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Article Summary

The Background to 5-MeO-DMT Drug Testing

5-MeO-DMT is a drug which is sometimes abused in order to obtain psychedelic effects. It is in the tryptamine family, and is therefore related to substances such as DMT, serotonin and melatonin. The drug has its origins in a number of plants, as well as in the secretions of certain species of toad. The latter factor has led to 5-MeO-DMT being utilized by shamans in the jungles of South America for many centuries; however, its powerful psychedelic properties have led to it being abused increasingly frequently in the western world, including in the United States.

History of 5-MeO-DMT

The first successful synthesis of 5-MeO-DMT took place in 1936, but it was not until the very end of the 1950s that its properties began to be fully understood. Initially, it had been thought that it made an important contribution toward the psychoactive properties of Yopo, a variety of snuff used in Caribbean countries and made from the seeds of the Anadenanthera peregrina tree. The drug was also used as a sacrament by the Church of the Tree of Life between the early 1970s and the end of the 1980s, although reports suggest that the number of adherents of the church was in the order of six thousand at most.

Effects of 5-MeO-DMT

When 5-MeO-DMT is taken as a single, pure drug, it can be used in a variety of different ways, including smoking and injecting. A very small dose, often as low as two milligrams, is sufficient to precipitate its psychoactive properties. Some people also take it by mouth, along with a monoamine oxidase inhibitor, or MAOI, but this is unpopular with some users because there is a risk of strong adverse reactions. Some researchers have found that in higher doses - above around 30 milligrams - 5-MeO-DMT can be active when taken orally, even without the assistance of a MAOI.

A particularly notable feature of 5-MeO-DMT is that it takes effect almost immediately, a matter of seconds after it has been taken. Its psychoactive effects persist for only a short time, ranging from as little as five minutes when the drug is being smoked up to around 25 minutes when it is snorted. Some users have reported that the sensation is close to that of a near-death experience, although there is a substantial variation between individual users. In particular, the level of tolerance to 5-MeO-DMT varies widely, with some experiencing a feeling of nausea even at relatively low doses while other people can tolerate much higher doses without any visual effects being experienced.

Until recently, 5-MeO-DMT was not controlled by law, but this has changed markedly in the last few years, both in the United States and around the world. The federal Drug Enforcement Administration began to act in 2009 to place the drug on the Controlled Substances Act's Schedule I list. This is the most restrictive list, and the change in the law - which was effective from January, 2011 - illustrates the high level of danger that the DEA perceives 5-MeO-DMT as presenting. Without a license specifically granted by the DEA, it is now an offense to distribute the drug, to make it, to buy it, and even to possess it for personal use.

A particular area of concern among some medical professionals and government agents is that routine 5-MeO-DMT drug testing is not currently undertaken. The substance's chemical composition is too different from other psychoactive drugs for tests on those to be effective, and at this time its use is not picked up either by routine testing - such as in the workplace - or even by more extended tests. This can make it difficult for those who are abusing the drug to be pinpointed. For that reason, knowing the warning signs that a person is using 5-MeO-DMT is the best way to detect dependency. These include muscle spasms, nausea, feelings of panic and fear, and memory loss.

Help for 5-MeO-DMT users

Obtaining help for a person who has been, or still is, taking 5-MeO-DMT can be relatively difficult. The drug is not as widely understood as more commonly abused substances such as opiates and marijuana, and it may take some time to find a qualified medical practitioner or doctor who has the requisite specialist training and experience. One option is to get in touch with the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) - its website can provide details of affiliated organizations which can put those concerned in touch with the most suitable treatment, rehabilitation, and other services.

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