Ayahuasca: Remedy or Risk?

As the United States continues on its journey to legalize medical marijuana to combat a myriad of serious conditions and ailments, another natural remedy is gaining some popularity from the underground for its ability to treat anxiety and alleviate Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

This psychedelic concoction is ayahuasca, and it has been luring countless tourists into the Amazon to experience a hallucinogenic journey that is said to produce a spiritual awakening that can eliminate the mental anguish for individuals suffering emotional and psychological disorders. It is for this reason there exists a certain level of controversy surrounding the brew, with many claiming it to be a miracle cure while others say it is a dangerous drug.

Yet, war veterans have been taking trips to South America for year in hopes that ayahuasca may be able to relieve them from the debilitating scourge of PTSD. Veterans for Entheogenic Therapy, which is operated by former Marine Corporal Ryan LeCompte, is an organization that leads veterans into Peru to take part in ayahuasca ceremonies, which he admits comes with some “calculated” risks.

“Ayahuasca is a way to give relief to those who are suffering,” LeCompte told CNN, explaining that many veterans simply are not getting relief from prescribed PTSD treatments in the United States.

“It’s just, ‘Here’s a pill, here’s a Band-Aid.’ The ayahuasca medicine is a way to, instead of sweeping your dirt under the rug, you know, these medicines force you to take the rug outside and beat it with a stick until it’s clean,” explained LeCompte. “And that’s how I prefer to clean my house.”

However, Peter Gorman, author of Ayahuasca in My Blood, says the brew, which was at one time only intended for shaman, is less of a cure and more of a way to help people “dislodge that negative energy” and assist them is letting go of the trauma.

“Traditionally, the shaman drinks [ayahuasca], he accesses other realms of reality to find out where the dissonance is, that if the shaman corrects, will eliminate the [symptoms] — could be physical, could be emotional, could be bad luck,” said Gorman. “[Then] we Americans come, and we said we insist on drinking the damn stuff — we want our lives changed and we want that experience, so that certainly set things right on its head.”

Gorman claims that while it is possible to purchase ayahuasca powders and extracts through the Internet, it is impossible to know what you are really getting and that could prove dangerous – even deadly. Even during legitimate ayahuasca ceremonies, people have died as a result of consuming poorly brewed versions of the beverage. There have also been reports of people going off the deep end and committing physical and sexual assaults.

Therefore, while many believe ayahuasca can heal ailments that modern medicine cannot, some wonder if the potential dangers involved make it worthwhile. There is speculation that as the popularity of ayahuasca becomes more widespread, more deaths and other unpleasant circumstances could take place.

Interestingly, Rick Doblin, executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies, says there are currently efforts underway to research the potential medicinal benefits of ayahuasca in the United States.

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