How ayahuasca can revolutionize psychotherapy

A look at the psychoactive brew that brings users a spiritual payoff for their "work"

"There was nothing," says McKenna.

Seeking to change that, McKenna embarked on his first trip to South America at age 20. A decade later, he returned, this time to research his dissertation. After months in the jungle, he brought plant samples back to his lab, where he showed for the first time how ayahuasca works.

To make the brew, shamans boil together two Amazonian plants for many hours, sometimes days. As they simmer, the DMT contained in one of the plants mixes with the other one, the Banisteriopsis vine, and its key ingredient: monoamine oxidase inhibitors, or MAOIs. Normally when people ingest DMT — a not-uncommon compound in nature — the monoamine oxidase in our gut knocks it out. But the Banisteriopsis allows the hallucinogen to reach the brain.

Two men brew up a pot of ayahuasca in Iquitos
Luis Eduardo Luna
Two men brew up a pot of ayahuasca in Iquitos

By the middle of the 20th century, several Brazilian churches splintered off from the shamans and took ayahuasca into a formal setting. In 1991, one of these — a group called the Uniao do Vegetal, or UDV — invited McKenna to one of its twice-monthly ceremonies, during which the tea is administered as a sacrament. (A New Mexico-based branch of the church won a 2006 Supreme Court case allowing them to use ayahuasca in their ceremonies.)

In a room with 500 other people, McKenna drank first one cup, then a second, and was plunged into one of the most vivid ayahuasca visions of his life: a molecule's-eye view of photosynthesis, or as he explains it, "the force on which life depends."

When McKenna returned to his body, he writes in his new book, The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss, "I knew that I had been given an inestimable gift."

McKenna began devising a study to look at the biomedical effects of ayahuasca, and within two years, he was back in Brazil. On this trip, he brought along a team that included Dr. Charles Grob, a psychiatrist who heads the Division of Pediatric and Adolescent Psychiatry at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

"Nowadays, the word is out," Grob says. "But when we did this, I'd say, 'We're doing an ayahuasca study,' and people would say, 'aya-what-sca?'"

For about a month in the summer of 1993, the team of the Hoasca Project ran tests on 15 randomly selected members of the UDV church, all of them men who had been using ayahuasca regularly for at least 10 years. The scientists ran the same tests on similarly aged men who had never been exposed to ayahuasca.

The researchers measured every biological metric they could think of — blood pressure, heart rate, pupil dilation, body temperature — and used structured psychiatric interviews to get where their instruments couldn't: inside the participants' minds.

Many of the men had struggled with alcoholism and depression prior to joining the church, Grob learned. They credited ayahuasca with transforming their outlook. "In some cases," Grob says, "they felt like it had saved their lives."

When the researchers left Brazil and started processing their data, the blood work came back with one of the project's most startling discoveries: The long-term ayahuasca users showed higher levels of the transporters of serotonin, the brain chemical that regulates mood.

"That's the target that antidepressants work on, and here it was significantly elevated in the drinkers," McKenna says.

Deficits in serotonin transporters are also connected with problems like alcoholism and depression — the same issues the 15 subjects said the ayahuasca had helped cure.

"Here we have a medicine that apparently reverses these deficits, something no other medicine is known to do," explains McKenna. "And there's also a correlation to behavioral change. You can't say it caused it, but there's definitely a correlation."

Today, 20 years after the study, McKenna is preparing to revisit the findings. Within a year, he aims to raise enough money to fund a new study, this time in Peru, to look at the effects of ayahuasca on people with PTSD.

He hopes that additional research will help him establish his ultimate goal: a destination medical clinic in Peru.

"If we can bring together the best of shamanism and the best of psychotherapy, I think we can offer a new paradigm for healing," says McKenna. "What we're really trying to do here is revolutionize psychiatry."

Lisa Yeo doesn't look like a junkie. The 47-year-old has shimmering blond hair and clear skin, and wears a stylish tangerine shirt. It's Halloween, and her two dogs — a Shih Tzu and a Dachshund — yap incessantly as kids come to the door.

Just eight years ago, she weighed 80 pounds and was missing her two front teeth.

Yeo's father gave her her first alcoholic drink at age six, and she was drinking alone by age 11. As a teen, she developed a cocaine addiction, and in her early 20s, she set out on a path that would take her to heroin, crack, and prostitution.

On August 11, 2005, as cops walked her out of a hotel where they had found her shooting up, Yeo realized she was finally ready to change.

She went to rehab for a year, then a recovery house for another two years. But she still wasn't totally sober: For 18 years, she'd been receiving a court-ordered dose of the opiate substitute methadone. Now, she wanted off all drugs, once and for all.

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40 comments
Schultzy
Schultzy

Well the water may not directly kill germs but warmer water aids in reverse soaponification which removes more grease which is how we rid our hands of germs, by washing them away with our hand oils. Does this study test the cultures from the hands exposed to the same conditions? Does it look at human behavior to find out if warmer hands cause people to wash thair hands longer? If not I find it highly dubious.

schultzy http://www.greatbasinindustrial.com/

LivingClean-Ibogaine
LivingClean-Ibogaine

When Ibogaine treatment is followed by Ayahuasca and Psychotherapy, it creates a truly groundbreaking synergy of medicines for treatment of addictions. 

Thank you so much for focusing on this subject and talking about Dr. Mate's courageous stand as an expert in the field. 
In our program we add naturopathic medicine to this mix, to make physical healing even more effective. Most importantly we see Ibogaine-Ayahuasca-Psychotherapy synergy helping people to fully recover and find new meaning in daily life...  I've seen this happening firsthand at Living Clean Ibogaine (www.livingcleanibogaine.com) program in Mexico, where this approach to addiction therapy is practiced.

Unfortunately this can only be done legally in countries like Mexico, but even here, we can't apply Ayahuasca in our treatment process, meaning we  send people away to trusted network of indigenous spiritual leaders and healers from other countries, where Ayahuasca is legal. This creates many barriers on the path to recovery for people whose resources are already drained.
Overall, we've learned that Ibogaine is often ideal for addiction interruption, whereas Ayahuasca comes in during the integration phase and helps to process, emotionally and physically, traumatic experiences that had caused addictive patterns in the first place.
Thank you for this excellent article and discussion.

ICEERS
ICEERS

Psychoactives, for example, Ayahuasca, can be astonishingly beneficial and radically transformative for motivated, prepared, and subjectively open seekers. However, Ayahuasca is no panacea. No matter its soaring beauty, emotional galvanization, extensive insights and striking benefits, programmatic self-psychotherapy, entirely on one’s own, most often fails Ayahuasca’s (and other Psychoactives’) fullest potential. Likewise, verbal psychotherapy may catalyze far-reaching, even eye-popping results. But, such outcome is far from ordinary. Emotional growth is demanding and rarely easy, each step forward being hard-won, generally. Relational psychotherapy naturally stakes out Ayahuasca for its relevant powers (and sister Psychoactives, selectively, for theirs). What’s more, and conversely, Ayahuasca intrinsically supports communication and mental analysis. People commonly get together after a journey for catharsis, exchanging experiences and views. Hence, the two modalities patently, self-evidently go together positively, and professionally combining them is done universally. The combinatorial result can be strikingly exponential. Far from rare are savvy psychotherapy clients saying a particular psychoactive experience has been personally tantamount to years of standard treatment.


Don't miss the World Ayahuasca Conference 2014 in Ibiza, Spain Sept 25-27 and the workshop: Treating Individuals, Couples and Families: Psychoactives as Robust Psycho-Therapeutic Accelerants and Enhancers

aya2014.com/en



artistlike
artistlike

I've had bouts of nearly paralyzing depression and extreme anxiety all my life.  After careful study (lots and lots of reading, including summaries of NIH-controlled studies), I decided to try this.  Other than alcohol, I have never taken any kind of "recreational" substance in my life, so this was a real leap of faith--and every aspect of my life has improved as a result.  There is really no way to convey my experiences with ayahuasca in words or images; the best summary I can give is that it was a truly communal experience with myself and with something that felt for reasons I can't comprehend rationally as coming from an intelligent third party that guided me, with a maternal type of compassion to confront difficult truths about myself.  It was just a truly phenomenal experience.  I eventually heard myself repeating, quietly but out loud, "thank you, thank you," and years later that feeling of gratitude has remained with me.  I am not a religious person; I've only been inside of churches for weddings and funerals.  I don't know how to explain the profundity of this experience, but it left me feeling safe in life, grateful for it (which I never really had been before), and aware that our worlds as we experience them are limited but are enmeshed with something spectacular that we simply cannot rationally comprehend.

gregkell23
gregkell23

I think its fair to say that one living in this world should take this venture alone or with only a close friend. People giving out psychedelics cant instill a negative agenda in a fragile mind.

gregkell23
gregkell23

It is all considered black magic. Use it to fix yourself then discontinue use. Otherwise you damage the magnetic field around your body. Your astral body

BLived
BLived

Once initiated into the awesome power and transformative potential that is the entheogenic tremendum, one is left to wonder, amongst so much else, at what a different world we'd be living in today if at the center of all, would-be truly holy, world religions there lived a sacrament as unambiguously numinous, radically instructive, and (if you're lucky/ready) ego-shattering as this Amazonian eucharist, this Lux Natura; Ayahuasca.

No question why both ancient and modern religious and political power centers, be they political, religious, cultural, or otherwise move to deny, quash, repress, obfuscate, malign, and altogether disempower and discredit any mind-altering force, be it of the jungle or of the lab, capable of setting human consciousness, conscience, and culture free of the confines of empty state-sanctioned faiths, cynical scientific materialism, and abject herd-minded consumerism.

We, those of us who credit nature in general and the plant/fungi kingdom(s) in specific with having contributed so much to our sense of wholeness, wonder, and higher imagination, owe an unspeakable debt of gratitude to the women and men, today and down through the ages, known and unknown, who have braved a range of undeserved and very real dangers, from loss of career to loss of liberty or life, in order that they may conduct the research, keep alive the traditions, disseminate the teachings, empower the ceremonies, venture the alchemy, publish the discoveries, deliver the lectures, convene the conferences, advocate for and defend the rights of, and in so many ways protect, magnify, and altogether honor this most potent, living, and generous of Gnostic Lights for us all.

Begging his pardon in advance (for the certain discomfort such frank praise inevitably inflicts upon people of such humble, shy, and understandably private dispositions), we have in the person of Professor McKenna, for those new to this fascinating field and collection of equally fascinating eccentric luminaries, not only a biochemist and academic of international esteem but also, and not just for those of us blessed to count him as a cherished mentor or personal friend, as close as this ragtag generation of shamanically inclined post-moderns can come to a genuine, and truly worthy, tribal elder.


~DG
Longville, MN.



PS: Oh yes, and his most recent book (http://brotherhoodofthescreamingabyss.com) is a rip roaring good read t'boot. So there's that.

digitalprotocol
digitalprotocol topcommenter

this is awesome....interdimensional bliss

Jeffrey Cowell
Jeffrey Cowell

No shit it's old news, the medicine is hundreds, if not thousands of years old.it's a new concept to modern medicine

Rickardo Ehman
Rickardo Ehman

What was old can be new again. Great story, thanks for shining a spotlight on this amazing tool.

digitalprotocol
digitalprotocol topcommenter

@BLived oh man   - that is some exquisite writing


tribal elder shit needs to be dropped tho

digitalprotocol
digitalprotocol topcommenter

@Lindsey Rivera ooooo aren't you so sage.  sleazy hipster....   whats not old news is its breaking into the mainstream you pinhead 

BLived
BLived

@digitalprotocol @BLived 

*goes to check digitalprotocol's previous commenting history in other discussions to assess likelihood of a realistic/fair/interesting exchange and finds a lot of this in the mix.....

"
"digitalprotocol you are such a sad cunt"

November 20
- - -

"You cannot sue the federal government you dumb bitch!"

November 19

- - -

"PatScott you are an old fat white pig"

November 19
- - - 

"PatScott you're a cop...fuck off and die"

November 19
- - -
...etc.


Concluding that it'll be a crapshoot whether further exchanges will be ones of value if a fair exchange of difference of opinions is at hand.

Let's see.

BLived
BLived

@digitalprotocol @BLived 

Thanks and why?
(in that order ;-))

Happy to consider your further feedback (if you'd be so kind), but warning that you are speaking into a listening full of the experience of integritous and deeply value-contributing authority (referenced by term "elder") and no inclination to truck with knee-jerk or out of hand anti-seniority/establishment/father/... attitudes. 

jdubb1949
jdubb1949

@digitalprotocol Hope my lack of patience to read the testimonials doesn't get me into trouble again... Have never read or followed directions in my life'

BLived
BLived

@mohanlon3 @digitalprotocol @BLived 

Dear Mohanlon3. Thanks for chiming in.

Seems possible that you either did not read the thread in order or I somehow failed to make my point clear. While I both treasure the preciousness of the term "elder" and apply it sparingly, this was simply a relation genuinely deserved of its use.

How about reading then my use of its as an opportunity to generously project "Ah, ok. So this guy really feels such a level of respect for, and value from,  Prof. McKenna and his work that he would use a term of such esteem as 'elder'". Or the like?

These aint fight'n words m'friend... so what's with the 'tude? 

What cause for conflictive dialogue there? Where did anyone here lay claim to exclusive right to the use of this honorific?

But then even by your interesting (rather dark) litmus test, indeed if there came some catastrophe that rendered either my "techne" or my "hyper lobal" higher thinking ineffectual, yes having a master of plant biology, indigenous shamanism, and organic chemistry (aka an all around "clever fella", if you prefer) would be just the kind of elder I'd hope to count as part of my survival posse.

Can we not agree then that in any domain of human experience, whether wired or not, the open-hearted and curious are naturally appreciative of those "wise folk" (or "masters" or "elders" or...) that Life and experience has deputized to share, show, and teach?

Let's do.


mohanlon3
mohanlon3

@digitalprotocol @BLived many people, who belong to tribes, learn skills they depend on to live from elders.  I use the term in a much more sparing sense than noted above, but my wilderness survival skills were taught to me by a local tribal elder during my youth, (He is related to me distantly, and I am a member of his tribe) of course, we just called him "Old Jim." to distinguish him from his son "Young Jim"  Just because you all may be wired and hyper lobal, does not mean that your reference point is the only one valid.  If an EMP was set off above MN tomorrow, your Techne becomes so much silicon poo, and Old Jim becomes the center of a community dependent on him to learn to eat and live without the automated largesse Techne provides, show some respect.

BLived
BLived

@PhDinEverything @BLived @digitalprotocol 

What?, the "tribal elder" reference?

Me thinksth thou, no matter how 
piled high and deep kind sir, doth protest too much.

Ignoring the reality that one man's "gibberish" can be another's poetry and remembering that no one here invited the writing/thought police (aka, we're not hosting an formal forensics event here, but rather enjoying a format that invites sounding off as much as demonstrating economic self-control), welcome to this beehive of an exchange!

Being the self-appointed cunning linguist among us
here (as if your own generous use of judgemental adjectives was not itself well described by them and earned you that mouldy pun), what would a shining of that same proud, critical, and, ostensibly, impartial light reveal about such jabber mouths as Heinlein, Huxley, and/or Hardy; not to mention lingual performance artists like Joyce or poets like Ginsberg (or, god-forbid such excesses, Rumi).

I'm sure while we can agree that for words to have meaning there has to be reasonably harmonious look-up tables (of both terms used but also practices of grammar and syntax embraced) in both speaker and listener for a sufficiently successful sharing of meaning. Fair enough. Is the origin of your irk then a function of us accessing critically divergent databases? And, whatever the differences, do you really presume to be able to successfully argue that one (system of terms and grammar) is inherently superior to (read: in a place to stand in judgement of) any other?

Which set of definitions shall "rule" when judging the accuracy of a word, especially when acknowledging that regardless of their differences, no one person or group's agreement on what is a fair use of language is tantamount to justifying the judgement of another's.

So to be clear, when I use the phrase "tribal elder" do I need, in your academically justified opinion (since walking in waving that flag seems essential to the sturdiness of the soapbox upon which your critique heavily depends), to be true to any principle other than the truth of my experience? And does how I construct the communication of the experience, again in your opinion - for more it could never be pHd or un-, bear obligation to anything (eg brevity or accuracy as you're judging them)  other than the obvious goal that my communication reach my listener in the manner that I both enjoy delivering it and wish, but who would want to completely control such things, it to land?

Reality Check: we are, whether written or spoken, essentially talking about either monkey-mind or small mouth noises here, yes? But you feel, if I understand correctly, that I was entirely having too much fun with the freedom that having my own mind, mouth, and an engaging conversational partner was inspiring. Yes?

Hmmm...

Is yours a criticism based on a defense of M. Webster et.al or more a question of use of in-group jargon to which you either don't belong or whose right to coin their own terms and meanings you fundementally disagree with?

If its true that we will have trouble innovating and evolving our individual understanding and collective dialogue (eg our consideration of the prospect of co-creating positive change in this world) beyond the limits of our language or operating lexicon, then by what means and under the aegis of what grammatical court or ontological tzar would terms, perhaps understandably judged as "gibberish" by those not tuned-in to the adaptive value of the emerging meme in question, be "allowed" to migrate from their power upon my streets to their credibility in your library?

Anyway, thanks for making some lunch-break reflecting and ranting a whole lot more interesting and engaging. And, if you'll allow the cheek, a hearty 'good luck with that'.


* saunters to the front of the class, brushes the apples aside and lovingly lays the talking stick back upon PHD-Everything's desk, bows low, and in a dramatic <<poof>> of patchouli scented sage smoke, reappears back in his desk awaiting the due intellectual retour his sophomoric incredulity has invited (and no doubt deserves) *

;)

PhDinEverything
PhDinEverything

@BLived @digitalprotocol  I have my PhD in Linguistics and studied the affects of psychotropic substances on language. My most recent paper, actually, was titled "Making Sense of the Gibberish," and I can in fact confirm that this statement is superfluous, excessive, gratuitous, overflowing, lavish, inessential, and downright pleonastic. I would suggest phrasing that is a little more reasonable, necessary, important, needed, and most importantly; useful.

BLived
BLived

@digitalprotocol @BLived deep waters indeed mystery-friend. Not that any further exchange would see me presuming to answer this for anyone other than myself, perhaps we'd enjoy taking this off to another LIVE exchange platform and allow the focus here to return to the article and comments more directly about it?

PM me if interested in reincarnating this discussion somewhere (digitally) else.

digitalprotocol
digitalprotocol topcommenter

@BLived you avoid talk of posthumanism and it cannot be avoided. we are past the point of no return. Techne is the new god. good or bad, this god cannot be stopped.

Please guide me even further. I have much respect for elders and knowledge. I still do not see how "tribe" fits in. other than that we are all a human tribe. a tribe of earthlings. 

Are you familiar with the Egyptian book of the dead? The tests involved for ascending into the beyond? 

how does one engage in tribal behavior in a posthumanist world? or where?


BLived
BLived

@digitalprotocol  

Enjoyable exchange, thanks.

What choice do we have with words but to either toss them out when the consensus meaning is passe or toxic  OR  reclaim them by empowering them with new meaning.

So respecting your experience of what doesn't work for you about the term "elder", I (among so many, in the "tribe"; another term you're sure to love just as much) simply chosen to reclaim it, refine its powers (by, for example, decoupling mere aging as defacto qualification recognition as an "elder", and adding new wisdom, integrity, and expertise as pre-qualifications for earning the term) and use it in all its reframed glory.

Fair enough?

PS: Quetzalcoatl recently reincarnated as Korean orphan living in Poughkeepsie and should be happy to meet to share a chocolate milk, parent's willing, somewhere around 2017!

;)

PPS: The elves of hyperspace however ask about you every time we commune. "Less chatting and more MHRB de-fatting" they chirp your way!

;))

digitalprotocol
digitalprotocol topcommenter

@BLived we are close to being on the same page, however, i have yet to experience DMT. 

I had a knee jerk reaction to the term "tribal elder" as very clearly are in a post tribal society. only those living with broken and antiquated use this term. refugees from agrarian societies. this is dumb. We are in a posthumanism phase and need not to adhere to these systems of power. Elder wisdom is fine. just dont talk about tribal elders unless you want to be investigated by the FBI and whatnot. 

i seek to learn of higher of plains of thought and consciousness. clearly the establishment forbids me crossing interdimensional lines. 

I wish to meet Quetzalcoatl

 
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