Psilocybin vs. DMT: What Are The Differences?

Psilocybin vs. DMT: What Are The Differences?

Psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) and N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT). Undoubtedly, two classic psychedelics with many chemical similarities. They both belong to the tryptamine family of psychedelics. Moreover, DMT also has a very similar chemical structure to psilocin. Some people report that this similarity extends to these compounds’ effects. However, there’s also more than one difference between psilocybin and DMT.

This article will outline some of the main differences between psilocybin and DMT. These differences can affect a user’s experience, so read on for all the info you need.

RELATED: What Is 4-ACO-DMT, And Is It Legal?

Psilocybin and DMT Differ In Duration

Psilocybin offers a medium-length psychedelic experience. This is both in synthetic form and in magic mushrooms. A psilocybin experience will generally last 4–8 hours. This duration will vary, depending on the dosage, of course. For comparison, LSD is a long-lasting psychedelic, lasting 12 hours and sometimes longer.

DMT, in contrast, is a brief experience typically lasting 5–20 minutes. It is much easier, therefore, to fit in a DMT experience into your normal day. The drug was dubbed the “businessman’s trip” during the 60’s for this reason. Psilocybin, by contrast, requires much more time to have the experience.

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They Have Different Routes Of Administration

The difference between psilocybin and DMT also extends to their routes of administration. Users take psilocybin in the form of dried mushrooms. These can be eaten whole, with food, ground up into a capsule, or made into a tea. In clinical trials, researchers administer synthetic psilocybin in the form of a pill.

When people use DMT, on the other hand, it is typically in its freebase form and so can be vaporized. People can vaporize DMT in different ways, such as using a bong for example. In this case, DMT is sandwiched between a herbal mixture, so as not to burn it. Other options include special vaporizers (like the Glass Vapor Genie) or an oil-burner.

DMT can also be snorted (insuflated.)

It is also possible to infuse DMT with smokeable herbs. Taken this way, it is known as changa, sometimes referred to as smokeable ayahuasca. This mixture allows users to smoke DMT in joints or in a bong.

In clinical studies with DMT, volunteers receive intravenous (IV) doses of the drug. Ths can be seen in Rick Strassman’s famous research in the 90s, for example. Vaporizing, smoking, and IV injections are all different DMT routes of administration whereas psilocybin is only taken orally.

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Psilocybin and DMT Occur Differently In Nature

Both psilocybin and DMT occur in nature but in different types of species. Psilocybin is found in various species of mushrooms. DMT is found in most general groups of plants, as well as in the human body. DMT is found in the blood, urine, and cerebrospinal fluid. Researchers have also detected the presence of DMT in the brains of rats.

As opposed to being synthesized in a lab, DMT is extracted from a plant. Mimosa hostilis is a common plant that people use to carry out the extraction of DMT. Indigenous Amazonian tribes and retreat centers also use the plant when making ayahuasca. Ayahuasca is a brew made with a DMT-containing plant and an MAOI-containing plant. The latter makes the DMT orally active. Psychotria viridis is another common DMT-containing plant used when making ayahuasca.

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The Therapeutic Applications Of Both Differ

There is a growing body of research looking at the therapeutic uses of psilocybin. Studies show that psilocybin can be safe and effective in the treatment of:

However, the same sorts of studies on the therapeutic use of DMT do not exist. However, a number of studies examining ayahuasca’s potential. Ayahuasca is particularly promising for mental health conditions and addiction. This does not extend to the isolated compound DMT. Imperial College London will carry out the first clinical trial of the use of DMT to treat depression, however.

Many researchers believe that the quality of the psychedelic experience determines its therapeutic effects. Specifically, quality indicates whether patients have a mystical experience or not . DMT can induce such experiences and may prove to be an effective antidepressant. But as it stands, the therapeutic applications of DMT and psilocybin differ greatly.

Psilocybin and DMT Have Very Different Histories

Psilocybin has a rich and long cultural history. DMT is very different in this respect (bar ayahuasca). The use of psilocybin dates back to pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures (as far back as 3000 BC). These mushrooms, such as Psilocybe mexicana, were used in religious ceremonies.

The use of DMT, however, only really took off in the 1960s. Vaporizing DMT is more of a modern phenomenon. This means that the drug hasn’t existed as a traditional substance for ceremonial use.

Also Read: What Are Golden Teachers Mushrooms, And Are They Legal?

Psilocybin and DMT’s Subjective Effects Differ

Lastly, there are a number of differences in subjective effects between psilocybin and DMT. These include the following:

  • A DMT trip has a fast onset, whereas psilocybin comes on more gradually.
  • Many users report that DMT produces a profound and deep experience. This happens without one’s sense of self being significantly altered. A psilocybin experience, in contrast, ego dissolution can easily take place.
  • The presence of entities is a recurring feature with DMT. Indeed, more so than with psilocybin. For example, many participants in Strassman’s DMT research reported seeing entities — or “DMT elves“. These included elves, clowns, dwarves, imps, angels, reptiles, and mantises. In the clinical trials with psilocybin, conversely, reports of entities are less common.
  • Psilocybin experiences can increase a connection to the earth and nature. DMT, however, has more cosmic effects and extraterrestrial themes.
  • Psilocybin produces an introspective experience. These feature themes, thoughts, and memories relating to one’s life. DMT, in contrast, is usually not so personal.

As we can see, there are some notable ways psilocybin and DMT are different. Understanding these differences should help you prepare for these types of experiences. Some people prefer psilocybin over DMT, and vice versa. Others may appreciate both, yet feel that they each have their own time and place.

RELATED: “Nobody Wants A Synthetic-Only Future”: Filament Health Is Formulating Natural Psilocybin And Standardizing Ayahuasca

Sam Woolfe

Sam Woolfe

View all posts by Sam Woolfe

Sam Woolfe is a freelance writer based in London. His main areas of interest include mental health, mystical experiences, the history of psychedelics, and the philosophy of psychedelics. He first became fascinated by psychedelics after reading Aldous Huxley's description of the mescaline experience in The Doors of Perception. Since then, he has researched and written about psychedelics for various publications, covering the legality of psychedelics, drug policy reform, and psychedelic science.

Dr. Ben Medrano

This post was medically approved by Dr. Ben Medrano

Dr. Ben Medrano is a board certified psychiatrist specializing in Integrative Psychiatry, Ketamine Assisted Therapy and Psychedelic Harm Reduction and Integration. He received his MD from the University of Colorado School of Medicine with additional training in the Urban Underserved Track (CU-UNITE). Dr. Medrano is most known for his work with ketamine assisted therapy and is the former Senior Vice President and US Medical Director of Field Trip Health - the largest in-office ketamine assisted therapy practice to date. He continues to sponsor Field Trip clinics as a local medical director at multiple sites on the East Coast allowing him to further the field of psychedelic assisted therapy and research.

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Comments (4)

  • Tibor
    April 22, 2022 at 6:16 pm Reply

    Tribes used DMT (ceremonially) way before the 1960’s.

  • Daniel Pearson
    May 25, 2022 at 5:44 pm Reply

    My best friend’s brother who is sixty years old and lives in London has been suffering from severe depression for many years. Do you know of any legal studies being done in London where he might volunteer for upcoming DMT treatment sessions?

    • manuel escobedo
      June 22, 2022 at 8:26 am Reply

      I know the NHS is doing a research but no idea how to join that.. there is plenty of groups in facebook they doo retreat I went one in brighten. life changer.

    • Carlos
      December 9, 2023 at 11:17 am Reply

      I would recommend he tries to look for an ayahuasca session. It’s usually a deeper and more transformative and healing experience than pure DMT “trips”. 🙏

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