Let me just preface this post by saying that I have never done any form of psychedelic drug like LSD or the like. Not that that’s anyone’s business but my own, I guess. Unless I’m a competitive athlete or something, because then I would have to worry about drug tests. I’m not a competitive athlete or something, so even if I did do psychedelics, I wouldn’t have to worry. Anyways.
The first time I heard the word Ayahuasca was over the holiday break back in January. I travelled north to a small town called Val-David about 2 hours from Montreal. I was visiting an artist who spoke to me about sweat lodging, facing my inner demons and finding my soul mate. Ayahuasca was also a minor topic of conversation. Since then, it seems that I’ve been hearing about it more and more. Today I did a quick search about the drug for this post and found 3 different articles that had been written about it in the last couple of days alone, including an art exhibition going on in New York City right now based around its effects (http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/an-artwork-for-an-age-of-anxiety-and-ayahuasca)! Margaret Atwood mentions it only once in The Year of The Flood but it still stuck out to me. Who knows, maybe I’m just behind the times, but this psychedelic drug in particular seems to be gaining a lot of popularity, specifically in North America. On a global scale, it has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years in South America.
For those of you who have never heard of Ayahouaska (which means “vine with a soul”), its main ingredient is Banisteriopsis caapi, which is a vine. It is mixed with other jungle plants that, like that other vine – I’m not writing the name twice – have high amounts of DMT, a hallucinogenic chemical compound, and the main cause for the psychedelic aspect of the drug. Traditionally, it is used in shamanistic rituals and ceremonies. It is made into tea or mixed into tea, said to be very bitter, and often causes vomiting and diarrhea. Despite this, many people, including a vast number of war veterans, make trips to South America specifically to experience its effects.
The reason for this, it seems to be, that it changes the subject’s thought process and allows the brain to make connections, remember memories and feel emotions that the subject wouldn’t have allowed themselves to experience before. These connections are often unorthodox, insightful and even revelatory. It is very healing for those who have gone through trauma, suffer from PTSD or are seeking to accept something difficult, because the brain is freed from its subconscious protective walls that repress certain thoughts because having to process them is often too difficult and dangerous for the psyche.
Numerous studies are going on right now to research the long term effects of the drug. The adverse effects seem to be that it can trigger psychotic episodes or mania in those who are prone to them or that interaction with certain prescription drugs like anti-depressants can be dangerous or fatal. Because of this people looking to participate in the studies are often rigorously screened. Outside of the studies and reputable retreat locations, there are locations that exist that advertise to tourists in a “no questions asked” type of way. But hey, that might just sound dangerous to me because I grew up in North America in an area that’s sort of like the compound life, so the fact that all of these official studies are going on is pleasing to me. On the other hand, the South Americans have been doing it for so long that they probably know what they’re doing when it comes to Ayahuasca.
What about you? I’m not going to ask if you’ve ever done psychedelic drugs before because, again, that’s none of my business (unless you’d like the share – in that case be my guest!), but would you consider trying Ayahuasca? What do you think about how it could potentially help those who suffer from PTSD?
Sources and Further Reading: (1) http://www.ayahuasca-info.com/introduction, (2) https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2017/apr/06/a-puke-bucket-and-an-ancient-drug-is-ayahuasca-the-future-of-ptsd-treatment-, (3) http://www.sciencealert.com/meditation-and-the-psychedelic-drug-ayahuasca-seem-to-change-the-brain-in-surprisingly-similar-ways