DMT vs Ayahuasca

DMT or Ayahuasca?

Is Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) Ayahuasca or vice-versa? Chad Gillies arrest warrant was for “importing DMT” into Canada. And while DMT is the psychoactive agent in the Ayahuasca brew, no one typically refers to Ayahuasca as DMT. And DMT is found in numerous plants in varying concentrations or it can be refined to it’s crystalline chemical form.

For example the active ingredient in cocaine is methyl (1R,2R,3S,5S)-3- (benzoyloxy)-8-methyl-8-azabicyclo[3.2.1] octane-2-carboxylate. This alkaloid is the active ingredient in cocoa leaves and it is refined to make cocaine. Cocaine is not typically referred to by it’s active chemical name. Arresting someone for the DMT found in Ayahuasca would be the equivalent of arresting someone for Δ9– tetrahydrocannabinol (THC),  when an arrest was made for possession of marijuana. But let’s not quibble, the arrest was made and ayahuasca was confiscated.

According to the National Institute for Health’s website – “Ayahuasca is a psychoactive plant mixture typically composed of the beta-carboline-rich Banisteriopsis caapi vine and the hallucinogenic plant Psychotria viridis. Ayahuasca has long been used by aboriginal populations for its putative spiritual and medicinal benefits.”

Refining DMT into its chemical form can be done by anyone with some DMT-rich plants and the proper recipe. This results in DMT which can be smoked for example. However, no one buys ayahuasca to refine it into DMT. Let’s look at the differences and the amounts in question.

The TrippyChemist in Oregon is selling vape pens filled with 800 mg of DMT for $249 which amounts to $311 per gram. This is not ayahuasca. The effects of ayahuasca lasts for several hours and the effects of the vape pen DMT are over in minutes.

Chad received two kilos of ayahuasca paste. To put the two kilos of ayahuasca paste into perspective, that much ayahuasca is used to make around 3.25 liters of the liquid tea, or about 50 individual doses. And to put that into perspective if 10 people were in a weekend ceremony, they would drink around 20-30 doses depending on how many people drink twice in their ceremony.

So how much actual DMT is in two kilos of ayahuasca? A published study found at entitled Detection and Quantification of Psychoactive N,N-Dimethyltryptamine in Ayahuasca Brews by Ambient Ionization High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry breaks down the amount of DMT found in ayahuasca brews.

If we take the median value (the average value of the DMT) found in the ayahuasca brews tested in the study, the amount of DMT in the ayahuasca delivered to Chad was just under 3 grams. If we were to refine the two kilos of ayahuasca paste into DMT we would have $933 of smokable DMT.

If you’re interested in the metabolic processing of smoked DMT vs oral DMT, the Journal of Analytical Science has done an analysis entitled “Metabolism and urinary disposition of N,N-dimethyltryptamine after oral and smoked administration: a comparative study.” The study can be accessed here.

DMT itself in either a refined form or in the ayahuasca brew itself seems to be a relatively rare street drug and isn’t a common drug of abuse, according to the Analytics Manager at the Calgary Police Services.

We reached out to the  Corporate Data and Analytics Division of the Calgary Police Service and asked for any relevant statistics and  risk assessments by the CPS for DMT. Specifically we requested “the number of arrests and seizures of DMT in Calgary in the past year; perceived public threat and policing priorities regarding DMT and  statistics related to arrests, abuse and seizures of DMT in Calgary” over the past year.

The very succinct answer provided by Rebecca Davidson, Manager, Corporate Data and Analytics for the CPS was “Thank you for your research request. I have checked with our Drug Unit and we do not have data that would inform your research.”

In other words, the CPS has not conducted arrests and seizures of DMT in Calgary in the past year. They also have no public threat assessment or policing priorities for DMT.