, and the answer is probably not reducible to a simple formula.

On the other hand, it bothers me a little, in view of the fairly dim view he takes, the article is getting top billing online. Like "check this out, you can vape DMT!" is a priority message to get across to Stranger readers one and all.


@10. Not sure what your getting at, but the point I wanted to make is that when your talking about behavioral health, the answer to the question "Is X beneficial?" is almost always going to be that at an individual patient level it's beneficial if it's beneficial and it's not if it's not. You'll never get closer than "likely to be beneficial" or "often beneficial," and both with a list of caveats.


@20 - in my opinion, the "trip" thing, as in DMT, is a gimmick. Like I said at the top, where's the beef - did anyone go on to lead a better life after these wacked out DMT trips? What can happen, is a little insight, like the author's mushroom trip example. Sometimes a little insight can do a lot for you, usually not so much, but it could be worth a try, just don't expect miraculous trips.


Who do I need to know -- who do I need to BLOW -- to get the opportunity to try DMT?


If I recall, without an MAOI inhibitor (like the banis caapi vine in Ayahuasca), your body just tries to protect you from the "invading substance", which is why the trips might be so short in duration and limited in fullness.


@24 That is not at all the case. DMT is orally inactive because it's metabolized by monoamine oxidase, MAO. That's an enzyme in the gut, not the lungs. MAOI only facilitates oral consumption of DMT by inhibiting MAO.

DMT is so short-acting in its smoked form because as an endogenous trace amine neurotransmitter that's extremely close to serotonin, you metabolize it incredibly fast, which is compounded by the speed with which you are dosed when you take it in via your lungs. When insufflated or taken in enema form (yes, that has happened), the trips are lengthened. Ayahuasca takes hours because oral metabolism is slower. Same for cannabis, think of edible timing compared to smoking. That's also why Ayahuasca trips are more like mushrooms and less immediately overwhelming trips to hyperspace.

Source: My thesis work was on N,N-Dimethyltryptamine's endogenous functioning.


@20 I recommend LSD. Longer trips tend to facilitate more reflective growth. DMT is best as a 'cap' on an LSD trip, that is, taken at the peak, so that you stay in it longer and have time while still on LSD but down from DMT, to process what happened.


@2 I'm not Lester but yes.

@9 I could not agree with you more about prohibition, it's flatly immoral, there's no excuse for prohibition.

@13 Nobody uses it as a recreational substance, not really. I have known a couple people who took DMT regularly for a period of time, but none of them did so because DMT was particularly fun, they took it because they felt it was personally important in a spiritual or more profound sense. It is actually not very much fun for most people to have reality implode on them and to have their ontologies flipped inside out. Sorcerers and psychonauts are capable of handling these things because they live and breathe this sort of stuff, but the average joe on the street is not going to be running out to take DMT if it is legalized, which it won't be because the DEA and NIDA are both premised on the idea that personal freedom is an abhorrent sin that should be punished with extreme prejudice.

@5 I'm one of those people who takes data about DMT specifically and pieces it together into more of a coherent working scientific theory on what N,N-Dimethyltryptamine is doing in the brain naturally. I do not appeal to spirituality in my professional work, and I would be happy to share my findings, especially my review research, with you or anyone here. We are still learning more about it and there are many questions we have left to answer, because it is one of the most alien-seeming substances known to man and yet it is naturally occurring within us.

If it weren't for out-there hippy-dippy woo-woo types (Terence McKenna, we need you now more than ever. RIP, you are sorely missed!), there wouldn't be interest in it from the scientific community. I went into the sciences specifically to study DMT and I ended up with degrees in medicine and biochemistry to that end, so I'm going to ask you very politely to refrain from putting down the woo-woo elements of a drug which is still extremely wild and wooly. DMT is an extremely out-there and mysterious thing, and there are many questions left to be answered. You putting down the spiritual aspect of it is not helping answer any of them, nor does it help to legitimize it. If appealing to logic legitimized substances, we would live in a very different world, but it doesn't. That's for policymakers who are really more worried about image than logic, and I don't know if you've been paying attention, but cold, calculating logic and rationality sucks the big one when it comes to marketing.

Besides, we're not talking about some Abrahamic old-man-in-the-sky spirituality, nor an appeal to illogic, but rather a breakdown of consensus-backed materialism as an arbitrary system of evaluating ideas and others. DMT others are not necessarily flesh-and-blood real, but the experiences are absolutely real in the sense that hey, you really experience it, and there are many very good ideas that DMT can convey, in addition to its pure scientific value as a window into the chemical makeup of consciousness.


As a side note, as both a researcher and as someone involved in psychonautics, I strongly urge against taking DMT if you're an average person who has never taken psychedelics, or if you are someone with a generally nervous disposition. I respect the hell out of DMT, lord (and the alien gestalt consciousness) knows I do, but I must warn you in no uncertain terms that although DMT is capable of being the most profoundly positive of the true psychedelics (a sub-category of hallucinogens, which can be further divided, but that's another story for another day), it can also be among the most profoundly negative if you don't know what you're doing and don't have a great handle on the mental techniques used by more seasoned space cadets.


Oh, and shoutout to Wormspew/OpticusWrangler, who penned perhaps the single greatest example of what it's like to talk to someone who regularly takes DMT (like talking to an alien from another galaxy filament who happens to speak English of a sort):
There's something so wonderfully cozy and familiar about someone recounting their experiences in hyperspace. Reminds me of being a neophyte. Opti bless <3


Thanks for the educated insights. To put "profoundly negative" in another light, I know someone who says he suffered some long term harm from DMT. Or some illegal drug, of course, but I guess DMT is distinctive enough that we may tentatively assume that's really what he had, and the problem was not bad drugs, but that DMT's pharmacology just "wasn't for him." I generally discount the stories back in the day about LSD "flashbacks", but who knows, maybe that's real too for some people.


@27 That is a good point that 'woo-types' deserve most of the credit for awareness of and scientific interest in psychedelics in the west. You mention McKenna. I believe his brother Dennis is a noted researcher in this field. I can get somewhat cranky about such attitudes as: if you are not doing this for 'spiritual' reasons you are just doing it to get fucked-up, or psychedelics are somehow a cheap shortcut and the experience is not valid in the sense that altered states attained through say a long term commitment to meditation are. Again, I would recommend skeptics with flippant, ill-informed opinions on the subject check out Michael Pollan's recent book. Reading the work of a 'woo-type' like McKenna might not rattle their certitude (fan of McKenna here nonetheless) but someone like Pollan a little less easy to dismiss out of hand I would say.

All that said, I've never smoked DMT (as I have never smoked period it probably would just make me violently ill) but I do kind of question what sort of enduring profound insights could be gleaned from taking the substance in this manner given how short-lived the experience is. I guess some people seem to have gotten a lot out of it. I guess really truly going some place out of this world, even for 15 minutes, could be pretty profound though.


@30 No reward without risk. I respect DMT with a deep and abiding passion, but do not take that to mean that I think it is mentally safe all the time. To the contrary, the more important a psychedelic can be in helping someone to reevaluate their life, their behaviors, their base assumptions, etc etc, the more it should be handled with gravity. Respect, but gravity. We're talking about something that really pushes the bounds of what constitutes consensus reality, DMT experiences can make LSD look like Bud Lite.

But plenty of shitty things are safe, and physically there's no danger from DMT. It's a nettle-like skin irritant, like serotonin, but that's about all, and the only other physical danger is that after the first lungful, you enter the bodily stage of DMT wherein you instantly relax, so you just have to be set up so you can recline.

Believe me that I am well aware of how haunting DMT can be. Even after my best trip on DMT, I was in sanity's twilight zone for a couple weeks. Go hard enough on this and you'll start to live more in that zone. Even now, I know which techniques I can use to bring me to what is functionally a schizotypal state, albeit one with some steering and a tether back to functional sanity.

The takeaway here is "nothing ventured, nothing gained."

As for LSD flashbacks, most of those stories are exaggerated anecdotes without much basis in reality. If you go far enough with it, you can develop some physical tics/twitches and HPPD, but HPPD isn't the same as a flashback. No psychedelics are "retained" in your body and cannot be rereleased. What may be happening during flashbacks, given that they are generally brief, is that you are feeling a slightly more acute comeup on your own internal neurochemistry, probably in the tryptamine family (which includes serotonin). Below, I mention a buddy of mine who did DMT with some regularity, and he swore up and down that after taking it so often, he could much more accurately feel when his brain would flood itself with some neurotransmitter or other. I believe there may be something to that, though that's a question which would merit a full chapter's worth of response, so I may save that for another post.

@31 After a lot of thought on this subject, I've come to understand this general rule of thumb: Short trips are good at providing one strong insight to be interpreted later. Long trips are good at providing interpretation and long-term changes in behavior, though they may not take you quite to the place of ontological vulnerability of short, strong trips. Generally, the shorter the trip, the stronger the trip.

In addition, time during DMT experiences is not really relevant. It ceases to have meaning while on it. 15 minutes feels like it may well have taken 15 years, or 150 years, or a geologic era. Because your pineal gland is responsible for timekeeping (among, perhaps, more wild & wooly functions,) and because it is really where DMT is 'housed,' DMT has a profound effect upon the measurement of time. You can feel old as the hills on DMT even though it's only been a few minutes. Time dilation is extreme on it, and a good buddy of mine who took it more often than I did by leaps and bounds described it as being the closest thing to that drug Slo-Mo from the recent Judge Dredd movie.

Both of the McKennas are/were pioneers in tryptamine research and in ethnobotany especially, yes. Both would be quick to deny this and to grant credit where credit is due, because these are not new techniques, nor are they their techniques, they're some of the oldest behaviors known to mankind short of eating, drinking, fucking, and fighting. I haven't read the new Pollan book, but you may be surprised at just how little I read when it comes to widely-disseminated books on DMT. This will sound really egotistical and it's really not meant to be, but given the amount of time I've spent researching DMT and the amount of time I've spent researching other people's experiences on DMT, a lot of works written for the general public would be to me review. I appreciate that these works exist, certainly, but I don't actually read them myself, and I'm really wary of giving too much credit to public figures because some of them are just naturally assholes (coughJoeRogan*cough*) and their personalities should not be too heavily linked to the substance.

I share your ire when it comes to people who take this high-and-mighty approach to... well, being high. I can't blame them, when I was 18 and 19 I was one of those "Hey, I'm in this for serious reasons!" people, but the more I took them, the more I grew out of it. They can always be there for personal growth and all that, but let's face it, they are fun, and if they weren't, something would be missing from them. I believe bodily autonomy is an ethical necessity, and I now make it a policy not to judge anyone for their reasons for using a substance, it's simply not my business. They are the ones responsible for their behavior during trips, though.