Ayahuasca: is it a divine substance or a dangerous drug? The answer depends on who you ask.
Ayahuasca, also known as iowaska or yagé, is an entherogenic brew. It is made out of Banisteriopsis caapi vine, as well as other ingredients. This brew is traditionally used as spiritual medicine in various ceremonies. Among those who use it are the indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin.
This brew can be mixed with the leaves of mimosa tenuiflora rootbark or chagropanga. These are plant species containing dimethyltryptamine or DMT. Ayahuasca, even by itself, has been reported to have psychoactive effects. The vines alone can produce mind-altering hallucinations.
As a treasured sacrament, this brew is associated with shamanism, philosophy, and cosmology. Native users tend to focus on the spiritual effects of ayahuasca, while non-natives also make use of its medical properties.
It is said that ayahuasca has cardiovascular effects, increasing both the diastolic blood pressure and the heart rate. However, there are cases in which users of ayahuasca experienced psychological stress upon taking the substance. For this reason, people with heart disease are asked to be cautious when it comes to using this brew for its medicinal functions.
Meanwhile, the brew also sees recreational use because of its psychedelic effects, which are comparable to that of LSD. It provides auditory and visual stimulation, while also giving the user feelings of euphoria, fear, and enlightenment.
History of Ayahuasca
It was the Christian missionaries of Spain and Portugal who first encountered the indigenous South Americans who were using ayahuasca. This was way back in the 16th century. The earliest reports described the plant as the “work of the devil”.
In the 1950s, beat writer William Burroughs travelled to South America in search of yagé, hoping it could cure opiate addiction. He read Richard Evans Schultes research on the subject, and that’s where he got the idea that ayahuasca could relieve the effects of opiates.
The substance would later gain in popularity thanks to more research and studies conducted on it.
Fast forward to today, wherein the drug isn’t as popular, but remains a controversial subject. It has seen some exposure in popular media. For example, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 18 features an episode that centers on ayahuasca.
How is Ayahuasca Made?
Ayahuasca is made by macerating and boiling the vines of Banisteriopsis caapi. Sometimes, it is brewed alongside leaves from other plants. This brew may contain DMT—a powerful psychedelic drug.
Traditional preparations are slightly different, It requires the user to pick the chacruna leaf at sunrise before saying a prayer. The vine will be cleaned thoroughly with a wooden spoon, and then pounded with wooden mallets.
Ayahuasca brews can be made without the DMT-containing plant ingredients.
Why is Ayahuasca Abused?
This brew is popular in the indigenous community because of its spiritual properties. It is used for its purgative properties, in a ritual known as la purge, or “the purge”.
However, recreational users of ayahuasca aren’t simply focused on its divine qualities. It may simply be abused just like other hallucinogenic drugs. It provides euphoria while relaxing the person’s body. It even causes them to have vivid hallucinations as their senses are affected by the DMT.
In fact, DMT is considered a Schedule I drug under the Convention on Psychotropic Substances. What makes this confusing and a bit complicated is the fact that ayahuasca itself is not illegal. Plants containing the drugs are not subject to international control. Only the substances within are illegal.
This makes it possible for truly dedicated recreational users to obtain ayahuasca and create their own brew.
Signs and Symptoms of Ayahuasca Addiction
Ayahuasca has traditional roots. It even has medical applications. But when abused, it can harm a person, just like any other drug out there. If you think someone in your family or someone you know is abusing ayahuasca or DMT, there are a few signs you can look out for.
The most obvious sign is severe vomiting. Ayahuasca is popular for its cleansing properties—something that involves causing the person to vomit.
Users may also experience increased blood pressure, hallucinations, and a heightened sense of awareness. A person who has taken ayahuasca will look like they are hallucinating. They will see images, hear sounds, and feel things that aren’t actually real.
They will be unable to think rationally, and are prone to moving unpredictably. The symptoms may vary depending on the amount taken. Even the user’s mood, personality, expectations, and environment could all play a part in what happens during the high. But whatever it is that happens, you will notice it if a person is high on something like DMT.
On top of this, users may suffer through a “bad trip,” during which the sensations aren’t euphoric, but instead are horrifying. They may feel despair, anxiety, and fear to the point of feeling like they’re gonna go insane.
Watch out for these signs, and you may be able to identify the problem before things get out of hand.
Side Effects of Ayahuasca
People who consume ayahuasca are likely to experience spiritual sensations. Some report that they received divine revelations regarding their purpose on earth. They say you can learn the true nature of the universe through this substance.
Unfortunately, it also comes with a few adverse effects that can cause serious problems to your health.
Hallucinations are only one thing. But time also seems to move slowly during a high. This makes a person unable to perceive their surroundings properly, leading to accidents.
Physical effects include nausea, vomiting, increased heart rate, and psychosis.
When abused continuously, some long term effects may manifest. Users experience severe mood swings, paranoia, and impaired cognitive function. While this is not a prescription drug, it is one that is still highly addictive.
Treatment for Ayahuasca Addiction
Ayahuasca abuse is possibly dangerous, but this is uncommon. The fact that the vines aren’t easy to acquire is the main reason this isn’t as popular as other illicit substances. Still, if someone you love is suffering from addiction, you may need to find a good rehabilitation facility.
The patient will go through detoxification, during which they are gradually taken off the substance. Withdrawal symptoms may occur, but these will also be managed.
Find a treatment facility with well-trained staff. With your effort, your loved one may quickly recover from their ayahuasca addiction, and live a sober life once more.