What is Ayahuasca Addiction, Abuse & Treatment

Clinically Reviewed by Linda Whiteside, LPCC

Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson, MD

What is Ayahuasca? Addiction, Abuse & Treatment

Table of Contents

Ayahuasca is traditionally used by indigenous cultures in the Amazon Basin for religious ceremonies and spiritual healing. It has been gaining global attention and recognition as an effective treatment for addiction, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health issues.

Ayahuasca is a combination of two plants, the ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) and chacruna (Psychotria viridis). Combined with other plant ingredients such as passionflower, oco yagé, or yopo, it creates a powerful mind-altering experience. Since it’s easy to get addicted to ayahuasca, it’s important to be aware of and avoid potential abuses.

What is Ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca is a powerful psychedelic brew of plant-based medicines from the Amazon jungle with a long history of use for spiritual and medicinal purposes. It comprises two main ingredients: the Banisteriopsis caapi vine, sometimes referred to as ayahuasca or yage, and leaves from DMT-containing plants like chacruna or chagropanga. Most people consume psychoactive drugs like these in the form of ayahuasca tea.

The vine is usually boiled down with the leaves in water to create a brew that contains high concentrations of various psychoactive alkaloids such as harmine, harmaline, and dimethyltryptamine (DMT). Originally used by indigenous tribes for spiritual healing rituals, ayahuasca has been adopted worldwide by Westerners looking to explore consciousness and spiritual growth.

Through the preparation of ayahuasca ceremonies, it’s believed that the drug can bring about insight and healing, allowing individuals to explore the limits of human potential and better understand themselves. Some people have even reported experiencing profound spiritual awakenings while under the influence of ayahuasca.

What is Ayahuasca

Effects Of Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca is a traditional Amazonian plant medicine used for centuries in spiritual and healing ceremonies. The active components of Ayahuasca, Harmala alkaloids and dimethyltryptamine (DMT), are known to produce powerful hallucinations that provide insight into the physical, psychological, and spiritual realms.

The effects of consuming ayahuasca vary from person to person, but the most common immediate physical effects are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and dizziness. Users have also reported feeling energized and connected to their spiritual side.

The psychological effects of Ayahuasca can last for up to 24 hours after consumption in some cases. These effects may include heightened senses of insight and awareness of underlying issues that may have been blocked out of the user’s conscious mind. Most people go on Ayahuasca retreats to enjoy the psychedelic substance and the trip that comes with Ayahuasca consumption.

Ayahuasca is sometimes compared to other hallucinogens, such as LSD and magic mushrooms, producing intense and life-altering user experiences. However, ayahuasca has a much more spiritual experience that cannot be obtained through traditional psychedelics. Furthermore, the effects of ayahuasca are much longer-lasting. They can provide users with insight into their innermost fears and anxieties.

Effects Of Ayahuasca

Understanding Addiction Potential

Ayahuasca has been a spiritual and healing aid for centuries, but that does not mean it’s necessarily safe. Addiction potential is one of the most important things to consider when using this powerful substance. Understanding if someone can become dependent upon this drug or addicted to its effects can help prevent negative outcomes and encourage healthy use.

At its core, addiction is the continued use of a substance despite knowing it can cause harm. Ayahuasca contains powerful psychoactive ingredients, one of which – DMT – can have strong physical and psychological effects on the user. As a result, this drug can potentially create an addictive state in some people.

Differentiating Between Physical Dependence and Psychological Addiction

When talking about Ayahuasca, it’s important to differentiate between physical dependence and psychological addiction. Physical dependence occurs when someone develops a tolerance to the drug, needing more to achieve the same effects. This can happen with any substance that affects serotonin levels, including alcohol and certain antidepressants.

Psychological addiction, conversely, is characterized by cravings, compulsive use, and a feeling of being unable to stop using. This kind of reaction to Ayahuasca is rarer than physical dependence but still possible in certain individuals.

The Allure & Reasons Behind Repeated Use

Despite its potential risks, Ayahuasca is still attractive to many people. It can produce powerful spiritual experiences and feelings of happiness that can be difficult to find in everyday life. People may use this drug for various reasons, such as anxiety relief or spiritual exploration.

However, repeated use of Ayahuasca increases the risk of addiction and other negative health outcomes. The best way to avoid these problems is to use the substance in moderation and with proper preparation. This includes understanding all potential risks, being mindful of your mental state, and ensuring access to medical care if needed. Doing so can help ensure a safe and rewarding experience. If you feel susceptible to abusing substances, take our risk assessment quiz to see your chances.

Mental Illness and Ayahuasca Addiction

Ayahuasca has been used for centuries in traditional healing ceremonies, and its use is becoming increasingly popular among individuals seeking a spiritual or therapeutic experience. While some report beneficial effects, potential risks associated with ayahuasca should be considered before participating in any ayahuasca ceremony.

Most individuals who use ayahuasca report therapeutic experiences; however, evidence suggests that the drug can negatively interact with pre-existing mental health conditions. Furthermore, ayahuasca may induce new psychological illnesses in some individuals. Therefore, anyone with a pre-existing mental illness should discuss their plans for participating in an ayahuasca ceremony with a medical professional beforehand.

It’s also important to remember that ayahuasca may interact with certain psychiatric medications and should not be combined. Therefore, individuals taking prescription medication for mental health conditions should check with their doctor before combining it with ayahuasca. If you are inclined to try the Ayahuasca journey simply because of the trend of the ‘Ayahuasca trip,’ then you need to refrain from mixing it with any other psychedelic drug when consuming Ayahuasca tea.

Some evidence suggests that addiction to ayahuasca can develop, especially in individuals with a pre-existing addiction to other drugs. Therefore, using ayahuasca should be done with caution and under the supervision of an experienced guide or shaman. Frequent users should also take regular breaks from taking ayahuasca to reduce the risk of developing an addiction.

Mental Illness and Ayahuasca Addiction

Dangers of Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca use can have short-term and long-term health risks, including mental health risks. The short-term risks include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Anxiety and panic attacks due to the psychoactive effects.
  • Hallucinations and delusions due to overdose or impurity of substances used in its preparation.

Long-term risks include:

  • Potential for addiction and dependency on the substance due to its psychoactive effects.
  • Development of tolerance and withdrawal symptoms if use is discontinued.
  • Damage to the liver and other organs due to impurities in the substance used.
  • Increased risk for mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety.

It’s important to note that ayahuasca use can have legal implications and risks associated with unregulated use—including possible arrest or prosecution in some countries. Using ayahuasca made from impure substances can increase the risk of health complications due to contamination or overdose.

It’s important to note that mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder can be exacerbated by using ayahuasca, and individuals with these conditions should take extra precautions when considering its use. Withdrawal for Ayahuasca users can look like that for those suffering from drug and alcohol dependence.

Dangers of Ayahuasca

Research on Ayahuasca

In the medical and therapeutic field, ayahuasca use is most often associated with healing psychological trauma and promoting spiritual growth. Ayahuasca has also been studied for its potential efficacy in treating substance abuse disorders, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health conditions.

Research is ongoing to understand better the risks and benefits of ayahuasca use and the potential for addiction and abuse. It’s important to note that research on ayahuasca has primarily been conducted in controlled clinical settings, so it’s not recommended to self-medicate with ayahuasca outside of a medical environment.

How to Get Help for Ayahuasca Addiction Treatment

If you or someone you know is struggling with ayahuasca addiction, seeking help from a qualified healthcare professional is important. Treatment options may include medication-assisted therapy (MAT) and psychotherapy, as well as other evidence-based treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and trauma-informed care.

Treatment may also involve lifestyle changes, such as avoiding triggers and stressors that can lead to relapse. Additionally, 12-step groups like Ayahuasca Anonymous or other support groups may benefit those struggling with addiction. You could also sign up for young adult rehab to get back on your feet.

It’s important to remember that ayahuasca use has potential health risks. and should not be used as a substitute for treating mental health issues. Treatment should be tailored to the individual’s needs and can involve a combination of medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes to ensure safe and effective recovery from addiction.

Finding Help Near You

Getting help for your Ayahuasca addiction is a big step; finding the right treatment facility is the most important part. The right treatment center can help you sort your life out before and after getting help. Most substance abuse treatment professionals know the importance of continued care after the drug and alcohol rehab process.

At NuView Treatment Center, our team of dedicated professionals is here to help individuals in recovery find the resources and support they need to return to living a life free of alcohol dependence. Contact us at (323) 307 – 7997 or email us at info@nuviewtreatment.com to learn more about how we can help you.

Frequently Asked Questions

The mental effects of ayahuasca include hallucinations, altered perception of reality, euphoria, heightened emotions, and mood shifts. It can also cause anxiety and panic attacks due to the psychoactive properties of the substance.

The therapeutic use of ayahuasca is most often associated with healing psychological trauma and promoting spiritual growth. It has also been studied for its potential efficacy in treating substance abuse disorders, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health conditions.

Using ayahuasca to treat depression is not recommended due to the potential risks associated with its use. Research on the safety and efficacy of ayahuasca for treating mental health conditions such as depression is ongoing, and it's important to discuss any potential treatment options with a qualified healthcare professional before attempting self-medication.

Ayahuasca is a plant-based psychedelic medicine traditionally used by indigenous cultures in South America as part of healing ceremonies and rituals. It's made from the vine Banisteriopsis caapi combined with other plants containing the psychoactive compound dimethyltryptamine (DMT). Ayahuasca translates to “vine of the soul” or “spirit vine” in English.

There is some evidence that ayahuasca may help with certain mental health conditions, including depression and PTSD. Research on the therapeutic effects of ayahuasca is ongoing. However, it's not recommended as a treatment option for those with mental illness unless supervised by a qualified healthcare professional. Furthermore, self-medicating with ayahuasca can be dangerous due to potential health risks, legal implications, and the risk of addiction.

No, ayahuasca does not show up in standard drug tests. However, it may be detected in more specialized tests for psychedelic drugs. Additionally, the active compounds in ayahuasca (dimethyltryptamine and Banisteriopsis caapi) can be detected in urine samples after ingestion.

The effects of ayahuasca are often described as more reflective and spiritual than synthetic psychedelics like LSD or MDMA. Ayahuasca can also have a more intense psychological effect, which can be beneficial and detrimental depending on an individual’s mental health and comfort level with the experience. It's important to note that ayahuasca use has potential health risks and should not be used as a substitute for treating mental health issues.

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  2. Barker S. A. (2018). N, N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), an Endogenous Hallucinogen: Past, Present, and Future Research to Determine Its Role and Function. Frontiers in neuroscience, 12, 536. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2018.00536
  3. Hamill, J., Hallak, J., Dursun, S. M., & Baker, G. (2019). Ayahuasca: Psychological and Physiologic Effects, Pharmacology and Potential Uses in Addiction and Mental Illness. Current neuropharmacology, 17(2), 108–128. https://doi.org/10.2174/1570159X16666180125095902
  4. Frecska, E., Bokor, P., & Winkelman, M. (2016). The Therapeutic Potentials of Ayahuasca: Possible Effects against Various Diseases of Civilization. Frontiers in pharmacology, 7, 35. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2016.00035
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Written By: Linda Whiteside

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who has been providing mental health services for over 10 years.

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson

Went to medical school at The George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

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