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5-MeO-DMT is Not "DMT"
Differentiation is Wise
by the Erowid Crew
v1.0 - Nov 2009
Citation:   Erowid Crew. "5-MeO-DMT is Not 'DMT': Differentiation is Wise." Erowid Extracts. Nov 2009;17:16.
5-MeO-DMT and DMT may have similar names, but they are two different chemicals that should not be confused. 5-MeO-DMT is not a form of DMT. "DMT" is the common name for the chemical N,N-DMT (N,N-dimethyltryptamine). 5-MeO-DMT is a related chemical (5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine) that is active at much lower doses and has quite distinct effects. News stories and online discussions sometimes refer to 5-MeO-DMT as "DMT", but this shorthand can cause serious problems and should not be used.

5-MeO-DMT is known for its presence in the secretions of the Bufo alvarius toad, but also occurs in dozens of plants (notably among Anadenanthera, Phalaris, and Virola species) and at least one Amanita mushroom. In plants, it is often present in combination with N,N-DMT and other related chemicals.

DMT, the better known and arguably more sought-after of the two, was immortalized through Terence McKenna's "self-transforming machine elves" and produces more colorful visuals than 5-MeO-DMT. While enjoyed by some for its sensual elements, 5-MeO-DMT has a reputation for being extremely intense.

The practice of shortening 5-MeO-DMT to "DMT" is dangerous, since some users report powerful effects from as little as 5 mg of vaporized 5-MeO-DMT, whereas four to six times as much is required for strong effects with N,N-DMT. At higher doses, 5-MeO-DMT can exert a strong cardiac response, induce semi-conscious convulsing, or produce shocking mental effects, sometimes with lasting impact. Indeed, an entire book--Darkness Shining Wild, by Robert A. Masters--has been published dealing with an extended mental crisis brought on by an overdose of 5-MeO-DMT.

The error of confusing 5-MeO-DMT with DMT is all too common, and even appeared in the original cover art and catalog text for a book that is focused entirely on 5-MeO-DMT! Designed by the publisher, the cover initially included "DMT" in the title. After receiving emails from both the book's author and an Erowid representative, the publisher corrected the errors before going to print.

Erowid has received reports of several cases where people were offered "DMT" but were given 5-MeO-DMT instead, much to their ontological dismay. This can also result from an error in attention. Many people have read about the fantastic McKenna-esque effects of smoked DMT; if offered 5-MeO-DMT, they may be primed to hear only the familiar "DMT" portion.

Because of this potential confusion, drug geeks should avoid using "DMT" as shorthand for 5-MeO-DMT, and should also stress that 5-MeO-DMT and N,N-DMT are different substances when either comes up as a topic for discussion. A person acquiring either substance should make absolutely sure that the vendor can clearly identify which of the two they are selling. Those who find themselves in the situation of providing either 5-MeO-DMT or N,N-DMT to another person should be absolutely certain that the recipient is clear on the difference.

5-MeO-DMT Headed for Schedule I
On August 21, 2009 the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) published a notice in the Federal Register proposing to place 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) and its salts into Schedule I in the United States. (This led, in 2011, to 5-MeO-DMT becoming illegal to buy, sell, or possess without a license.)

5-MeO-DMT has been in use since at least the 1970s in the United States, although, according to the DEA's justification of the scheduling proposal, only 23 federal cases related to the substance were filed in the ten-year period of 1999 through 2008. A separate analysis, based on forensic laboratory data, registered 23 federal, state, and local cases between 2004 and 2009.

The proposal does not mention plant or animal sources of the chemical, and its effect on the legality of pet toads or plant species is unclear. It remains to be seen whether this legal control will reduce availability of 5-MeO-DMT or whether it could draw attention to this relatively unpopular substance, and potentially increase use.

Revision History #
  • v1.0 - Nov 2009 - Published in Erowid Extracts.
  • v1.0 - Jul 2010 - Published on Erowid.org.
  • v1.1 - Jan 2018 - Minor edits to scheduling sidebar to reflect 5-MeO-DMT's eventual permanent placement in Schedule I.