Personally, I must confess that the Ayahuasca tea ceremony didnít appeal to me, especially after hearing about it in detail from someone who experienced it firsthand. That someone was Luke, a guy I met in one of the support groups I frequented a few years back.
For him, the Ayahuasca therapy represented the turning moment in his life and, after countless attempts to beat alcoholism, Luke emerged victorious. We still meet occasionally and, according to him, there have been no slips; the desire to drink has also disappeared completely, thanks to this miracle tea. While I am a bit more skeptical about it, I tend to refrain from sharing these thoughts with Luke. After all, you canít argue with results!
What is Ayahuasca?
To put it simply, Ayahuasca constitutes a powerful psychedelic tea brewed from several plants that contain DMT (dimethyltryptamine), an active agent that triggers highly vivid hallucinations. The term originates from Quechua, a dialect spoken in some South American countries by the natives; a rough translation would be ďvine of the soulĒ.
Doesnít this therapy replace alcohol with another drug?
Luke assured me that, unlike most psychedelic drugs, Ayahuasca does not cause any form of dependency and that itís one hundred percent safe. I was inclined to disagree when he told me that the effects are quite different not only for every person, but also for every session. When he mentioned that, in addition to the hallucinations, the physical consequences could include nausea, diarrhea and vomiting as well as high blood pressure and boosted heart rate, I wasnít exactly sold. Did I mention it also has a horribly bitter taste?
What is the point of this exercise?
According to Luke, the vivid imagery conjured by the Ayahuasca brew during a complex ceremony that features chanting, music and various ritualistic objects has the role of delving deep into your psyche in order to discover the root of your problems.
The physical torment and sometimes scary hallucinations have to be confronted by the patient, with the aid of the shamans who conduct the ceremony. He also pointed out that the trance enables you to connect with spirits that can give you a more comprehensive understanding regarding the consequences of your maladaptive behavior Ė alcoholism, in his case Ė on yourself and others.
I donít want to deny that various branches of psychology also rely on discovering the source of the problem rather than treating their effects, but the similarities between the two forms of therapy is a bit on the nose. In my opinion, Ayahuasca resembles placebo treatments, in the sense that the patient believes he has a powerful way to deal with the problems and the mind acts accordingly. But I donít think Iíll ever tell Luke that, since the effectiveness of any placebo treatment relies heavily on the illusion. ††† ††
I donít want my readers to think I hold the absolute truth about Ayahuasca therapy because, as Iíve previously mentioned, I have no firsthand experience with it. However, anecdotal evidence tends to support the efficiency of the therapy. Therefore, if youíre braver than I am Ė or perhaps a tad more desperate to beat alcoholism Ė then donít let my skepticism get in your way.