What is 4-AcO-DMT?
4-AcO-DMT—also known as O-acetylpsilocin, 4-acetoxy-DMT, psilacetin, or “synthetic mushrooms”—is a semi-synthetic research chemical in the tryptamine family, which also includes the classic psychedelics like DMT, LSD, and psilocybin. 4-AcO seems to be very closely related to the magic mushroom compounds psilocybin and psilocin, and like psilocybin, is speculated to break down into psilocin in the body during first pass metabolism. In fact, 4-AcO-DMT was first synthesized in the early 1960s by Albert Hofmann, the same chemist who discovered LSD and first synthesized psilocybin. As an employee for the pharmaceutical company Sandoz, Hofmann and his colleague, Franz Troxler, were playing around with molecules similar to psilocin, and patented psilacetin along with four other esters (organic compounds that react to water by producing alcohol) of psilocin in 1963.
But 4-AcO was patented and then largely forgotten, until it reappeared in the 1990s rave scene as a new designer drug. Then in 1999, professor and psychedelic scientist David E. Nichols tried to put it on the map as a safe and cost-effective alternative to psilocybin, because it’s much easier (and cheaper) to synthesize. Yet, more than 20 years later, there still haven’t been any clinical studies on the safety, toxicity, or potential efficacy of O-acetylpsilocin, despite its rising popularity among psychonauts.
Today, psilacetin is comes in the form of a brown or off-white powder (technically a fumarate salt) that can be taken orally or intranasally in micro-doses or more, depending how hard you want to trip—which, depending on how many milligrams one takes, can resemble the effects of mushrooms or DMT, causing many to speculate that 4-AcO has psychedelic properties of its own.
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Before I start to explain what the 4-AcO trip is like, it’s important to emphasize just how dose-dependent the research chemical is. The general consensus among users on message boards and the nine people who filled out a survey I created on 4-AcO, is that lower doses feel like a psilocybin experience, while higher doses start to more so resemble a DMT experience. Or as Sarah*, one of my survey participants, put it, “It was like mushrooms, DMT, and acid in one… like a long DMT trip with the warm and loving feeling of mushrooms, and the mind-blowing experience of acid.”
4-AcO Dose Ranges for Oral Ingestion:
- Microdose: 2.5 – 5 mg
- Low Dose: 5 – 10 mg
- Moderate Dose: 10 – 20 mg
- High Dose: 20 – 40 mg
- Heroic Dose: 40 mg +
As a general reference point, many say that oral doses in the 15 to 20 mg range greatly resemble a 3.5-gram magic mushroom experience. And with all new psychedelics, it’s best to start with a low to moderate dose, or even microdose, for your first trip in order to get a lay of the land before diving into stronger experiences.
For nasal ingestion, doses will be slightly different because many folks report snorting the powder to be a stronger but possibly shorter acting experience. Also, one of my survey participants reported the powder can turn blue in your nostrils, so don’t be alarmed if this happens to you, as well.
4-AcO Dose Ranges for Intranasal Ingestion:
- Microdose: less than 5 mg
- Low Dose: 5 – 10 mg
- Moderate Dose: 10 – 20 mg
- High Dose: 20 – 30 mg
- Heroic Dose: 30 mg +
For safe dosing, be sure to weigh out your dose on a scale that can read milligrams. And if you don’t own one, you should consider investing. They don’t cost more than about $20 and are an easy way to practice harm reduction. Especially with research chemicals that come as powders, a small amount can have a big impact on the strength of the experience.
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Most folks report an O-acetylpsilocin trip to last more or less the same amount of time as mushrooms, from four to eight hours with an afterglow lasting up to 48 hours after the experience has ended.
Psychonaut Wiki has mapped out the duration as such:
- Total: 4 – 7 hours
- Onset: 15 – 40 minutes
- Come Up: 30 – 75 minutes
- Peak: 2 to 3.5 hours
- Offset: 1 – 2 hours
- After effects: 4 – 48 hours
The 4-AcO trip is very dose-dependent. The most common way people describe it is the trip being like a crisp, lucid, and warm mushroom experience on low and moderate doses of about 15 to 30 mg. “4-AcO has a very light and joyous character, almost childlike. Like mushrooms but crisper and clearer,” wrote Steven*, one of my survey respondents, who’s tried 4-AcO at doses ranging from 10 to 50 mg several hundred times. “It’s slightly gentler and more simplified of a trip than mushrooms, but almost the same feeling.”
The visuals in this dose range also seem to be similar to what folks experience on mushrooms, with lots of drifting, waving, and breathing. But some people report it being a bit more geometric than shrooms, bordering on the precise way DMT makes them see the world. “Open eyed, at low doses, [visuals] are earthy and warpy. Everything can look kind of hazy and humid, like a jungle. I’ll see faint, simple geometry, such as drifting curved lines,” described Cindy*, who’s tried psilacetin about 10 times. “Closed eyed, at low doses, have a lot of nonsensical but beautiful imagery. It’s usually realistic, but very trippy, such as my fish made out of glass fractals.”
“4-AcO has a very light and joyous character, almost childlike. Like mushrooms but crisper and clearer.”
In fact, many describe the 4-AcO experience as being stronger than mushrooms, especially in high doses—although slightly more consistent and predictable. “They are related for certain, but a distinct spirit. AcO is its own entity, distinct from the spirit of the mushroom. It is not ‘synthetic mushrooms’ as it is often sold. It’s far beyond that,” said Matt*, who’s tried doses ranging from 15 to 70 mg. “It is the most powerful psychedelic I’ve ever tried. Gnosis doesn’t begin to cover what this molecular goddess has to teach.”
Once you get into the high and heroic dose range, people report 4-AcO being more like a long DMT trip. It’s possible that you won’t be able to move or talk too much, and there can be a heavy body sensation that most folks report as relaxing or even euphoric. But like with any psychedelic, you have to accept and surrender to the feeling.
“It was a cozy feeling,” described Sarah. “But then, all we could do was to lay in the bed, because we entered some kind of dimension where we didn’t know where, who, or what we were. I was just accepting that all I could do in that moment was to observe and just be and it was really cool and amazing. But, my friend (who didn’t have any experience with psychedelics) was scared. He jumped up from the bed several times to look at me. I asked, ‘Why?’ And he said, ‘I just wanted to make sure that you were still a human!’ I could hear him breath fast and fearfully. But after a while, everything was cool again.”
Cindy had a similar experience with 40 mg:
“There was this moment of ‘I’m ready to go deeper,’ [but] I didn’t realize how deep I’d go. About 30 minutes later, I felt incredibly lightheaded, like I was being shot up into a space elevator. Sometimes, I felt a pressure in my ears and popping. I laid in my bed because it was hard to stand. There was this moment of terror as I felt myself being ripped away. I was scared, and then I remembered people telling me to give into the experience. I gave in, even though every ounce of me wanted to fight it. And then I saw myself drifting through a tunnel and a goddess. She had three heads and was half-Roman, half-Native American. And her and all of these ‘spirits’ comforted me as I hit ego death. It felt like they were saying, ‘You don’t have to be scared. Love is all you need.’ I would phase between things. I could walk around and use the bathroom. But then I’d close my eyes and get sucked back into another world.”
Psilacetin Side Effects?
According to my survey data, psilacetin side effects resemble those of psilocybin. For instance, nausea on the come-up is common, especially if users had some food in their stomachs. Like with mushrooms, it’s best to fast for a few hours before consumption in order to avoid stomach upset. Interestingly, many report the nausea subsided and a body euphoria with pain relieving effects took over, especially after the peak. In fact, the nausea seems to be less intense than with mushrooms for some folks, and many have speculated the reason is that there’s no mushroom material to digest, like chitin, the protein that makes up the cell walls of fungi.
The other two most common negative side effects folks reported in the survey was frequent urination (coupled with thirst) and getting the chills or feeling cold (especially on the come-up), no matter what the temperature in the room is.
At higher doses, dizziness, confusion, paranoia, and difficulty verbalizing thoughts are possible, but as with all psychedelics, a calm, supportive set and setting can help to mitigate these effects. And many users recommend having a sober trip sitter for this reason, especially for doses over 25 mg or so.
None of the users we spoke to reported any kind of hangover, although headaches and trouble sleeping are described on message boards. On the other hand, many report an afterglow the next day that can last up to two days after high-dose experiences. “The afterglow is wonderful, even after a bad trip. I feel kind, relaxed, at ease, empathetic,” said Cindy. Smoking cannabis in the day or two after a trip has also been reported to intensify the afterglow and bring people back to a place that resembles 4-AcO, so caution is advised.
As far as toxicity goes, there have been no formal studies looking into it. Many assume 4-acetoxy-dmt has a similar safety profile to psilocybin-containing mushrooms, but this is an assumption with no clinical data to back it up.
O-acetylpsilocin Entheogenic, Spiritual or Therapeutic Effects?
For many folks, the O-acetylpsilocin experience can have pronounced entheogenic, spiritual and therapeutic effects, whether or not they were going into the trip looking for answers to life’s big questions. “It brings clarity of thought to analyze personal issues,” said Ryan* who’s tried 4-AcO three times in doses ranging from 15 to 25 mg. “I usually have a helpful take away from the experience. Like to be more tolerant even of my own thoughts… The lessons seem to stick with me.”
For example, Joe* said, “It revealed to me that I was neglecting platonic relationships, and urged me to be more mindful about strengthening my relationships.” Others who filled out the survey reported the substance helping them heal from different kinds of trauma. “Along with other substances, 4-AcO-DMT helped me heal from my best friend passing away, trauma from growing up in a controlling and abusive cult, being in an abusive relationship with my first girlfriend, and much more,” revealed Sam*.
And although these spiritual and therapeutic effects are incredibly beneficial, one user reported its strength needing to be taken with caution and respect. “This drug absolved me of years of suicidal ideation. Cured my depression. Provided profound mystical insight about the afterlife,” said Matt. “[But] it is a very powerful drug, so sometimes it taught me things I didn’t want to know, and the existential weight of this drug means I rarely, if ever, take it anymore.”
4-AcO-DMT tolerance builds up basically immediately after ingestion and takes about a week to exit your system and return to baseline. This tolerance also applies to other classic psychedelics, and so, if you take something like LSD or psilocybin mushrooms within a week, the experience could be much less pronounced than usual.
It’s also important to note that 4-AcO is not considered addictive, and therefore has a low potential for abuse. But that doesn’t mean that an unhealthy relationship with the substance isn’t possible, so always be mindful, intentional, and honest with yourself around your use.
Is 4-acetoxy-DMT Legal?
The legality of 4-acetoxy-DMT is somewhat complicated and exists in a legal grey area in many countries. That’s because 4-AcO is not included in any international drug schedules, such as the UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances. In the United States, 4-AcO is unscheduled, but if you’re caught with the off white powder, there’s still a chance you could be charged under the Federal Analogue Act, a section of the Controlled Substances Act that allows any compound that is “substantially similar” to a Schedule I or II substance to be prosecuted as such if it’s meant for human consumption. And so, because psilacetin is an analogue of psilocin, a Schedule I substance, the manufacture, distribution or possession could be a punishable offense. Although, according to the Third Wave, “Prosecutions are practically unheard of.”
In Canada, there is no legislation for or against 4-AcO, and so it’s pretty easy to buy the substance online. A handful of countries have also decriminalized 4-AcO-DMT for small personal use possession, but that still doesn’t make it legal; it can still be confiscated and you can still be fined, while more serious actions like deportation have been reported, as well.
List of countries that have banned 4-AcO in some way:
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
- United States
Is it Safe to Mix Synthetic Shrooms with Other Substances?
4-AcO, or “synthetic mushrooms,” is frequently combined with other psychedelics and cannabis, although poly-drug mixes can still be unpredictable, intense, and open up more potential for harm. And so, like with any psychedelic, it’s best to get to know the substance on its own before mixing it with other entheogens.
Mixing cannabis and 4-AcO-DMT seems to be the most common combo, and like mixing cannabis with other psychedelics, the main effect is an intensifying of the experience, especially the visual and cognitive effects of the 4-AcO. Psychonaut Wiki warns that this interaction can also intensify anxiety and confusion, which Cindy reported in our survey. “In my worst [4-AcO] trip, I smoked too much weed. It was cool for about 5 minutes. But then I felt so confused and delusional. There were demonic and warped faces everywhere laughing at me, angry at me for disrespecting the substance. I was seeing shadow people through the curtains, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a dead cat impaled with a spike laying on our grill.”
The risk of panic attacks and psychosis are also increased when you add cannabis into the mix. If you’re set on experimenting, it’s best to consume much smaller amounts of cannabis than you might normally, and wait at least an hour or more before re-introducing cannabis again in order to avoid over consumption.
Read: How to Trip Sit
People also report mixing 4-acetoxy-DMT with other psychedelics like LSD, MDMA, and ketamine. These mixes can also create very intense experiences with more pronounced visuals, but also more chances for confusion, nausea, and delusions. In the case of MDMA, it has been speculated that 4-AcO could increase the neurotoxic effects of MDMA, so always keep your doses lower when planning to mix multiple substances and practice other harm reduction techniques like having a sober trip sitter and a prepared set and setting.
Some pharmaceuticals are also known to interact with 4-AcO, especially Lithium, tramadol, and stimulants like Adderall (but also cocaine and meth). In the case of Lithium, mixing the two has been shown anecdotally to increase the risk of psychosis and seizures. Tramadol could also increase the risk of a seizure in susceptible individuals. When it comes to stimulants, the risk is that they could increase the risk of severe anxiety, negative thought loops, paranoia, mania, and psychosis.
Lastly, some folks have been known to mix 4-AcO with benzodiazepines (like Klonopin and Xanax) or alcohol to lessen the psychedelic effects. They can both dull the trip if it’s too intense, but with caution. They should both be taken in very low doses, and in the case of alcohol, could cause increased nausea. With benzos, some memory loss could be possible and so you’ll likely have less ability to process and integrate the trip later on. All in all, always be cautious and mindful of poly-drug mixes and do your homework before mixing multiple substances.
*All names have been changed for privacy.
Michelle Janikian is a journalist focused on drug policy, trends and education. She’s the author of “Your Psilocybin Mushroom Companion: An Informative, Easy-to-Use Guide to Understanding Magic Mushrooms”, writes a column for Playboy about psychedelics and cannabis and has also contributed to High Times, Herb, Rolling Stone and Teen Vogue.