Ayahuasca : Can psychotropic drugs play a role in spiritual recovery from addiction?

Ritualized use of psychotropic drugs has healed people in South American rainforests for generations. Should a shaman guide help addicts today as they trip their way to discover their spiritual connection to the life that surrounds them? Can ayahuasca indeed aid in the treatment of addiction?

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The use of ayahuasca as practical and spiritual medicine South America is well documented in anthropological, pharmacokinetic, pharmacological and clinical psychological studies.  National Geographic even got in on the ayahuasca adventure in March of 2006.  In fact, the use of plants (specifically those which trigger a psychedelic response) to both diagnose and heal ailments is neither strange nor extraordinary across the globe.  Ayahuasca works to both purge the body and induce heightened states of awareness.Many anecdotal descriptions of the effect of drinking an ayahuasca brew contain similar elements:  participants report feelings of openness, unity, expansion and awareness of both suffering and compassion.  Alex Grey, artist and visionary, describes his ayahuasca experience as, “feeling my mind expand and extend throughout the whole web of life … and expansion of interconnectedness with everything.”  Indeed, people taking ayahuasca can experience remarkable physical healings and resolutions of psychological difficulties that no psychotherapy, SSRI or psychiatric session can produce.

During recent decades, Westerners have teamed up with shamans in rainforest regions to prepare and administer ayahuasca, which is made primarily from the Banisteriopsis caapi vine.  In fact, many hope that ayahuasca can relieve or cure opiate addiction, alcoholism, substance abuse or any range of behavioral and mental disorders.  Believers in this method have even formed a government recognized health rehab center for addicts – Takiwasi – based in Peru.

But should clinics, individuals and groups be using psychotropic drugs to treat addiction to drugs?  The irony is rather clear, eh?  The main chemical in the brew, dimethyltryptamine (DMT), is said to be non-addictive.  And most interesting, ayahuasca might actually increase the number of serotonin receptors on nerve cells, a much more sophisticated and natural way of absorbing serotonin already in the body instead of boosting the chemical via anti-depressants..

My position on this is that there is a treatment modality for everyone. I believe that addiction is, at root, a spiritual quest to connect with the Mystery of Life … and that redirecting the desire to connect with a higher power via psychotropic natural plants in a structured and meaningful environment can be helpful …but it’s not for me.   A guide at my treatment center put it like this — why take an elevator when you can take the stairs?

I DO think that traditional and ritualistic healing has a place in modern treatment of addiction.  However, going totally 100% clean in my recovery has led me to connect with a spiritual center over time, and in daily practice.

What do you think?  Are the people at Takiwasi on point?  Or crazy?  Should ayahuasca be administered to addicts?  And who are you to say so?

About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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  1. Ten years have passed since the OP and I think the awareness around ayahuasca and DMT, for that matter, and their potential therapeutic effect is much more widely known. I thought I would share my experience…
    I have been involved with 12 step recovery for 22 years, have worked the steps, still go to meetings etc., but i’ve struggled with two areas during that time: the spiritual side of the programme and depression/anxiety. In relation to the former, I really did try but nothing ever resonated really.
    I had a good friend who had been recommending ayahuasca for years. I dismissed it as, at best, a quick fix spirituality-wise and, at worst, drug use. Having now done it I am happy to admit that I was totally wrong. I had a major spiritual break through and now don’t struggle with this aspect of 12 step recovery anymore. My anxiety and depression have gone. But, more than that, I feel amazing in day to day life. So much more connected. Google-search the work of Prof David Nutt in the UK and his functional imaging research into LSD. He has shown that the brain makes huge connections with parts of itself that aren’t normally connected after taking LSD.
    I think intention plays a large role in determining whether ayahuasca or DMT use is spiritually-enhancing or drug use. If one uses these compounds in the context of wider drug use then it is part of addiction but if one uses them very sparingly and in the right setting then they are a useful tool in my opinion. People use the term mood-altering to decree if a compound a drug of abuse but I prefer the term pleasure-giving because medications like antidepressants are mood-altering. Now whether doctors are over-prescribing is a different question but any member of meetings should not be offering opinions on the matter of psychiatric treatments, as per the literature specifically on this topic from the two main fellowships. Ayahuasca is not pleasure-giving. In fact, it can be the opposite.
    Whilst I know other members who have taken ayahuasca I don’t bother talking to most other people in meetings about taking it myself as I just know it won’t play well. But those who criticise it haven’t actually tried it. Bill W had an equally devicize experience with members of AA after he took LSD.
    I wouldn’t advocate another person doing ayahuasca and only relate my own experience here. If anyone from meetings asked me about it I would recommend them to go away and do their own research. Do I think that I relapsed? No. But others will. Did I feel the need to try it again? No. Have I used drugs or drink since? No. I still go to meetings and am re-working the programme with new vigour. Am I glad I did ayahuasca? Absolutely.

  2. In AA we think nothing of people electing to surgically alter their appearance and take pain killers to do so, both in the surgery and after. Because our society accepts with almost no question the practice of changing our outsides to make our insides feel better.

    But if in recovery we were to take a medicine in at least attempt to heal our insides through a spiritual revelation that medicine might bring. Heresy.

  3. Hi Brian,

    I can empathize completely with your situation. During the course of my 20 plus years of addiction and alcoholism I was on the Methadone program 5 different times ( 80+ mg) and always used benzos with it ( 2-6 mg Xanax or 20-60 mg Valium). Detoxing from this combination is crippling indeed. It is literally a month long ordeal.

    It is important to remember that there are two phases to getting clean and sober. First is physical detoxification. After that comes the recovery phase so that we do not resume the addiction.

    In my own personal experience, Ayahuasca can profoundly assist in the recovery stage of sobriety that involves 12 Steps. It is wonderful for post-acute withdrawal syndrome ( PAWS) and it’s attendant anxieties and depressions. Sadly, though, it isn’t going to be much help with the immediate acute withdrawal stage that you are looking at with 110mg Methadone and 8mg Xanax. I understand that Ibogaine is quite effective with the detox phase of opiate withdrawal but I cannot really comment because I have no first-hand experience with it.

    Doctors often use Buprehorphine for short periods to wean people off of Methadone. Unfortunately many clients end up using Buprenorphine as a maintenance therapy. In the long run that is not the answer to a radiant, satisfying sobriety.

    So, yes, I believe and have experienced that Ayahuasca can help a person gain a new spiritual footing in life so as not to return to addicted self-destruction. But you will have to endure physical detox first. Stay focused on that initial goal and talk to whatever health professionals you can, mainstream or alternative, to help you effectively withdraw from Methdaone and benzos. Then you can look for a sound and reputable context where intentional, recovery oriented work with Ayahuasca can be undertaken. A new, drug-free life is possible.

    Best wishes to you,


  4. I’ve been on methadone and benzos for about a year taking 110mg of Methadone And 8 milligrams of xanax a day can ayahuasca help me break the addiction

  5. A lot of interesting posts here, and some of it is what I’ve been looking for.

    I’ve been sober for the past 5 months by going to AA meetings and working the 12 steps. I’ve been exposed to AA for the past 8 years, but never really wanted to be sober until 5 months ago. I longer have any cravings, and my anxiety and depression have been much improved.

    However, starting a couple weeks ago, I became very alienated from the AA message. Something about their fundamental beliefs just doesn’t seem right to me anymore, and I feel that the AA mentality limits our full potential. I started noticing that a lot of people just parrot the same flawed themes in meetings, and was thinking that there has to be a better way. I think the idea of AA, which is people helping people and building a community is great, but I can’t stand AA right now.

    Anyways, I got the call to go on an ayahuasca retreat, which will be in mid July. At first I was going down there mainly for complete eradication of my depression, fears, shame, etc, but then after reading a post by Gabor Mate about childhood trauma and chronic diseases (including alcoholism) I got the idea that it could cure my alcoholism, too, which is something I’m hoping for. The idea of sitting in a church basement for the rest of my life, spouting about how “I think a certain way because I’m an alcoholic” sounds like a living hell. The post that someone made about diving into AA literature after he returned made me physically ill (I threw away my big book and 12 and 12 a couple nights ago.)

    So I’ve been hoping that ayahuasca will free me from these negative and destructive behaviors and mindsets of mine, and I won’t be stuck with AA. Actually, I’m really starting to dread that in my ceremony I’ll get a vision showing me how AA is the way to be and how important it is to help the new comer and yada yada. I’d like to be able to help people, but I don’t want to do it through AA and that mindset.

  6. I can see how people might have misgivings about wanting to jump onto the Ayahuasca bandwagon. There’s a lot of mystery and misunderstanding that goes along with anything new. Long time members of AA have every right to be skeptical about its effectiveness in the treatment of addiction. The idea that ingesting a drug that alters your state of consciousnesses as a bad thing serves them well. I cannot think of any other mind altering drug that helps to bring healing as Ayahuasca does. It’s very hard to convince anyone that such an unknown and exotic drug is the exception to the rule.

    With that said, I can say that without a doubt it is. I was in a very dark place before I began my treatment. Many people on this blog can remember when they too were in this state of confusion and despair. I was going to meetings, therapy and rehabs. I was getting all the right treatment but I still felt powerless to make the choice to stop drinking.

    I was introduced to Ayahuasca by a close personal friend. With all of the effort I was putting into my treatment without positive outcomes I thought this surely couldn’t hurt.

    After many sessions I was still drinking. The medicine did provide me with short lived sobriety (two or three weeks at a time), but I wasn’t fully healed. However I stuck with it, along with my therapy and step work.

    Thankfully after a few months I had a breakthrough. During a Ayahuasca ceremony my life was unraveled before me. Very clear paths were laid out in my vision and I was given a choice. I chose to stop drinking.

    Its difficult for someone that hasn’t wrestled with addiction to understand how hard it is to simply make a choice not to drink, and after that session, I agree with them. My mental block was removed and now I can’t understand what took me so long. Now to turn down a drink is on par with declining dessert after dinner. The balance of the short term gain and the long term misery of drinking is clear. I can make that connection now.

    I didn’t do it alone. As I mentioned, I had AA, a very caring therapist, a loyal friend and sponsor, and my family to help me through it all. However, without Ayahuasca, I can’t say when, if every, I was going to make that connection; to be empowered; to choose not to drink.

    You don’t need Ayahuasca to gain sobriety. For that matter you don’t need AA, your family, friends, therapy or rehab. People have beat addiction without any one of these things. But why would you decline to have one more tool at your disposal when the consequences are very much life and death?

    I hope that, as word spreads about the healing properties of Ayahuasca, it can become a recognized adjunct in the treatment of addiction. Like I said before, addicts need all the help they can get. With traditional treatment methods lingering well below a 5% success rate, I’d say the treatment establishment shouldn’t be so quick to judge what works and whats just snake oil.

    As they say the proof is in the pudding.

  7. I would like to add my voice to the choir here, if I may. It delights me to say that in my own personal recovery experience, I found Ayahuasca and AA to be powerful, natural allies. Both entered my life simultaneously almost 4 years ago and literally transformed me before the eyes of my disbelieving family and friends. I was a chronic alcoholic of the hopeless variety with an additional two decade-long dependence on opiates and benzodiazepines, as well as a very unhealthy and ugly appetite for cocaine. I am sure many are familiar with this profile.

    In any case, through an unlikely series of coincidences, Ayahuasca became The catalyst for my own deep and effective 12 Step work, inspiring me to embrace with abandon AA’s literature, it’s process, and it’s Spirit. I am very active in my AA community and I have privately shared my experience with a good number of my fellows, and by whom I have been surprisingly well-received. The proof of recovery is in the pudding, as many would say. I no longer awaken early in the morning with a craving for booze, pills, or powders. Instead, I eagerly look forward to prayer and meditation, and that is, for lack of a better word, miraculous!

    Naturally, I respect the AA context and would never advocate this practice in that setting. I have, however, worked with a sponsee of mine in precisely the same manner which I followed and the results mirrored my own. To me, there is absolutely no question that Ayahuasca can be utilized as a potent adjunct to AA and other traditional treatment modalities. It is not a panacea and must be employed with the greatest care, prayer,and thoughtfulness. I believe that in a very real sense the future can and will see the faint intuitions of Bill W. regarding these matters come to light and many people will receive life-altering benefit as a result.

    Thank you for letting me share my enthusiasm!

    Happy Sober New Year!

  8. I intend this message for anybody struggling with addictions and seeking solutions.
    Hi I looked through this blog and was happy to see some other members of AA to have tried ayahuasca. I have been an active member of AA for 5 years now and have been sober for the last 5 years :). Worked the steps and sponsored people. I did have my spiritual awakening through working the steps and AA is what got me where I am right now. I had my doubts for a long time because it seemed to be against the AA way. Yet something about ayahuasca called to me for years. It was not a compulsive one minute decision. And I did it a couple of month ago. For me it was very similar to Holotropic Breathwork (another very powerful ceremony which does not involve any substance use). Very profound. I think over all it contributed to my sobriety like nothing else. She taught me how to love myself and not to stick my nose into someone’s business but at the same time be available if they ask for help. I have done a lot of therapy in the last 5 years (hypnosis, NLP, reiki, traditional) and this is by far one of the most powerful things in terms of transformation that I have experienced. I can see how it could help healing addictive patterns. I don’t see it as a cure for alcoholism thought and I did not go to the ceremony seeking to be able to drink normally again.

  9. Unforunately many people assume that all drugs are ‘crutches’, or that any drug is an escape from ‘reality’, which all philosophical cliches aside, the idea that somebody actually has reality in all of its complexity figured out is quite hilarious. Also, people assume that ‘psychological’ treatments are different from ‘pharmacological’ treatments etc, because in this country there is an implicit dualism(i.e mind and body are separate). People seem to think a spiritual phenomenon is not mediated by brain function, even though every other state of their mind/brain is. Lets also not forget we are finite creatures, evolved through natural selection which is not a vehicle for global optimization of anything, much less intelligence. In other words, we have a thin slice of the reality picture that we process/simulate/etc because it was evolutionarily advantageous for our species to live in social groups, focus on eating and mating etc. We did not evolve to figure out our true selves. Any responsible method utilized to temporarily pertube the neural networks of our habitual reality for positive ends should be utilized.
    Lastly, the ‘trip’ is not the ‘easy’ part. It is not a shortcut. It gives you a profound experiences that you ‘earn’ while you are in it, and it takes months, if not years for you to integrate and understand everything that you experience in that different state.

  10. I just came across this thread and thought that readers might also be interested in reading about ibogaine which has very strong anti-addictive properties:

    “Lotsof was addicted to heroin during the early years of his adulthood, but his life changed in 1962 when he ingested ibogaine, an extract from the West African shrub iboga (Tabernanthe Iboga, Apocynaceae). While iboga has been used by indigenous African tribes during ceremonies and to treat fatigue and hunger for many years, Lotsof was the first known person to attest to its effects on drug addiction.

    About 36 hours after taking ibogaine, the psychoactive state it had induced began to wear off, and the heroin withdrawal symptoms Lotsof usually experienced were absent. While he once thought of heroin’s high as euphoric, he now saw it as an emulation of death. “I followed the tree up into the sky and I saw these clouds in the sky, and I realized for the first time in my life, I wasn’t afraid,” said Lotsof at a 2008 lecture. “And that brought me to the understanding that at least certain drug addiction is fear and anxiety driven, and that fear and anxiety were gone for the first time in my life.” ”

  11. I’m suffering a lot because of this, just at the moment. I just had a painful parting-of-ways with my sponsor over ayahuasca, and of course I didn’t have the Big Book quotation about contempt prior to investigation in mind when I talked to him.

    The ayahuasca experience itself was amazing–I felt 100 times better afterwards, and that feeling of having been healed (2 months ago) hasn’t left me. I would definitely do it over again, though there was nothing remotely recreational about the experience. Let me be clear: if I had to make the same decision again, I’d still do it. I don’t feel I’ll ever do the drug again.

    Also: not everyone in AA needs it. John, above, gives a great example of the party line, and he’s absolutely right–for him, there was no real reason to do it. But no amount of service, personal inventory, or “putting AA first” was helping me. Now, I have new respect for all of that conservative, by-the-book AA stuff. And I still think I made the right decision taking ayahuasca.

    When my sponsor told me that in his eyes it was a relapse, I disagreed, but I cheerfully agreed to restart my day count and do AA his way because _I don’t want to drink._

    This wasnt good enough for him.

    What must he want, I asked myself? I asked if he was telling me he couldn’t sponsor me anymore. He said he could, but he didn’t think I could claim to have continuous sobriety. I told him, politely, that that was fine. The day count wasn’t that important to me, staying sober was important.

    Eventually, it became clear what he wanted: he wanted me to regret drinking ayhyasca. Only then could I accept my powerlessness. How can I regret something that brought me healing and peace? What am I supposed to do, share in an AA meeting that relapsing is AWESOME? That I reccomend it to anyone? I don’t reccomend ayhuasca for everyone, and I wouldn’t reccomend drinking to anyone.

    But unlike some of the commentors here, I have a different perspective. That thing, that nameless malady that ayhuasca healed in me _wasn’t alcoholism_. I had two different problems. The compulsion to drink I treat with AA. Ayhuasca was another part of my life altogether.

    I’d really love to hear more about David S’s experience with being in AA after ayahuasca.

  12. Hi,
    I have been an active sober member of AA for 27 years now. I was first exposed to ayahuasca in July of 2009 outside of Iquitos, Peru at a place called Blue Morpho. I had been battling a physical condition called geniculate ganglionitis for a number of years in sobriety. So at 26 years sober and 47 years old I figured I’d give ayahuasca a shot.

    The physical and spiritual transformation in me over the past year and a half have been nothing short of remarkable. I have had spiritual experiences in AA, but nothing like what I experienced in Peru. Since returning from Peru I have a love or myself and others that is something I never thought myself capable of. I have changed my diet and stopped eating all the foods that were killing me.

    Ayahuasca is not for everyone. I faced my fears and daemons that were so buried in me that no amount of inventory process could have revealed them. I still have the medical condition that first drove me to Peru but it does not define me as a person any more and I do not live in fear of the pain.

    I only ask you to remember the last few lines of the appendix on Spiritual Experience in the book Alcoholics Anonymous it goes something like this…

    There is one thing that that can’t fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance and act as a bar against all knowledge and understanding. That concept is contempt prior to investigation.

  13. “But should clinics, individuals and groups be using psychotropic drugs to treat addiction to drugs?”

    If they have a high success rate then of course they should, and all indications are that success rates are generally very high. As long as addicts are not just replacing one drug for another – and I don’t think there’s any indication they are because I’ve never heard of anyone becoming addicted to ayahuasca.

    I’ve never been an addict myself but I do have a lot of experience with ayahuasca and it is certainly a remarkable healer. The vast majority of people who I know that have taken ayahuasca, whether they needed deep healing or not, will say that ayahuasca has had lasting lifechanging affects on them.

    Also, the amazonian shaman/healers who use ayahuasca do not like it when people refer to ayahuasca as a drug, they like to call it a medicine. Ayahuasca is definitely not a drug in the way that most people understand the word (whether you’re talking about legal or illegal drugs).

    As far as I’m aware scientists have not been able to determine why ayahuasca can heal anything. None of its chemical constituents are known for their healing properties. However, nobody who has taken it can deny the incredible healing nature of an ayahuasca experience. Ayahuasca means “vine of the soul” and it is without a doubt a spiritual medicine that heals and affects all levels of your Self – physical, mental ,emotional and spiritual. And of course I expect people to be sceptical of that, and most people usually are – until they try it for themselves.

    Anyway, I would certainly recommend that people do their own research into how ayahuasca is being used to treat addictions and a wide variety of other illnesses. There’s quite a lot of information out there, it’s just a pity that not many people seem to know about it.

  14. I find 4-FMP to be a really great chemical at recreational doses, and it hasn’t really produced much of a hangover in me. I appreciate its long duration, empathogenic properties, great body high, and sociability, as well as the relatively sober mindstate you remain in (unlike MDMA, for example). It also doesn’t feel toxic in the way that MDMA does.

  15. I lived in Tarapoto, Peru for 8 months last year, working with a curandero who uses ayahuasca and other traditional medicines for healing. Through his work I met many people who were currently or had in the past changed their lives through work with ayahuasca and plant teachers.

    Takiwasi specializes in addiction treatment, and although they keep a low profile in town, everyone knows who they are. Several of the local people who have gone through treatment there have told me with no reservations that without the help of Takiwasi and ayahuasca they would not be alive today.

    I think that by being giving a chance to overcome the addiction, having a skilled and caring support network, the personal commitment to put in the hard work, plus ayahuasca ceremonies is a great combination for beating addiction.

    Ayahuasca is not an addictive drug, and with the violent vomiting and diarrhea it often causes it can not even be considered recreational. If an addict has not had success through conventional methods then ayahuasca or iboga or whatever else should be tried. The goal is to end the addiction, and if the solution happens to be a thousands of years old traditional medicine from the Amazon or Africa then so be it.

  16. Hello,
    This is a very interesting thread.
    I am this very crossroads right now.
    It is full of risk and quite scary to possibly go down the wrong road.

    I have been in a 12 step process for 16 years now and have a few relapses after many years….6 then out,,,3 the out …1 then out and today I have 4.5 years.
    I am very grounded in my spirituality and have done all the steps repeatedly.
    I have also taken the pharmacopeia path 1 time for 6 months as I unraveled some bits of abuse during a structured therapy with a qualified therapist.

    I have run into a few people who have had direct experience with ayuasca as a tool for spiritual connection.

    I have been seeking to hear more direct experiences from those who are either alcoholic or addicted and have done the work.
    Then have gone on to try this method.
    I am thinking that I have a foundation in the 12 steps and other spiritual disciplines and this might something to consider.
    Bill Wilson himself tried LSD in the middle of his 2 decade of sobriety as tool to overcome depression but I have not read too much more on his experience.
    I sure would not want this to be considered a relapse, but I guess I would be the only one to make that decision.

    Any feedback,guidance or thought from someone with direct experience would be very appreciated.

  17. Hi, thanks for the post.
    Not sure if this drug should be administered or not in a blanket sense of the word. What I mean by that is that all addicts are different. What causes them to drink is the same but I think general body chemistry is different and no ONE way should be the solution.
    Hitting AA, NA or whatever type meetings is the best sollution in the long run.

  18. Well, i don’t really want any labels like shaman or such, though Shamanism (called curanderoismo in much of the Amazon) has been a fascination of mine for many years. I hope to always be a student!

    I do work with people who need healing using ayahuasca, and once a year I lead groups to Peru to work with Curanderos. My hope is that someday the use of ayahuasca will be recognized in Northern countries and the great benefit of it’s use in ceremonial context will be approved and recognized. I’ve studied and practiced several natural healing arts and in my opinion the path of ayahuasca is at or near the most effective and most transformative. I do hope to someday set up a research and healing facility in the Amazon.

  19. Thanks for sharing about your experience, Richard. I still think that ayahuasca has incredible potential for addicts seeking help, as emotional and spiritual disconnection are the base of any addiction. How will you apply your knowledge and experiences with others? Are you a shaman in training?

  20. I’ve been a regular partaker in Ayahuasca ceremonies for many years. I have personally found them to be an extraordinary experience of healing on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels. I have seen many people turn their lives around and become integrated spiritual beings from the healing that they experience from this extraordinary medicine.

    It’s far from a fun or pleasant experience. There is a great deal of discomfort possible from Ayahuasca. It’s physically a strong purgative which is considered an important part of the purification process. On a mental level, you are confronted with everything, and then given the choice to let go of what separates you from inner harmony or to hold onto it. Windows and doors are opened to viewing your life in a way that is utterly clarifying of your place in the universe.

    However, it’s not without its dangers, which is why in South America, the use is very ritualized and controlled, generally only used by shamans and only during healing ceremonies. I know no one who uses it recreationally – at least not twice.

    Nor is it by itself a cure all. It takes a deep commitment to walk a path of healing. There are people who drink ayahuasca who remain alcoholics and addicts. Choice is ever present, and the path of curing in this tradition is not an easy one to follow. But there are reasons why Dr. Mabit has such good results, and why the government of Peru has declared Ayahuasca to be a national treasure. It works.

    My disclaimer is that I did not come to use Ayahuasca to cure addiction. Thankfully other than coffee I seem to not have that problem. It was childhood trauma, emotional problems and seeking deeper understanding of self and Self that took me to South America to learn this way. Now I’m learning how to use it for the healing of others.

  21. John, Thanks so much for your sensible and reasonable point of view. But there is one thing that bugs me about cutting out this option as possibly enlightening. What if there is a key UNDERSTANDING of the world, which would have been missed otherwise, if someone does NOT try ayahuasca? Is this not worth learning about?

    1. “What if there is a key UNDERSTANDING of the world, which would have been missed otherwise, if someone does NOT try ayahuasca? Is this not worth learning about?”
      Thats like saying all who do not find Jesus will be doomed.
      If my addiction is my problem, and my understanding of my perception makes me happy joyous and free? Why RISK what I have worked so hard to gain? It is exactly that which is at the core of my disease. The desire to change the way I feel. If I wish to alter the my perception because I am not happy with my perception, The question is…Why? THERE is the path to TRUE enlightenment. ACCEPTANCE is the solution to all my problems. Sorry, I just don’t get high anymore.
      And,- Didn’t curiosity kill the cat in the first place?

  22. Well It is my experience (LOL) that most emotional pain stems from resentments. For example I can resent myself, others, institutions, life in general, etc. I beleve the top 3 are gender, race and class-but thats another discussion. All stem from self resentment, and my percieved or actual, sense of status in life(power). Think of anything that realy upsets you when you think about it. That is a resentment. Odds are, you are powerless to change that one thing, yet it continues to haunt you. It then causes you pain. Psyche 101-Every emotion is preceded by a thought. So… it stands to reason i “self medicated” with street drugs to cover the pain of my resentments. True, modern medicine has come up with many compounds which are selective, not inducing a serotonin, dopamine, or endorphin response in the pleasure centers. Therefore they are not addictive in the classical sense of the word. They do exactly what they are intended to do, which is to alter ones behavior, be it internal or external to be confined within societal norms, or to relieve symptoms reported by a patient-see where I am going? The usual-Anxiety and depression-(resentments). I know that both major fellowships -you can go there, I wont- specify that doctor prescribed meds is not using, and I agree. I just cant keep my mouth shut about noticing that folks who use (and push) the meds seem to be stuck on one thing or another. I myself have used many diferent prescribed meds, and just seem to be happier without them. Nothing personal, it’s just my honest experience.
    As for reality/delusion. This is how I feel. My brain has all the chemicals to do all the things it needs to do INCLUDING self repair. For example, when I was twelve years old ,I had ulcers and anxiety. The family doc put me on phenobarbitol (loved it). And suggested relaxation techniques. Being an avid reader, I found a good book on self hypnosis. I became an adept over nite. I could hypnotise a toad. ulcers were gone, grades improved. As a transitional tool, the drugs were spot on. But in the long run, I had to master my mind. BTW the 4 years in recovery i am currently enjoying began with one heck of a self hypnosis session.
    Now halucinogens. I was addicted to acid for a good nine months. It took a year for me to get most of my marbles back. The way most, if not all halucinogens work goes something like this. There is a part of your brain(i forget what its called) that is like a busy intersection with a traffic cop. For the most part, sensory input into the brain(including ones thoughts bubbling out of the subconcious) go thru this cop. The cop decides what is meaningfull, and what gets discarded. If were not for the cop, you would be unable to function at a day to day level, becase of all of the information coming in. Well guess what. Thats exactly what hallucinogens do. They remove the cop. You notice everything, your mind is overwhelmed. The minutest thing SEEMS more significant. This mimmics a spiritual experience.
    Ask yourself these questions.
    1) do I live in a physical universe governed by many varying laws?
    2) Is my mind, without chemical assistance the best interpreter of MY reality in such a universe FOR ME?
    3) When things happen in said universe that I dont like, do I have the option of accepting it. Even war, pestilence, famine, political BS?
    Why alter, numb or dull reality, in any way, when we can embrace it in all it’s glory.
    It’s about taking responsibility!

  23. Hi John,

    To clarify, I think of psychotropic drugs as any drug capable of affecting the mind, emotions, and behavior. Whether pharmaceutical or plant based. Thanks for sharing your view on spiritual experience and reality. I suppose that if you believe that reality is fixed, any experience for you with ayahuasca would be delusional? And I agree that pain is a motivator. We all try to avoid pain, but it is our constant companion. What do you mean by “enabling my resentments”?

  24. Interesting. In the interest of full disclosure, I am arecovering addict of four years. Twelve step.
    Anyhow, I respect the Idea that another culture(s) may find drug induced experiences spiritual, as does my own culture, specifically alcohol and many sects of christianity. However, as an individual I cannot see anything spiritual coming from myself ingesting a physical substance into my physical body, inducing a physiological response in my physical brain, artificially altering my perception of a fixed physical reality. Since I base the concept of spirituality on humillity, I accept reality as was was intended to percieve it by providence, whether said providence is divine or not. Furthermore, when I saw the term “psychotropic” being used, I took this to mean prescribed medications intended to treat mental ilness, which I also take issue with as an individual. If 10 people walk into a psych clinic, 10 will walk out with a scrip. This brings into question the credibility of said discipline as a whole. Furthermore, said drugs, and specifically anti-depressants, prevent people from feeling emotional pain.
    Pain is natures perfect teaching tool. If something hurts something is wrong. If I dislike myself or others, I feel pain. Sooo, do we block the pain? Or learn? Even worse, enabling my resentments allows me to sell said resentments.

  25. Thanks for the feedback. I, too, hesitate to discount all sorts of treatments. I’ll definitely look into Ibogaine as another form of treatment. Do you have any experience administering or facilitating an Ibogaine experience?

  26. I don’t think that the Takiwasi people are crazy at all, and Ayahuasca is far from being the only psychedelic drug purported to have therapeutic qualities. In 2004, the US government approved the first study of MDMA assisted therapy in almost 20 years. And the hallucinogen Ibogaine from Central Africa is another drug that has been investigated as a possible anti-addiction treatment. While the use of psychedelic drugs for this purpose needs to be studied further before it becomes an approved treatment, I can’t possibly dismiss the idea when so many people in different areas of the world firmly believe in it.

    But the question you raised is a good one; is taking a psychedelic drug a short cut around the intense spiritual work you have to put into recovering from addiction? It seems to me that given the option, most people would rather take the easy road.


  27. I hear you. One of the reasons might have to do with access. Ayahuasca is administered in the Amazon, 200 miles from the nearest town. And how many shamans are recruiting participants? But I hear you.

  28. The irony is very clear. I think that this idea is a little too intriguing to me. This probably has something to do with the fact that I loved to take hallucinogens when I was using. I do not know if I can form an opinion about the subject. I see it like voting. If I do not know enough about the candidates in an election then I will not vote for either of them.

    However, I do offer something else to chew on for a minute. If this practice has been having such a profound effect on people, then why is not more popular? Most things that work gain the recognition of the masses and become practice rather than theory. The theory of the twelve steps has been put into practice and likewise has spread like wildfire. Not just in the United States, but across the world. I would really like to shake the hand of a person that has benefitted from ayahuasca treatment. They just might make a believer out of me.

    I have to admit. I really enjoy taking the stairs.

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