N,N-Dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, is a psychadelic compound that originated in the Amazon basin. It is known for causing extreme visual effects and has been used by indigenous cultures for millennia as a religious drug to cause prophetic visions and guidance from the spirit world. This drug has been known as a recreational hallucinogen too, with a host of interesting side effects.
DMT and Amazonian Tribes
The original documented use of DMT was to find guidance from the spirits or gods that were worshipped by the Amazonian tribes who used the form of DMT found in nature, in the bark of a species of mimosa tree. (It has since been discovered in at least 50 plant species and ten animals). Ingestion is in a controlled environment where you are made to feel safe by the other members of the tribe, and the very specific ritual is often used to ground the taker, while others remain sober in support. Often, a specific question is meditated upon before taking DMT. Enlightenment is the side effect that is hoped for, and is achieved enough times that it has become a ritual that is thousands of years old.
Extrapolation to Modern Use
Today, as a recreational drug, DMT is ingested through a tea, inhalation or injection. Hallucinations are the main effect, specifically with a high likelihood of seeing something called machine elves. These are humanoid or android-like creatures that are reported in a very high number of people who use DMT; enough to create the term. As a party drug, the secure environment created by the rainforest ritual is not there, and there is rarely a support person who tries to ground the taker. These missing elements increase the risk of disorientation, and hallucinations without the context of seeking an answer can be frightening for the user.
Psychologically, the risk of addiction is moderate to high with DMT users who experience pleasant hallucinations. The drug is tied to the parts of the brain which stimulate dreams, and as a result, can heighten dreams outside of the trip as well. For those who suffer night terrors and nightmares, this may increase the vividness and frequency of these bad dreams both during and after the trip. DMT is a chemical that is naturally created in the body, within the pineal gland, so the biggest part of the high feels "natural."
However, the extreme version of life that is experienced when taking DMT can dull life for many when they are not on the drug. This can create a shift for some, like they are only "alive" when taking DMT. As a result, these are the people most likely to become addicted. They are also the least likely people to have had nightmares before discovering the drug.