Ayahuasca tourism

From RationalWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Preparation of ayahuasca
Dolphins and money
New Age
Icon new age.svg
Cosmic concepts
Spiritual selections
Ayahuasca (a.k.a. yagé) is a hallucinogenic and entheogenic concoction used ceremonially in certain Peruvian and Brazilian religions. The use of ayahuasca was first described outside of South American communities in the 1950s by ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes.[1]

Users of ayahuasca describe having "profound life-changing spiritual experiences," and "a sense of inner peace and acceptance of self, others, and the world."[2] However, it also makes you vomit and shit, and basically feel terrible. At first you're afraid you're going to die, then you're afraid you're not going to die. In recent years, people from other countries have been traveling to South America to have such an experience This is ayahuasca tourism. Some shamans charge a whole heap of money for their goods and services.

Pharmacology[edit]

The active ingredient is dimethyltriptamine (DMT)[3], which is a Schedule I substance in the USA. DMT, also known as "the spirit molecule", is normally metabolized in the stomach by monoamine oxidase (MAO), and so never reaches the bloodstream; but those cunning shamans long ago discovered that a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) prevents first pass metabolism of DMT, which in turn allows the full effect of the DMT to be felt. As luck would have it, DMT is plentiful in shrubs of the Psychotria genus, and MAOI can be found in a jungle vine of the Malpighiaceae family (e.g., Banisteriopsis caapi). Let the party begin.

Benefits and dangers[edit]

Claimed benefits are roughly the same as for LSD and other hallucinogens — namely, that it produces experiences described as being "spiritual" or "life-changing" in nature. MAPS has also conducted a preliminary observational study suggesting that ayahuasca may be helpful for treating certain aspects of addiction.[4]

Complications include death, cardiac arrhythmia caused by the harmala alkaloids, and acute psychosis.[5] Documented social dangers include rape of female ayahuascarians and, obviously, daylight robbery of the rich by the poor. There have been reports of other hallucinogens being mixed in (usually plants which contain scopolamine), to give the turistas "that extra buzz".

As the harmala alkaloids in ayahuasca are MAOIs, they strongly potentiate many prescription drugsWikipedia's W.svg. Specifically, they allow serotonin re-uptake inhibitors to generate far greater levels of extracellular serotonin, which may cause serotonin syndrome or death in extreme cases. Participants are advised not to take drugs unless they're sure they do not interact with MAOIs.

Where to find it[edit]

Celebrity ayahuasca tourists[edit]

Further reading/viewing[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Article on the history and effects of ayahuasca
  2. Erowid Ayahuasca Vault
  3. Erowid info page
  4. See Ayahuasca-Assisted Therapy for Addiction: Results from a Preliminary Observational Study in Canada Current Drug Abuse Reviews August 2012 (retrieved October 2015)
  5. See The Dark Side of Ayahuasca: Kelly Hearn, Men's Journal March 2013 (retrieved August 2013)
  6. The Yage Letters by William S. Burroughs (2001). City Lights Publishers. ISBN 0872860043.
  7. Quote from his Rolling Stone interview: "There's a certain amount of dread attached to taking it. You have a hallucinogenic trip that deals with death and your mortality. So it's quite an ordeal. It's not something you're going to score and have a great time on."