Follow @Erowid on Twitter!
Laboratory Synthesis
by Devchem
Citation:   Devchem. "Laboratory Synthesis: An Experience with DMT (exp61171)". Mar 26, 2007.

T+ 0:00
  smoked DMT (powder / crystals)
  T+ 1:00   smoked Cannabis  


I've always been interested in psychedelics, and in my life I had the chance to experience quite extensively with mushrooms, amanitas, san pedro and a small dose of LSD once.

I work as a medicinal chemist at a major pharma company, and lately I got interested in the synthesis of the reatively simple (structurally) N,N-dimethyltryptamine. I was checking the company's chemical database when I noticed that tryptamine (a close precursor of DMT) was readily available on the shelf. The reaction leading to the N,N-dimethylated analogue (DMT) is a simple reductive amination, where the two hydrogen atoms on a nitrogen of tryptamine are replaced by two methyl groups (CH3). Having attempted the synthesis twice now, I can say that most of the recipes found on the internet are incomplete or in some cases complete bollocks.

First of all, tryptamine oxidises quite easily on the shelf, turning to a deep orange/brown colour. If this is the case it needs recrystallizing from boiling heptane or hexane (heptane slightly better). The yield for each recryst is quite shit and it might be necessary to repeat the process on the leftover orange crap. Once recrystallised, tryptamine looks like soft, flat, large, waxy white crystals.

Now for the solvent used. I saw many reports saying that methanol is a good solvent for the dimethylation. I tried it, and about 30 mins into the reaction a precipitate forms and the overall time of reaction and yields are greatly reduced because of this. Best solvent I used is THF. This is the key to high yields and purity of final product. As for the reducing agent, sodium cyanoborohydride works just as well as the milder sodiumtriacetoxyborohydride (STAB) and I generally use 2.5 equivalents for the first one and about 4 equivalents for the latter (based on moles of tryptamine). Addition of acid (say 2 eq max) is necessary as this cuts on reaction time greatly. I used glacial acetic acid for this and it works great.

Any formaldehyde/water solution will do. I used 5 equivalents based on tryptamine.
Now for the order of addition of reagents. I saw reports were ppl were strongly advising to cool the reaction mixture prior to the addition of formaldehyde to the mixture of solvent, tryptamine, acid and reducing agent. This is true only for very large scale reactions, but is nothing to be worried about when working with a few grams of starting material.

In THF my reaction took less than 2 hours to go to completion by LC-MS. Work up was as following: removed THF by evaporation (or rotavap), added 1M HCl solution to the crude mixture and placed whitish solution in a separatory funnel. Washed the aqueous phase with Ethyl acetate (do not use DCM! Even tho it evaporates easily it forms big emulsions during the separation which complicates things) and the organic layer discarded. Now the water phase was made basic by the addition of 2M KOH (white precipitate starts forming) and washed again (twice) with Ethyl acetate. Now the water phase was discarded, the ethyl acetate dried on sodium sulfate and the solvent removed by evaporation, leaving a clear slightly yellow oil which foamed under high vacuum pump. Now the choice is yours. You can either smoke this as it is (contains impurities) or try and recrystallise it from boiling hexane or heptane (not so easy as described on the net) or even column it (5-10% Methanol in DCM with a few drops of ammonia/methanol added should do the job). And voila! You have your own DMT.

General procedure:

To a stirring solution of tryptamine free base (1.0g, 6.24mmol, 1eq) in THF (30ml) at room temperature were added sodium triacetoxyborohydride (5.29g ,24.96mmol, 4eq) and glacial (17M) acetic acid (0.71ml, 0.75g, 12.48mmol, 2eq). After most of the borohydride was dissolved, 37% formaldehyde aqueous solution (2.5ml ,2.53g, 31.20 mmol) was added dropwise via a syringe. Stirring was continued for 2h and LC-MS (3min) showed complete conversion of starting material (peak @ 0.94min, M+=161) to product (peak @1.01 min, M+=189). Work up proceded as described above. Column (DCM with MeOH gradient of 5 to 10% with a few drops of 5M ammonia in methanol) gave 1.05g (89%) of a white crystalline solid (DMT).

Now for my experiences. First time I tried 30mg smoked. I felt a general light headiness like 10 seconds after inhaling and the light in the room started to become more intense. I felt giggly and active and was getting slight cold shivers on my body. After max 15 minutes the effects vanished completely.

Second time I decide to try it properly, a 70mg trip. However at the moment I havenít got the right equipment for smoking it so I made a spoon out of some aluminium foil and inhaled the fumes generated by heating the bottom of the spoon with a lighter. The smoke tastes exactly as the crystals smell, a typical indole scent. I didnt mind it. Because of my shitty apparatus, I didnít inhale all of the smoke, however 10 seconds later my mind was racing at incredible speeds and I got a bit freaked out.

I lied down, worried that this was gonna last for an entire hour, but I managed to snap out of it in no time! I was then tripping real hard, with visuals both with my eyes opened and closed. It was great, much better than mushrooms as it feels more linear, synthetic, less introspective and with much wilder visuals. The best thing was that after 20mins I was already coming down with very little side effects. After one hour I was feeling calm and relaxed and I smoked a big joint. Nice experience, although I donít think it would suit the weak hearted!

Exp Year: 2007ExpID: 61171
Gender: Male 
Age at time of experience: Not Given 
Published: Mar 26, 2007Views: 42,241
[ View as PDF (for printing) ] [ View as LaTeX (for geeks) ] [ Switch Colors ]
DMT (18) : Alone (16), Cultivation / Synthesis (31), Preparation / Recipes (30)

COPYRIGHTS: All reports are copyright Erowid and you agree not to download or analyze the report data without contacting Erowid Center for permission first.
Experience Reports are the writings and opinions of the individual authors who submit them.
Some of the activities described are dangerous and/or illegal and none are recommended by Erowid Center.

Experience Vaults Index Full List of Substances Search Submit Report User Settings About Main Psychoactive Vaults