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Ayahuasca – The cure for addiction?

Posted by Alex Molyneux
on 17 Oct 2020


Ayahuasca treatment is growing in popularity. So much so, that ayahuasca retreats are becoming more commonplace in countries native to the practice. 

Very little is known about ayahuasca amongst the general population. It is only those that go in search of a ‘spiritual awakening’ or who are in desperate need of healing who may have come across information on this plant based drug. 

Ayahuasca contains the controlled substance DMT. It is a potent psychedelic brew, often referred to as a ‘spiritual tea’.

Ayahuasca is not a mainstream drug and is generally only available in countries where the ayahuasca brew ingredients naturally inhabit.

So, What does ayahuasca treatment involve? Could ayahuasca cure addiction? What are the effects of ayahuasca and the risks?

We at Delamere try our best to educate those we reach on all things addiction related. We provide evidence based information that allows our readers to make their own informed decisions. 

Here we examine the possible benefits and risks of ayahuasca treatment.

What is ayahuasca and where does it come from? 

Ayahuasca is the name for a brew or ‘tea’ that is made from the stalks of the Banisteriopsis Caapi vine and the leaves of the Psychotria Viridis shrub. Both of these plants traditionally grow in the Amazon rainforest and are native to South America 1

Ayahuasca ingredients are only naturally sourced in countries covered by the Amazon basin. These countries, which include Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, and Venezuela, have used the properties of ayahuasca for centuries in treating both the spiritual and physical ailments within ancient tribes 1

Ayahuasca is an extremely potent psychedelic brew that brings about strong auditory and visual hallucinations. It is traditionally used only during ayahuasca ceremonies and is said to enable healing of past trauma.

The effects of Ayahuasca

During an Ayahuasca ceremony the potent concoction Is consumed as a tea.  The onset of ayahuasca’s effects can be felt generally within 20 minutes to an hour after consumption.

How long ayahuasca’s effects last is dependent on the dose and strength of the tea or brew, usually they last for between 2 to 6 hours.

Initially, when the effects of ayahuasca start the individual who has consumed the brew may violently vomit. Diarrhoea is also a common effect of ayahuasca and is seen as part of the ceremony’s cleansing ritual; purging the body of all toxins.

The consumption of ayahuasca tea often brings about powerful and terrifying hallucinations (seeing, hearing and believing in things that are not there or not real)

Ayahuasca’s effects include:

  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Powerful auditory and visual hallucinations 
  • Paranoia
  • Increased heart rate
  • Euphoria 
  • Altered sense of touch, taste, sight, sound and smell
  • Nausea
  • Increased focus 
  • Feelings of enlightenment
  • Hypervigilance
  • Loss of mental stability – feelings of going insane
  • Feelings of terror
  • Sweating and increased body temperature
  • Coma
  • Death 2,3

Ayahuasca can also cause flashbacks of events that took place whilst under the drugs influence for weeks and months after. 

Can Ayahuasca cure addiction?

There is no known cure for addiction despite scientists researching for many years.

Addiction is medically recognised as a chronic and progressive relapsing brain disease in the DSM-5 manual, for which there is no known cure (DSM-5 – Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of mental disorders by the American Psychiatric Association)

Whilst addiction cannot be cured (as in permanently reversed) it can be successfully arrested through detox and effectively treated through rehabilitation. From there an individual suffering from addiction can learn how to manage their symptoms and maintain recovery. 

Ayahuasca tends to appeal to those that have perhaps tried more mainstream methods of addiction treatment and relapsed. Stories of cured trauma and resetting of the brain, all within hours, would appeal to most who suffer. That being said, undergoing ayahuasca treatment is a step into the unknown and not without risk. 

Hallucinogenic drugs such as ayahuasca tend to be extremely unpredictable in how they affect one person to another. There is no way of telling how you as an individual will react to ayahuasca treatment. 

As far as transforming a person’s mindset and perspective go, there is some evidence to support this could actually happen.

Studies conducted by scientists on biochemically obtained brain cells have found that the active ingredients in Ayahuasca include DMT (a controlled substance) and B-carbolines. 

In some of these scientific studies, both of these drugs have exhibited brain cell restorative qualities and neuroprotective effects, including new brain cell growth, leading to remapping of the brain

This could explain why some that undergo ayahuasca treatment claim to have been healed from the past. However, the risks of ayahuasca need to be carefully weighed up against any potential benefits.

Ayahuasca is not clinically recommended as a treatment for addiction or for any other mental health illness. 

We can only assume this is because of its dangerous unpredictability and inability to heal every aspect of the sufferer.

What happens during an ayahuasca ceremony?

Ayahuasca ceremonies have been around for centuries and are traditionally led by a spiritual healer known as a Shaman. A Shaman is not medically qualified but is viewed as a powerful man of plant medicine who is connected to the spiritual realm.

Before modern medicine became so advance and accessible, ancient tribes would seek healing from their local Shaman. This is still a common practice in some areas of the world where modern medicine is unavailable and where ancient tribes believe in spiritual healing as opposed to more traditional methods.

Prior to an ayahuasca ceremony, participants are requested to abstain from all toxins and follow a vegan diet in preparation. 

Each Shaman or healer will have their own individual way of conducting a ceremony but there will be many consistencies. 

Ayahuasca ceremonies involve drinking of the tea or brew and being guided through the hallucinations by the Shaman. To enhance the psychoactive properties of the ayahuasca brew and the experience, the Shaman performs a ritualistic song known as ‘icaros’

Depending on the setting, the ayahuasca ceremony will be held within what is considered to be a sacred space (cleansed of all negative energy and spirits). Spiritual ceremonies are also traditionally held at night time.

Just before the ceremony, participants are to state their intention and the healing that they need from ayahuasca, they are requested to place their faith and belief in the plants healing abilities.

Ayahuasca ceremonies often involve multiple participants and each participants experience whilst under the influence of ayahuasca will be very individual to them. Even when held in a retreat, the effects of ayahuasca are unpredictable and cannot be controlled.

The group will stay together until everyone is ready to leave. An ayahuasca ceremony can last for several hours. 

Delamere – A safe and effective way of healing from addiction

As addiction treatment experts, of course we have heard stories and looked into ayahuasca treatment out of interest.

From what we have learned, undergoing ayahuasca treatment can be like playing Russian Roulette. The more mentally and physically unwell you are, the more likely things are to take a turn for the worse during the practice. Sometimes these effects can cause lasting damage to a persons mental stability.

At Delamere we provide a unique model of addiction treatment delivered by registered medical professionals within luxury surroundings. We combine traditional evidence based treatments and therapies with new and innovative thoroughly researched holistic treatments; treatments that are 100 percent safe. 

If holistic healing is something you are interested in, then Delamere offer a plethora of proven treatments to help heal the mind, body and spirit. Furthermore you will be able to continue these practices once you have left our care to further secure and enhance your recovery.

Our guests at Delamere very much enjoy our holistic healing programme. Guests can benefit from Psychotherapy led equine therapy, mindfulness walks in the beautiful surrounding forestry of our extensive private land, meditation to help relax, unwind and gain insight, and yoga which combines flexibility, movement and breathing. These are just a few examples of our holistic treatments that we have to offer, there are many more. 

In addition to benefiting from our holistic programme, our guests also undergo proven trauma release techniques and traditional evidence based talking therapies. These proven treatments for addiction help to rewire thinking, heal the past and take on a new perspective and approach; one that is conducive to healing and ongoing growth in recovery from addiction.

If you or a loved one are considering ayahuasca treatment, we urge you to speak with us first at Delamere. Our treatment is proven, effective and completely safe!

References:

  1. Behavioural changes over time following ayahuasca exposure in zebrafish – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5532431/
  2. N, N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), an Endogenous Hallucinogen: Past, Present, and Future Research to Determine Its Role and Function https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30127713/
  3. Ayahuasca preparations and serotonin reuptake inhibitors: a potential combination for severe adverse interactions.Callaway JC, Grob CS J Psychoactive Drugs. 1998 Oct-Dec; 30(4):367-9. [PubMed] [Ref list] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5771051/
  4. The Endogenous Hallucinogen and Trace Amine N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) Displays Potent Protective Effects against Hypoxia via Sigma-1 Receptor Activation in Human Primary iPSC-Derived Cortical Neurons and Microglia-Like Immune Cells – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5021697/




About the author: Alex Molyneux

Alex is the Admissions Manager at Delamere. Alex has organised more admissions into treatment than most. Find out more about Alex on our team page.




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