In a previous post Are Psychedelics The New Wonder Drug? I touched on the popularising of psychoactive hallucinogens as the new wonder drug for dealing with mental disorders. The very drugs that can induce psychosis are used to treat mental disorders? An oxymoron right? Not according to The Experts™.
The mainstream narrative is overwhelmingly positive - beaming with enthusiasm and faith in the new path to mental health. But is there a dark side? Comments by Marina and others prompted me to go deeper to see what stories are out there. The Banyan Treatment Centershad this to offer…
Long-term effects of Ayahuasca use include psychosis, frequent flashbacks or memories of Ayahuasca “trips,” and hallucinations. These symptoms may occur for months or years after using the drug. Also, specific conditions like hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD) and persistent psychosis can occur as a result of Ayahuasca use.
Common symptoms of HPPD include:
Seeing flashes of color
Having color and size confusion
Seeing halos around objects
Seeing tracers or trailers around images or objects
Seeing geometric shapes and patterns
Seeing images within images
Having difficulty reading and concentrating
Persistent psychosis is also known as schizophrenia or “split brain,” and is characterized by symptoms like:
Ongoing and persistent paranoia
None of the above sounds like good mental health right?
“But Winston, an ayahuasca trip is very different to the medicinal use of psychedelics for psychotherapy!”
That maybe so, but we are talking about very dissociative and hallucinogenic effects (the mechanisms for each psychedelic may be different, and I listed the main types in the previous article) even in the ‘therapeutic’ doses. Shouldn’t we be cautious of any psychoactive drug that has demonstrated long lasting negative effects for some people? Maybe not, after all we continue head-long with mRNA technology that has a much worse track record to date.
For now let’s look at some negative testimonies (and if you discount personal testimonies and anecdotal reports because they are not a double blind experiment in a lab with statistical analysis, then stop reading right now - save me from the “only people in white lab coats know the truth” attitude).
The first thing I came across was, surprisingly, from a site called Soul-Herbs which says of itself, “We are recognized by the Ministry of Culture of Peru and Ayahuasca healers and our mission is to awaken with Ayahuasca and release of suffering humanity.” They have a page on the dangers of ayahuasca and say:
While some are immediate, some are long-term and could leave long-lasting effects on you. In some cases, the effects will require urgent medical intervention. And in the worst-case scenario, it can lead to death. The unpalatable experiences can be categorized into either psychological effects or physical effects.
They detail a list of negative psychological and physiological effects, including death:
Ayahuasca intake can lead to many very dangerous outcomes, including death. There have been several cases of deaths associated with this traditional brew. The death can be directly caused by the ayahuasca or other events associated with the ceremony.
They also list long term effects such as psychosis, Hallucinogenic Persisting Perception Disorder (it’s like an endless trip), and serotonin syndrome (build up of serotonin that can have mild to fatal consequences).
All these warnings are not to frighten you away from ayahuasca but to discourage you from making it yourself - rather, buy their properly prepared teas (this is a commercial market after all). Amusingly, in their FAQ, the question “I received your package today but it was not Ayahuasca. Why is it labeled under something else?” is answered with “What you received is the Ayahuasca kit. We just put a different label on it to avoid problems and ensure that it arrives.” However, the way things are going the FDA are not going to be concerned about psychedelics coming in from wherever, they need to stop the trafficking of vitamin D, ivermectin, and other such dangerous drugs!
OK, so what about personal testimonies?
This first one is a conversion testimony from the New Age to Christ that includes experiences with ayahuasca (which starts at 10:50). To be honest I skipped the first part of his testimony and just went to the ayahuasca part where he obviously encountered some rather manipulative spirits.
The following is an excerpt from a redit post…
The third night, this Sunday, I drank more than I had the previous nights and didn't need a second serving as I began to feel the effects in only about half an hour. I saw what I can only describe as some dark, cat-like figure staring me right in the face. I even tried to touch it and felt a rush of coldness down my spine. My instincts instantly jolted me with fear and scared me into closing my eyes and laying down on my stomach. I began to realize that we were not the only ones in the room. There were these weird noises that didn't sound like they belonged in this world. It was like I had entered The Upside Down from the netflix series Stranger Things. I could just feel deep down this dark presence in the room, like moths to a light. I began to believe these things were like demons, even though I have always laughed at the idea of that. It was the first time in my life that I felt like I was in danger. The weirdest part about this was that I got up to go to a bathroom that we were aloud to go to if needed, and as soon as I got there I felt completely sober. No other drug, like mushrooms, has acted like this to me before. It made me feel calm again, so I returned to my spot and began meditating again. Soon enough, the dark feelings came back and I started to feel the presence once more. I was trying my hardest to get a good look at whatever was in there with us, but it was still very dark. The only source of light at that point was the moonlight and occasional lightning coming through the windows. At first I thought my mind was just playing tricks on me, but there were a handful of times where I was sure that I saw figures moving around the room. This went on for about an hour while everybody else there was in their own world. I failed to mention that the rules of the ceremony were to not interact with anyone as it was distracting, so I didn't know what anyone else was doing. The shaman said we could ask for help if anything got too intense, but at this point I was paranoid and didn't trust that he had my best interests at heart. It was strange and very out of character for me to feel like this, almost like my intuition was trying to warn me that I had gotten myself into something much more sinister than some healing ceremony. This is when I remembered those satanic conspiracy theories that I randomly see on the internet about demons and the astral plane. I really thought I was tricked into performing this satanic ritual. Not like me, I always laughed about stuff like that, but my gut was telling me I was not supposed to be there. I felt these demons changing my moods and thoughts. One moment I felt calm and collected, the next I felt intense feelings of despair and fear. This was around the time that shit got real. All of a sudden there was a loud bang near the bathroom, because one of the other people there had ran into the wall... I looked back and saw him crawling around like he was straight out of The Exorcist. I couldn't believe I was witnessing this. The shaman immediately ran over to help him along with a couple others. I really do believe he was not in control of himself. I know how stupid and superstitious that sounds because I always laugh off stuff like this, but I'm being completely serious. They led him back to his spot and tried to calm him down, but this dude was making the strangest grunts that sounded crazy. Finally he stopped, and the singing began again.
In a paper titled Phenomenology and content of the inhaled N, N-dimethyltryptamine (N, N-DMT) experience, published in Nature, the authors said that “one of the most salient themes of the N, N-DMT experiences involved encounters and interactions with seemingly autonomous entities, occurring in 45.5% of experiences.” That is, nearly half of the users said that they faced another ‘being’ during their trip.
Most often the user recounted the presence of a feminine entity, with descriptions ranging from a Goddess, to Gaia, to Mother Ayahuasca. Moreover, this interaction with an entity often occurred from another dimension or reality; while the user remained in the present dimension, the entity was interacting with them from a distinct ‘other-world’.
Here’s a testimony from a psychologist who obviously had an overdose, as well as everyone else in the room - no spirits - but long-lasting effects…
I had a very traumatic experience on Ayahuasca and am worried that it has ruined my life. I went to Peru on two occasions to experience the ceremonies. On the first trip I had a wonderful few days. The people in charge know what they were doing and the experience left me euphoric and with a wonderful sense of freedom. There we're people in charge who knew what they were doing. There was chanting and dancing and music and a team member available in case anyone required support and/or guidance. People all stayed in their place and the setting was quite peaceful. The following day I cried out of happiness as we visited local tribes and were treated like royalty.
Upon returning home, unfortunately the results didn't last and so I figured I would go back and do more ceremonies. The Shaman in charge on this trip had a good reputation apparently and I felt I was in good hands. He was an older man ... I think in his late eighties but acted much younger. On this particular night I believe he made to medicine too powerful and the entire room turned to chaos. People were screaming and moving about while the Shaman himself appeared overwhelmed to the point where there was no chanting or music as had been in my previous ceremony experience. All he did was stay seated and tell everyone over and over again to "shut the fuck up!" It was like a rutter-less ship with no one in charge. No one to attend to those who were having difficulties.
I remember the medicine taking me higher and higher to the point where I had a panic attack for about 6 hours or longer. I remember thinking I can't take any more of this but what choice did I have? The medicine took me higher and higher and kept getting more intense. I watched a movie of my life flash before my eyes. It finally reached a threshold where suddenly all at once there was ... nothing. It was as if I had died but didn't really care. There was nothing but quiet and stillness. Some time later the ceremony ended and me and my friend, an Amazonian guide who had been in tears, descended to our hut.
After that experience, my life has never been the same. I remember walking around the Amazon in tears and crying as if I were the only soul on the planet. I had always been someone who was comfortable alone but no longer. I continue to have the feeling of existential isolation, severe depression and anxiety. I am a psychologist who can no longer practice as I have lost what had been my biggest strength, my ability to connect with others. I developed insomnia and had it for months. Over 3 years later, I still wake up from sleep with extreme panic and terror. I have been prescribed antidepressants, an atypical antipsychotic and benzodiazepines. I have tried Ketemine and TMS but nothing seems to work. I get no joy in anything and stress out at the smallest stressor, like meeting someone for an appointment ar getting together with my band ... or at extended loving family get-togethers. I no longer enjoy being alone and have constant suicidal ideation. My marriage has been deeply damaged as my wife no longer feels as if she has a husband capable to taking care of himself. My life has become a living hell. I don't know what to do but want others who are considering this journey to understand the significant risks. I now only rarely have insomnia so that has gotten better. I am hoping that, with time, I'll get myself back. If anyone has any recommendations I would love to hear them because I lost myself in the Amazon.
Here’s an excerpt from another experience…
After waking up from my nap, a couple of hours later, I started experiencing a profound depression that just sneaked up on me out of nowhere, and it soon came crushing down on me like a wave of darkness.
In a matter of hours, I went from being fine and normal, to experiencing the worst depression that I had ever experienced, something that felt unreal. The depression was accompanied by a strong anxiety, panic attacks, depersonalization, distorted vision, emotional and mental pain, shakes and vomiting.
I quickly went back to the shaman. It was unbearable! It had just been a few hours of suffering such agony, but I couldn’t bear the though of spending a night in such a hell of an existence. So I went back to the shaman. He said that I was just having trouble settling in.
The following morning, after an entire sleepless night, I went back to the shaman. Only to have him say that I would need further work done in the form of energetic healing, homeopathy, and other natural remedies. I declined his help because he simply didn’t really seem to know what was happening to me. And kept throwing this spiritual crap about how I had been awaken to the reality of existence, that it was ego death and bla bla bla.
At this point I was on the verge of suicide. Yes, the world is an ugly place, but there was no need to feel the suffering of it in my own being.
To cut the story shorter. The following month I spent it without eating, sleeping and screaming to the top of my lungs from acute emotional pain that I was experiencing. I had an emotional agony that was ripping my soul and psyche apart. Words will forever fail to fully explain the pain that I went through. I honestly thought that I would die. I was dying. I could feel life escaping my body every passing day. Needless to say, I had to quit my job immediately after the second trip. I couldn’t function, I couldn’t even shower.
And this from a shaman in Brazil (so the demonic thing is obviously a problem)…
I wanted to open a discussion on one of the biggest problems that I have noticed in regards to ayahuasca and ceremonies. This is the problem of demonic entities attacking people during ceremonies and often leaving them damaged for a long time afterwards. I have seen many ceremonies conducted, even sometimes by indigenous peoples, that did not properly protect the participants of the ceremony and has in a few cases led to people developing very severe traumas as a result of the ceremony. In some cases the people develop panic attacks that become chronic, or even physical Illnesses which don't go away.
I wanted to alert the community to this to open a general discussion so people can be aware of this and possibly better protect themselves. If this has happened to you please share your story.
My area of expertise as a shaman is in protecting against demonic entities and removing them from someone if they are persistently attacking a person. I live in Brazil and have been on this shamanic path for many years. I serve ayahuasca, have done many plant diets, and have participated in hundreds of ceremonies.
There’s an interesting discussion here between Lex Fridman and professor Matthew Johnson about meeting entities in a DMT session - of course the scientist, prof. Johnson, explains away the encounters from a naturalistic perspective, not a supernatural one.
Here’s the good professor normalising psychedelics for therapy…
Well there you go, if a Johns Hopkins professor says it’s all good, then who am I to question?
Listen to Rashad Evans from 6:30 talk about encountering snake-like beings…
Joe Rogan has a LOT to say on psychedelics, being very experienced with it himself, but that’s probably enough of an exploration for now - trying to keep these posts short - and enough to stimulate more thoughts and conversation.
So the point of all this is: psychedelics are going mainstream for psychotherapy - they have a very long history in shamanism and pagan spirituality - are we being drawn into the spiritual side of a Big Pharma cult?
The pro-psychedelic lobby is huge - no doubt negative views will be cancelled - there’s just way too much money to be made, and if demonic principalities and powers are involved then this is a huge opportunity not seen since the Tower of Babel.
I doubt any of my readers are in this camp, but just in case.
Lawrence, D.W., Carhart-Harris, R., Griffiths, R. et al. Phenomenology and content of the inhaled N, N-dimethyltryptamine (N, N-DMT) experience. Sci Rep 12, 8562 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-11999-8 https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-11999-8
I claim no special expertise or experience, but I would just like to throw this out as a possibility that might stimulate further discussion;
The drugs haven't changed, we haven't fundamentally changed, but if there are spirits on the other side, THEY have changed.
By way of an analogy, I have heard of tour guides offering "Swim with the Sharks" experiences for well paying tourists. The guides in the tour boat throw out some chum, the adventurous visitor is duly equipped with scuba gear and lowered into the water in a shark proof cage. Great fun, the thrill of a lifetime !
The point to note is that the behavior of the sharks has changed over time, becoming more aggressive and more numerous at the places the tour boats visit and at the times they are usually there.
There are also "Swim with the Dolphins/Whales" experience which I believe would produce similar affects in the local environment, but lets think about the sharks.
Introduce a new element into an environment and that environment will change and adapt. Why should that not also be the same with a meta-physical or spiritual environment ?
An old time shaman taking a few young initiates or ill people from his own tribe on a spirit quest in the wilderness centuries ago could have produced very different spiritual side effects than hundreds of mixed up foreigners taking a turbo charged "healing" ceremony, maybe on high strength doses, maybe at regular times and places.
What once looked like a single candle might now look like a Las Vegas laser show to the creatures of the dark.
Sleep well kids.
Drug abuse on a mass scale is a form of social control. The enthusiasm of the regime for normalising cannabis, antidepressants and even narcotics should make us all extremely wary of the emerging social license for psychedelics.
Historically, psychedelics were used in religious rites. Their use was controlled, socialised and carefully regulated by taboo etc. Even then, psychedelics were used on rare occasions only. They were never used on a frequent basis. Making any such substances available on demand for people seeking relief from anomie, atomisation and lack of purpose is not reckless...it is truly insane. Psychoactive substances are not a substitute for either proper psychiatric care or the extra-clinical support required by people with depression or addiction issues.
The regime is pretty transparent. Psychedelics will become the sacraments for the emerging transhumanist neo-pagan cults of Cthulhuland.