"Sandy" is a chemist who makes and sells DMT vape pens – an increasingly popular way to consume the potent psychedelic – in a secret lab outside London.
VICE: Hey, are you around?
Sandy: Yes, thanks :)
How's your lockdown?
Busy and productive as ever
How long have you been selling vapes with DMT in them?
I've been exploring the DMT molecule for eight years, and I made my first DMT vape four years ago.
So what are people actually buying?
You buy the battery and the cartridge and a little case, all in. It costs £100. You get about 30 to 50 trips off it, or 100 smaller, lovely experiences.
Where do you get the DMT from?
I started making my own DMT because it was so hard to find, and it was the only way to guarantee a clean and consistent supply for my own explorations. It's extracted from natural sources. In 2016, I tried putting some DMT solutions in a vape cartridge and it worked amazingly well.
How do you change the DMT powder into a liquid?
My formula is top secret.
Okay, well how did you work out how to make the vapes?
Trial and error. It took a while to tweak and perfect the mix. Then I had to find and test tons of hardware to find out what worked best. I've tried and tested well over 20 different cartridges with mixed results. I don't want leaks, faults or any other issues.
Do you sell any other drugs?
No. Just these.
Why vape DMT?
Users can inhale a small but effective amount of the potent drug. The pen contains no nicotine. Before, people thought DMT could only work if it was injected or mixed into an ayahuasca brew made by an Amazonian shaman, or inhaled from a bong or crack-style pipe. Vaping it is a great way to introduce people to DMT without them having to use a glass pipe, which, for some, can feel a bit like you're smoking crack.
How many puffs does it take to get the full effects of the drug?
Three to five lungs full usually does the trick.
What does vaping DMT feel like?
Instead of having one hit of a pipe and being instantly blasted off, with vapes you can control how fast and how deep you want go with each puff, which makes it much more approachable for someone wanting to try it for the first time.
You can still "break though" [the term for a full-blown DMT experience that involves extreme, visionary, psychedelic states] with enough hits. Or you can just have a light, eyes-open, colourful trip that lasts around ten minutes. A mini-dose with gentle effects. Vaping DMT in a pen is truly revolutionary.
How do you sell them?
Offline. Only through closed circles and friends of friends, or referrals. I'm not openly selling them or going out to find new business, as it's not something I can really advertise. I never intended to start selling them. At the outset I only made them for my own use. But sharing is caring, and there’s definitely demand – so who knows? They could be available in dark web stores in the future.
How have sales gone since you started?
Demand increases the more vapes are in circulation, because people share them. Once tried, they often come back for more. I'd estimate sales have increased tenfold compared to when I started. Most people who were buying single vapes at the start are now taking at least ten. I can't tell you how many I'm selling a month, but let's say it's over 100.
Who are your customers, typically?
People of all ages from all walks of life. But generally those who are going through, or seeking, any kind of awakening or spiritual path.
What are they like to deal with?
I've never had any problems. They are all decent individuals. My only problem is that sometimes they get really excited after an amazing experience and they start telling everyone. It may sound strange, but there’s only a limited supply, and I don’t want everyone knowing my business.
Are you some kind of urban DMT shaman?
Yes, to a certain degree. The act of acquiring and processing the materials to make the medicine available could be termed "urban shamanism". I've been called it several times. But I don't see myself, or refer to myself, as a shaman. I'm not physically doing ceremonies.
How much money do you make from this?
Money is not my motivation. It supplements my legal income nicely. The margins are decent, but it’s not a mass-market product, so sales aren’t huge. They also last a very long time, so this not a rapid repeat business.
Can you tell me about your motivations and goals?
I didn't create this by chance. I simply feel it’s my duty to share it with those who seek it. I only want to get them to people who are using them with the right intentions, but I can’t, realistically, control who my customers share theirs with.
The old ceremonial users may frown on recreational use, but this is a new, modern method that is still helping this drug get to those who want it. The molecule is still doing its work. And DMT is not something you can abuse or can get addicted to, so I have no worries about causing harm – it's all good.
Could you make a vape that gives an ayahuasca-type experience, that lasts a longer time?
Yes. I’m experimenting with this right now. I have some Banisteriopsis Caapi [an Amazonian jungle vine] extract, which I’m adding to the mix. I like the idea of a vape with the exact two plants from which ayahuasca is made. But the drugs involved can cause negative reactions for people on certain medications. So I’m cautious – and it would only extend the trip by five minutes. You can keep taking hits with the vape to have a longer trip.
Are you worried your product could by used by people with mental health problems?
Definitely. I’ve tried really hard to make sure they don't get into the wrong hands. And if somebody has never heard of DMT, then the conversation ends – I don't ever persuade people to use it. But on the flipside, I've heard from friends who have shared theirs with other friends who have had amazing results with PTSD and depression. This tool is not for everyone, but in the last four years I've never heard of anyone having any adverse reaction.
What has DMT done for you in your life, good and bad?
It's all good. It all started in Peru with ayahuasca, and I’ve been exploring this molecule ever since. It has definitely changed me for the better. That was not the goal at all, but DMT has increased my awareness and intuition, and helps me to see things from a wider perspective, with more understanding.
What has been the best and worst feedback you've ever had?
Everyone is blown away by it. I still get random thank-you messages from people the vapes have helped over the years. I’ve only ever had one person who said they never got anything from it. It was a gift, so he wasn’t too disgruntled – more disappointed that he couldn’t go where he had hoped.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your trade and craft?
I love making this medicine more accessible and available to those who want to try it, and reconnecting people with the universe and their higher selves. I created it for myself, but it’s too good to keep to myself – and I love blowing people’s minds with it. It’s an incredible, awe-inspiring ten to 15 minute experience. I love hearing about, and seeing, the molecule’s impact on people.
What do your friends and family think about all this?
The ones that know about it all support me, but it’s not something I tell everyone about. Most people have never even heard of DMT, let alone tried it.
Do you fear the legal consequences if you were ever caught? This is, after all, a Class A drug.
Yes, of course. I have a family and also a regular job, so I’m always as careful as possible. I know it’s a cliché, but I am doing this for love, not for money or fame. Good karma should help keep me safe.
What would it take for you to stop making and selling them?
Any kind of unwanted attention. Being of service and helping others is great, but I won’t hesitate to pull the plug if it ever posed a threat or presented a danger to me.