DMT Vapes: The Effect of Vape Culture on PsychedelicsBunk Police
A cultural phenomenon in full swing—the presence and normalcy of vaping only seems to be increasing. From vaping at shows, vaping on a night out, vaping while you work, vaping in your house, vaping when you wake up…This smoking-alternative seems to have permeated every public and private space.
Like it or not, vaping nicotine or cannabis is as commonplace as it gets. But what happens when this everyday habit extends into the not-so-everyday? One of the most notoriously powerful hallucinogens, N, N-dimethyltryptamine—otherwise known as DMT—has fallen into this space.
From what was historically treated as a reverent, spiritual experience, has taken on a new meaning. With the rise of DMT vapes, is this powerful indole quickly becoming a casual party drug? What does the vape format mean for the future of psychedelics?
How do DMT vape pens work? Are DMT vapes safe?
While DMT is traditionally smoked or drunk in a shamanic ayahuasca brew, DMT vapes work differently. These pens combine DMT with an e-liquid base, which is then added to a standard, cartridge-style vaporizer pen. There are also disposable “non-refillable” pens, refillable e-liquid pens, and mesh/mod pens that you can fill with DMT powder.
This guide from Tripsitter details the various types of DMT that’s used—either N,N,DMT or 5-MeO-DMT—along with pros and cons of vaping DMT. From the positive end of the spectrum, it explains that vapes heat the content just enough to be converted into a vapor, which potentially preserves more of the DMT, and avoids creating harmful byproducts.
Similarly, vaping is generally considered safer and healthier than smoking. Vaping DMT is less harsh on the lungs than smoking, and doesn’t lead to nausea, like ayahuasca often does.
However, one of the largest safety concerns with vaping lies in the variability and lack of regulation in vape cartridges and e-liquid. With vaping being a relatively new phenomenon, there is very little research on the long term effects of regular vaping. There is also very little research on the effects of regularly ingesting the chemicals present in e-liquid.
An article from Doubleblind points to a troubling new statistic. It states, “Since August of 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have reported 60 confirmed deaths and another 2,668 hospitalizations in America due to EVALI (which stands for e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury).” This statistic explicitly shows the disturbing health effects vaping can have, whether these injuries and deaths are resulting from vaping too often, or ingesting too many harmful ingredients. This puts into question if vaping DMT is truly healthier than smoking it from a pipe, as it’s often perceived.
Harm Reduction Concerns with a DMT Vape Pen
In some ways, vaping DMT is a viable harm reduction strategy. Along with the (potentially) healthier intake, it also administers smaller and more easily controlled doses, allowing the user to choose if they want to experience a full “breakthrough” trip, or just dabble in the lighter in-between. Users can also choose the type of pen to facilitate the strength of their experience. Mesh pens typically provide stronger hits, whereas certain cartridges can be less potent and require multiple hits to achieve a “breakthrough.”
On the flip side, many believe vaping presents its own harm reduction challenges. With the ease and accessibility of hitting a vape, comes the increased sense of security for ingesting any substance in this format. Those unfamiliar with the strength or experience of DMT might equate it with vaping a weed pen. While cannabis pens affect some very mildly, and others more intensely, both experiences are far different from ingesting DMT. Even lacking preparation for a DMT trip can incite panic with the onset of its effects. Similarly, being blinded by the short (20-45 minute) timeframe can result in a misunderstood expectation of intensity.
Or even worse, someone might be fully aware of the effects of DMT, but be unaware that the vape being passed around even contains DMT. Sharing vapes is far from unique, and what might be “normal” for one person might be incredibly intense for another.
Do DMT vapes diminish spiritual effect? What about DMT therapy?
What was historically treated as a sacred practice has taken a completely new turn in the “Vape Age.” DMT is often called the “Spirit Molecule,” for its existence within the human brain, and its mystical ties to the pineal “third eye” gland. Beyond the disorienting, other-worldly visual experience, users often report life-altering spiritual awakenings, and deep, meditative realizations.
DMT is also becoming widely recognized amongst scientific and medical practitioners for its therapeutic potential. DMT is said to be able to rewire the brain’s thought patterns and behavioral cycles, by decreasing activity in the brain’s “default mode network.” Psychedelic Spotlight quotes science journalist James Kingsland, who details this concept more thoroughly. Kingsland explains, “By simulating the deluge of serotonin that accompanies life-threatening stress, psychedelics appear to ‘reboot’ the brain, providing an opportunity to unlearn the maladaptive programming that underlies addiction, depression, PTSD and OCD, and replace it with the healthier patterns of thought and behavior.”
From a therapeutic perspective, increased popularity for DMT (through vape pens, or elsewhere) could allow more people to experience its healing potential. This is a huge positive—widespread accessibility could bring this powerful experience to those who might not have the ability to travel to a country that offers ceremonies, or those who cannot pay for a retreat.
However, from a purely experiential perspective, is the experience dulled or diminished in any way when administered through a vape pen? Is the cultural significance accounted for in the same way as when facilitated by a shamanic figure with ties to the traditional practice?
Ayahuasca vs. DMT
Perhaps it’s important to distinguish ayahuasca from DMT. While an ayahuasca trip and a DMT trip may be similar, there are notable differences, both in traditional ties, duration, and experience.
Strongly rooted in the sacred, Amazonian practice, ayahuasca is a brew often containing DMT (found in the Psychotria viridis shrub) and harmine (found in the Banisteriopsis caapi vine)— although other DMT plants are used in some circumstances. When these plants are combined, the hallucinatory experience lasts 4-6 hours, and is often taken as a part of a shamanic ceremony.
DMT on its own sets in quite quickly, and without the harmine to slow down the DMT absorption, the trip lasts typically around 20-45 minutes.
Some believe that an ayahuasca trip creates longer lasting effects than DMT alone, allowing the realizations to more fully permeate and integrate into the user’s everyday life. Similarly, some DMT users find themselves unable to recollect deep realizations felt during the trip even moments after it ends.
On the other hand, others believe a single DMT trip can be intense enough to wholly shift perspectives, as well as make important neurological changes. Many believe DMT and ayahuasca are synonymous in importance, and should be treated with the same reverence for their powerful capabilities.
Is DMT legal? Where to get DMT vapes?
DMT is illegal in most countries, aside from Canada and Mexico, where DMT isn’t explicitly banned (but isn’t completely legal, either). In these countries, it is technically legal to own a DMT vape pen, but companies are prohibited from selling them.
DMT is decriminalized in select states in the U.S., but still remains a Schedule I controlled substance federally. While there are certain exceptions granted for spiritual practice in the U.S.—as well as retreats in Canada, Mexico, and ayahuasca retreats in Peru and Brazil—it is widely illegal for personal and recreational use, along with sales or distribution of any kind. This is why it is difficult to find DMT vape pen vendors that are regulated, legitimate entities (and difficult to know if the pens truly contain DMT).
Most DMT vape pens are sold online, ranging anywhere from $150 to $400 per pen. Some are sold from slightly more legitimate companies (like ones from online stores in Canada) versus American sellers that are operating exclusively in the black market.
DMT Drug Test
Because DMT vapes are not currently legal, it is important to ensure your “DMT pen” does, in fact, contain DMT. It is also important to check for potentially dangerous or unwanted substances.
For testing DMT, DMT Freebase, or 5-MeO-DMT, we recommend the DMT Spot Kit Package. This package positively identifies these substances, along with detecting MiPT, 5-MeO-MiPT, 4-HO-MiPT, and 4-HO-MET.
However, because most vape pens contain an active substance (nicotine, cannabis, or DMT), along with propylene glycol (found in the e-liquid) the testing process is slightly different for testing DMT vapes. For testing DMT e-liquid, we recommend using our Ehrlich and Hofmann reagents (alternatively, you could purchase the LSD Spot Kit Package, which contains both of these reagents for a discounted price).
Ehrlich and Hofmann are best for detecting DMT in e-liquid, because these reagents do not react to propylene glycol, and instead react to DMT’s indole structure. Our standard DMT Spot Kit Package includes our Mecke reagent, because Mecke is great for positively identifying DMT and these other substances. However, Mecke is not the best for testing DMT vape liquid, because propylene glycol does interfere with Mecke’s reaction to DMT.