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Behold the Ascendant Psychedelic Vape

The underground market for psychedelic vapes has reached a fever pitch.

Democratization of psychedelic chemistry and extraction methods, coupled with ubiquitously available and cheaply manufactured disposable vaporizer technology, has packed the most powerful known psychoactive substances into portable devices so readily available that the recently released 2024 major motion picture, The Beekeeper, features a scene where a young man casually derides his mother for mistaking his DMT vape for a nicotine vape. 

Vaporizers containing DMT, psilocybin, 2C-B, and various other substances delivered in handheld, disposable devices are floating around the underground and popping up in cities all over the planet.  

I first saw a “psilocybin vape” at a conference afterparty in a Las Vegas hotel suite in 2021. The unassuming nature in which it was passed around among attendees alerted me to the new era we were then entering – one in which profound psychedelic experiences can be packed into a cheap plastic cartridge and delivered instantaneously anywhere in a controlled intensity. 

While in Hungary in the summer of 2023 for a massive music festival, I witnessed psychonauts of three different European nationalities comparing and contrasting tasting notes and experiential results from each of their respective DMT vapes in the same cultured etiquette that might be found at a high-brow wine tasting in Napa.

Forget grape varietals; we now have vape varietals. 

Another day during the festival, a psytrance concert organizer from the Netherlands was taking puffs on his DMT vape while strolling through the sea of festival goers, mentioning that he synthesized the extract himself while gearing up for another microdose size hit. 

Everywhere in the crowd you’d catch an unmistakable whiff of DMT vapors, lest you be swallowed up in a cloud of them yourself as wandering billows carried across the jam packed dance floor from every which way. 

A Vendor’s Observations

I recently had a chance to interview a longstanding vendor of legacy psychedelic substances who spoke knowledgeably about the evolution of the current market and some of the considerations and complexities involved with the escalating demand and expanding supply of psychedelic vapes and other legacy market products. 

“8 of 10 pens that I’ve taken a sample hit on need improvement – people are trying to get in on something new that they’re just learning.” says S, a longtime purveyor of legacy market psychedelics. 

“Denver has decriminalized dimethyltryptamine (DMT) – depending on how you’re doing extraction, there can be a lot of waste material – which can potentially be very caustic – the sodium hydroxide solvents – which is ‘Lye’ is a potential issue for landfill dumping or into rivers. We have an ethical responsibility to produce a clean product,” notes S.

S went on to say that “People are putting anti-crystallization substances in their DMT pens that oftentimes adversely impact the overall quality. A lot of products on the market are solvent-laden. I’d estimate that many of the DMT vapes on the market only have 30% actual DMT in them, with the rest being fillers and solvents.” 

In regards to the supposed ‘psilocybin’ or ‘psilocin’ vape pens, S makes the following observations.  

“There’s probably nobody right now who is using actual psilocybin or psilocin in their pens – they are using 4-AcO tryptamines, a lab-derived synthetic psilocybin analogue.”

S claims that the chain reaction that brought us psychedelic vapes started with companies investing in equipment for hemp extraction after the passing of the Farm Bill in 2018, which led to a rush of entrepreneurs investing in production equipment and facilities to meet the growing demand for various cannabis adjacent substances.

“The onset of synthetic cannabinoids – Delta 9, Delta 8, THCa, etc. led to the amanita mushroom market boom – which in turn led to 4-AcO and psilocybin products under the guise of  ‘amanita muscaria’ to present as legitimate and legal products,” says S. 

Easier to Titrate

Vapes are simply the newest, trendiest and most discreet way of consuming synthesized extracts in vapors, much like the oracle of Delphi was doing with non-synthesized materials in the third century AD. It’s the natural reaction to drug warmongering and authoritarian gatekeeping; the little people have engineered, streamlined and democratized the technology of psychopharmacology. 

DMT and neurocognition researcher Zeus Tipado of Maastricht University in the Netherlands has witnessed the psychedelic vape phenomenon firsthand while researching cutting edge brain science. 

“The synthesis of DMT from certain plants is a process that, while still complicated, is becoming more easily accessible using equipment and chemicals that can be ordered online or and obtained in hardware stores.

“To be honest science doesn’t really know the impact of vaping 2c-b or psilocybin. There are no clinical studies that have looked at this means of application for these two psychedelics,” says Tipado.

One of the advantages to ingesting a psychoactive substance in vaporized form is that one can easily “titrate” the onset of the experience since the physiological effects of vaporized DMT are immediate. This can be harder to do with other psychoactive substances which have a more delayed onset time, such as the orally active DMT in ayahuasca or mushrooms consumed in tea, dried or capsule form. 

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“A lot of people choose to vape DMT because it’s the easiest way to gauge the level of DMT that is self-administered. Also, to inhale DMT properly it usually takes the same equipment one would have to do a cannabis dab. So a blow torch, quartz banger…etc. With a vape (with a variable temperature control), you can have relatively the same hit of DMT as with a dab rig,” continues Tipado. 

The Market Expands

Sold online through Etsy shops and purveyors branding them as spirit vapes, these products move through the underground market in a largely word of mouth and ‘friend of a friend’ referral network. 

QR codes with psychedelic animations and names like “Trip Doctor” are plastered onto street corners in densely populated metropolitan areas like Lisbon, Berlin, and Mexico City, linking to various online portals offering novel tryptamines and ‘entheogenic formulations.’

The legal entheogen vape market is equally robust it appears. If the substance can be condensed into an extract and fit into a little removable cartridge, it seems to be eligible for the vape market.

Blue Lotus, Kanna, and Amanita muscaria mushroom vapes are some of the examples of what you’re liable to find on any quick scan of relevant search queries on Google. 

The long-term effects of vaping are largely unknown to science, let alone any potential adverse effects derived from the psychoactive chemicals being layered on top of them. 

It would be wise to be extremely discerning, yet cautiously optimistic whenever coming across an instrument as such. 

“We work more on the harm reduction side more than anything else in regards to our products,” says ‘S.’

“10 years ago I never really met the chemists for our products – it was always a friend of a friend. Now, I’ve met the chemist 15 or 20 times on different projects – there’s more of a knowledge base – more people trying to get into the space.”

The fact remains: Psychedelic vapes are increasingly popular and stand to introduce the DMT, psilocybin, 2C-B and other novel psychedelic experiences to a whole new generation of budding psychonauts and the psychedelic curious.

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