Dark Classics in Chemical Neuroscience: N, N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT)

Lindsay P. Cameron, David Olson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Though relatively obscure, N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is an important molecule in psychopharmacology as it is the archetype for all indole-containing serotonergic psychedelics. Its structure can be found embedded within those of better-known molecules such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and psilocybin. Unlike the latter two compounds, DMT is ubiquitous, being produced by a wide variety of plant and animal species. It is one of the principal psychoactive components of ayahuasca, a tisane made from various plant sources that has been used for centuries. Furthermore, DMT is one of the few psychedelic compounds produced endogenously by mammals, and its biological function in human physiology remains a mystery. In this review, we cover the synthesis of DMT as well as its pharmacology, metabolism, adverse effects, and potential use in medicine. Finally, we discuss the history of DMT in chemical neuroscience and why this underappreciated molecule is so important to the field of psychedelic science.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2344-2357
Number of pages14
JournalACS Chemical Neuroscience
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 17 2018


  • ayahuasca
  • DMT
  • hallucinogen
  • N, N-Dimethyltryptamine
  • psychedelic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology


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