Dimethyltryptamine moleculeThe illegal drug known as N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) appears to be increasing in popularity, but is relatively safe, according to research published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in November.

“The ratio of users for whom DMT was the last new drug versus those who reported lifetime DMT use was higher than ketamine, LSD and magic mushrooms, suggesting that it may be an increasingly popular substance for those seeking an alternative to traditionally available hallucinogens,” Dr. Adam R. Winstock of King’s College London and his colleagues wrote in the study.

DMT was first synthesized by the chemist Richard H. F. Manske in 1931. The drug’s powerful psychedelic properties were not scientifically documented until psychiatrist Stephen Szára studied DMT in the mid-1950s. Researchers later discovered the drug occurred naturally in the human body.

Though the scientific institutions of the West only recently discovered DMT, the drug was the key component of a sacred brew called ayahausca or yage that had a long history of use by South American tribes.

Winstock and his colleagues used the Global Drug Survey to compare DMT with ketamine, LSD and magic mushrooms. The survey included more than 22,000 respondents from around the world. About two percent, or 472 participants, reported that DMT was the last new drug they had tried.

Those who recently started using the drug were more likely to be younger, male and currently in education when compared with those who never used DMT.

For all the psychedelic substances, the most common source was a friend. A drug dealer was the second most common source.

DMT users said the drug provided “a short, intense and pleasurable experience with negligible negative effects.”

The vast majority smoked DMT and for most people the effects only lasted about 15 minutes. The majority of users also rated the effect of DMT as stronger than ketamine, magic mushrooms and LSD.

“Such potency of effect should prompt novice users to take significant care and advice when first using this drug since the rapid onset of an intense psychedelic effect may be unpleasant,” the researchers noted.

Few people felt an urge to use more of the drug. The researchers concluded that DMT “has a reasonable safety profile, with few users reporting significant negative effects when high or following an episode of use.” The median lethal dose of DMT in humans is estimated to be about 560 mg, which is 20 times a normal dose.

The harms associated with the drug are due to “bad trips,” or disturbing hallucinatory experiences. Some users also reported respiratory irritation.

“Like other psychedelic substances, DMT’s profound effects on consciousness may limit its appeal to the wider population and likely prevent habitual use, except in those who use it in within a religious context,” the researchers said.

The drug’s subjective effects were featured in the cult film Enter the Void. Watch below: