If you were to compare DMT vs Ayahuasca, what would you find? Although these psychedelics have some features in common, they produce radically different experiences that can be as challenging as they are illuminating.

DMT is a fast-acting psychedelic that lasts up to 30 minutes. Ayahuasca contains DMT, but this hallucinogenic brew can last as long as 10 hours. Early research suggests that Ayahuasca may help people manage addiction and mood disorders, and DMT’s ability to dissolve the ego might have therapeutic effects.

Let’s dig into the big differences between DMT and Ayahuasca.

What Is DMT?

DMT (Dimethyltryptamine) is a psychoactive compound naturally found in some plants and animals. Also known as Dmitri or the Spirit Molecule, DMT produces intense hallucinogenic experiences that last anywhere from five to 30 minutes.1

Canadian chemist Richard Manske first synthesized DMT in 1931. However, Indigenous peoples of the Amazon have used DMT-containing plants for thousands of years in preparations such as Ayahuasca and yopo snuff.

Effects of DMT include visual and auditory hallucinations, an altered sense of space and time, and out-of-body experiences. DMT is commonly vaporized or smoked, although it can also be injected.

What Is Ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca (also known as yagé) is a psychoactive brew. Indigenous Amazonian people traditionally consume Ayahuasca for religious and healing purposes. This entheogenic plant medicine is prepared by infusing specific combinations of plants, such as Banisteriopsis caapi (B caapi) and Psychotria viridis.

DMT primarily causes Ayahuasca’s psychoactive effects. Notably, DMT doesn’t do anything when consumed orally. However, Ayahuasca brews contain monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) or reversible inhibitors of monoamine oxidase A (RIMA). These compounds prevent the body from breaking down DMT, allowing it to enter the bloodstream.

MAOIs or RIMAs also extend the duration of the trip. Ayahuasca ceremonies can produce psychedelic experiences that last six hours or more. Effects vary widely, depending on factors such as set, setting, and a person’s biology. They may experience hallucinations, ego death, time distortions, and physical effects like nausea and vomiting.

What Is the Difference Between DMT vs. Ayahuasca?


DMT produces short, intense trips. When this drug is inhaled or injected, the trip lasts five to 30 minutes. The duration is pretty fast with these modes of administration because DMT can quickly enter the bloodstream.

Ayahuasca trips are powerful and long-lasting. Ayahuasca’s effects last for six to 10 hours. As with DMT, Ayahuasca’s effects include hallucinations and out-of-body experiences. However, a person’s reactions can vary widely during such a lengthy trip, and it’s normal to have positive and negative experiences during an Ayahuasca ceremony.


DMT is associated with physical risks such as agitation, chest pain, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and rapid eye movements. In addition, as with other psychedelics, a bad trip can leave a person feeling overwhelmed, fearful, and anxious for an extended period after taking DMT.

Ayahuasca has similar risks as DMT, but it’s also known to cause diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. In response to the pressure from Westerners who want to have mystical experiences, some ceremony facilitators will prepare the brew using plants that produce intense visions but have potentially dangerous side effects.2

Both DMT and Ayahuasca can increase a person’s risk of potentially fatal serotonin syndrome risk. For this reason, it’s not recommended to combine DMT or Ayahuasca with other drugs, medications, and medicines.

Lethal dosage

The lethal dosage of DMT has not been established in humans. In animal models, the median lethal dose of DMT is far higher than the dosages people may use in recreational or clinical settings.3

It’s technically possible to overdose on Ayahuasca, but it’s rare. In one study, researchers estimated that Ayahuasca’s lethal dosage is at least 20 times higher than the usual dose a person consumes in an Ayahuasca ceremony.4

Tolerance and addiction potential

DMT is considered non-addictive because it doesn’t induce tolerance or physical withdrawal symptoms.5 However, DMT can cause psychological dependence if a person uses it regularly.

Ayahuasca is also considered non-addictive, and the risk of substance abuse is low.6 Like DMT, Ayahuasca use isn’t known to cause tolerance or withdrawal symptoms. In fact, the desire to use it can decrease with use.

Dangerous interactions

Both DMT and Ayahuasca can interact with other drugs, medications, and herbal medicines.

Avoid taking DMT and Ayahuasca with stimulants, opioids, and antidepressants. Combining psychedelics with other drugs or alcohol isn’t recommended because these substances can increase adverse reactions, like fear or anxiety.

Because Ayahuasca contains MAOIs, it’s more likely than other serotonergic psychedelics to cause serotonin syndrome. Therefore, Ayahuasca shouldn’t be combined with other MAOIs, stimulants, or SSRIs.


DMT is illegal in most parts of the world. In the United States, DMT is a Schedule I controlled drug, which means it has no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. The unlawful possession of DMT is punishable by fines, jail time, or both, depending on the quantity in a person’s possession and their location.

Ayahuasca is illegal in most countries and unregulated or legal in others. In the United States, Ayahuasca is unlawful because it contains two Schedule I controlled drugs: 5-MeO-DMT and DMT.

However, in Peru and Brazil, where Ayahuasca has a history of Indigenous use, this sacramental brew is legal for ritual and religious purposes. South America is a popular tourist destination for Ayahuasca retreats.


A significant portion of available research focuses on Ayahuasca, but it’s too early to make definitive statements. However, studies suggest that Ayahuasca helps treat addiction and mood disorders.

Preliminary research shows that Ayahuasca may help people manage substance addiction.7 A 2014 study found that Ayahuasca-assisted therapy can support recovery from substance dependencies and help prevent relapse.8

In a 2022 review of Ayahuasca for the treatment of depression, the authors note that depressed people saw “significant and rapid antidepressant effects” after taking Ayahuasca.9

DMT is associated with ego death, which refers to the temporary dissolution of a person’s identity. In an observational study of Ayahuasca ceremony attendees in the Netherlands and Colombia, researchers found that ratings of depression and stress significantly decreased after the ceremony and persisted for a month afterward.10 Additionally, ratings of depression and stress significantly decreased after the ceremony and lasted for a month afterward.


DMT has few side effects in comparison to other psychedelics like psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”). However, it does carry psychological and physical risks:

  • Hallucinogens like DMT can worsen preexisting mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
  • DMT is not recommended for people with heart conditions because it can increase heart rate and blood pressure.
  • DMT can negatively interact with other drugs, herbal medicines, and over-the-counter medications that contain MAOIs. These substances include amphetamines, cannabis, cold remedies, MDMA, and opiates.

Ayahuasca is also associated with psychological and physical risks:

  • Ayahuasca tea is prepared by steeping specific combinations of plants. A ceremony leader may add the wrong plants or prepare the brew incorrectly if they are not properly trained, increasing the risk of adverse reactions.
  • As with other psychoactive drugs and preparations, Ayahuasca can cause intensely challenging experiences that may linger with a person for weeks or months. Additionally, hallucinogens may worsen preexisting mental health conditions.
  • Ayahuasca interacts with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and increases a person’s risk of severe serotonin syndrome. (Callaway and Grob 1998)

There’s a lot of variability in how a person will react to psychedelic drugs. Stay safe with harm reduction strategies, such as not combining drugs and alcohol, staying hydrated, using a drug testing kit, and having a trip sitter present.


People who take DMT tend to report intense trips that dissolve their ego, cause mystical-type experiences and are similar to a near-death experience (NDE).11

Dr. Rick Strassman shares case reports from DMT study volunteers in his 2000 book DMT: The Spirit Molecule.12 Participants described some of the following reactions:

  • A “rush” during the initial onset, like a “freight train” or a “nuclear cannon”
  • Intense feelings of fear, anxiety, and “incredible torture”
  • Loss of time perception
  • Complete loss of control at higher doses, feeling like “an infant, helpless, unable to do anything”
  • Interaction with “beings,” often described as entities, aliens, guides, and helpers

In an interview with neuroscientist Dr. James Cooke, Strassman said that volunteers experienced hallucinations like kaleidoscopic visual imagery and a high-pitched sound that climaxed about 60 seconds into the experience. Volunteers entered a quiet “world of light” after the initial buildup.

Ayahuasca stories vary widely, partially because the ceremony lasts as long as 10 hours, and attendees may consume Ayahuasca several times during a session. In a 2019 essay on Vox, Sean Illing wrote about his experience at an Ayahuasca retreat center in Costa Rica:

Ayahuasca turned my life upside down, dissolving the wall between myself and the world. I also stared into what I can only describe as the world’s most honest mirror. It was a Clockwork Orange-like horror show, and it was impossible to look away. But I saw what I needed to see when I was ready to see it.

DMT vs. Ayahuasca: Which One Lasts Longer?

Ayahuasca lasts longer than DMT does. Because Ayahuasca contains MAOIs that extend the effects of DMT, a full Ayahuasca experience can last anywhere from five to 10 hours.

In comparison, a DMT trip lasts five to 30 minutes, depending on the dosage and how it’s taken. When DMT is injected intravenously, it lasts up to 30 minutes.

DMT vs. Ayahuasca: Where Can You Find Them?

DMT is illegal in the United States as a Schedule I controlled drug. DMT has no approved medical use at this level, but it can be used by researchers who get approval from both the DEA and the FDA. The only way to legally get DMT is by participating in a clinical trial.

Ayahuasca is also illegal in the United States because it contains DMT. There is one exception: Under federal law, União do Vegetal (UDV) is permitted to use Ayahuasca in religious practices.

Ayahuasca retreats are popular in Brazil and Peru, where the brew is legal for religious and traditional use, or in Costa Rica, where Ayahuasca is unregulated.

Things to Know

DMT and Ayahuasca aren’t the same

Ayahuasca contains DMT, but these psychedelics aren’t interchangeable. Ayahuasca is a psychoactive, plant-based brew with a history of Indigenous use. DMT is a psychedelic drug that can be synthesized in a lab and naturally occurs in some plants and animals.

DMT is different in terms of administration, experience, and legality

  • DMT is a Schedule I controlled drug in the United States and illegal in most parts of the world
  • DMT can be inhaled, vaped, or injected
  • The trip lasts five to 30 minutes, depending on the dosage and the way it’s administered
  • People report a “rushing” sensation during the initial onset, followed by a “breakthrough” sensation
  • Some people encounter sentient “beings,” such as clowns, elves, or reptiles
  • Minimal research specifically examines the therapeutic benefits of DMT

Ayahuasca is consumed as a tea and lasts longer

  • Ayahuasca is illegal in the United States but legal for religious and traditional use in Peru and Brazil
  • Ayahuasca is consumed as a tea, and people may drink Ayahuasca several times during a ceremony
  • The trip lasts up to 10 hours due to the combination of plants in an Ayahuasca brew
  • Ayahuasca can cause euphoria, increased self-awareness, and hallucinations, among other effects
  • People may have positive and negative experiences throughout their experience, as well as physical effects like nausea and vomiting
  • Preliminary research suggests that Ayahuasca might help treat addiction and depression

Ayahuasca has unique safety risks

Ayahuasca naturally contains MAOIs, which prolong its psychoactive effects. However, MAOIs can negatively interact with other drugs, medications, and herbal medicines. Ayahuasca should not be consumed with SSRIs. Talk to a doctor before consuming any new substances.

Final Thoughts

Ayahuasca contains DMT, but they’re not interchangeable.

Ayahuasca is a psychedelic brew that Indigenous peoples have traditionally used for thousands of years in the Amazon. There are many different ways to prepare Ayahuasca, but it generally consists of plants containing DMT and MAOIs. The result: A hallucinogenic trip that can last as long as 10 hours and cause intense experiences that can be positive, negative, or (more commonly) both.

DMT also causes intense experiences, but its effects are far shorter: It lasts about 20 to 30 minutes. DMT trips have a few unique qualities, like a “rushing” sensation during the initial buildup, entering alternate realities, and having potential encounters with “beings.” Unlike a traditional Ayahuasca brew, DMT can be synthesized in a lab (although DMT naturally occurs in several plants and animals).

When comparing DMT vs. Ayahuasca, it’s important to note that one isn’t “better” than the other. Instead, they’re two unique tools people have used to break mental barriers, heal from trauma, and get outside their head.




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