Discovering Ayahuasca: A Journey of Transformation and Discovery
Ayahuasca, the sacred plant medicine of the Amazon rainforest, has gained widespread attention for its profound potential to heal and transform individuals. The Ayahuasca experience is often depicted as a life-altering journey, filled with profound insights and personal growth.
However, it is crucial to recognize that there is another side to this intriguing story – one that sheds light on the potential negative aspects and risks associated with Ayahuasca.
- Ayahuasca is safe for people who do not have medical contraindications towards Ayahuasca like a psychiatric condidtion, heart disease, epilepsy or take anti depressnat medications. If a person with these conditions decides to drink Ayahuasca it can lead to negative consequences, with even possible death.
- It is important that people do not drink Ayahuasca for the wrong reasons (like wanting to make an experience to brag to friends about, doing it because somebody else is urging them to drink Ayahuasca etc.). In those cases people might encounter things that they are not ready for.
- Difficult experiences with Ayahuasca turn out to be valuable learning lesson when Ayahuasca is done with the intention of healing and for people who are ready to go within and are not just looking for a magic pill.
- Using your cell phone in an Ayahuasca ceremony can cause you to send messages, that you regret the next day.
Table of Contents
What are the side effects of Ayahuasca:
The physical side effects of Ayahuasca include vomiting and diarrhea. This is totally normal. As a result, you will likely be dehydrated to a degree after the ceremony and it is important to replenish the lost energy after a long and possibly challenging ceremony.
Another very common physical effect is nausea you feel during the ceremony, especially before vomiting.
These physical sensations are what most people would consider something negative, but honestly, it is just a part of the process. The purging is part of cleaning the body, mind, and emotions. I actually had a participant who shared that the vomiting was her favorite part of the ceremony because she felt like she could liberate herself of a lot of things that were holding her down in her life.
There is a certain level of physical price that you pay and have to endure when drinking Ayahuasca.
Ayahuasca's effect on your brain and psyche
Ayahuasca connects you with your subconscious and you will experience (maybe for the first time in your life) what is really going on underneath the chatter of the mind. This can help resolve a lot of deeper routed topics in your life. At the same time, it can also be extremely challenging to encounter the parts of ourselves that we have suppressed for such a long time.
This is where some people start to become afraid in the ceremony or maybe even start to scream. Obviously, not a pleasant experience, but maybe just what you needed. Later down in the blog you find a section about “Ayahuasca does not give you what you want, it gives you what you need.”
In these intense situations, it is important that the facilitators know what they are doing to harmonize the situation. For the person going through the experience but also to ensure the safety and well-being of the other people in the ceremony.
Hallucinating on Ayahuasca:
In a lot of western explanations about Ayahuasca, you will hear about how Ayahuasca induces hallucinations. In the shamanic world people refer to the effect of Ayahuasca as “extraordinary states of consciousness”. Also, at the beginning of a retreat, we always talk about the difference between drugs and medicine.
How there are natural medicines for a high variety of physical illnesses, but nature also gives us medicine for our emotions and our spirit, with Ayahuasca being one of them. If I think I am taking a drug and believe that I am hallucinating it is easy to dismiss a lesson from a ceremony and categorize it into a hallucination on a drug-induced DMT trip.
What are the risks of Ayahuasca – negative effects of Ayahuasca:
There are several risks around Ayahuasca which can even lead to death or long – lasting physiological problems. This applies to people who are not medically cleared to drink Ayahuasca, and who have heart disease, epilepsy or psychiatric conditions. Also, certain medications like Antidepressants and drugs are dangerous when taken leading up to the ceremony. This leads us to the next question:
Who should not be drinking Ayahuasca:
People with medical conditions that contradict Ayahuasca should not be drinking Ayahuasca. These include:
- Heart disease
- Recent surgeries
- Episodes of fainting or dizziness
- Bipolar disorder
Apart from the medical conditions, there are also substances that contradict Ayahuasca as well. When these substances or medications are taken, the person should also not drink Ayahuasca.
- hallucignetic drugs
- other hard drugs
- Please consult with a doctor if other medications are taken
There are other factors that should be considered if a person is ready to drink Ayahuasca. Ayahuasca is not for everybody, especially not for people who are not willing to look within, for people who do not want to change, who do not take responsibility, or who are wanting to drink Ayahuasca because they want to experience some type of high or want to hallucinate.
When should you not take Ayahuasca?
You should not take Ayahuasca if this is something you do not want to miss out on. When you want to prove to others (or maybe yourself) that you are courageous and have the strength to drink Ayahuasca. Basically, reasons resonating with the ego. Also, if there are medical contraindications you should obviously also refrain from drinking Ayahuasca.
There is a common belief (from people who have not drunk Ayahuasca) that you need to be in a good place mentally and emotionally to drink Ayahuasca. That if you are in a bad state the likelihood of a bad trip is exponentially higher. In reality, we do not need to be perfect to drink Ayahuasca and Ayahuasca can help us with mental health, so when you are going through hardship Ayahuasca can be very beneficial. In those cases, however, it is important that the person understands what Ayahuasca is and what journey that person is going on.
Can Ayahuasca make anxiety worse?
Yes, Ayahuasca can make anxiety worse. Let me explain. Ayahuasca shows you what you carry within you. In case you experience a lot of anxiety, it can be that Ayahuasca starts showing you those patterns in yourself. Also, a way for healing is to feel, to feel what we do not want to feel.
This refers to in the ceremony space but can also translate to after the ceremony. Let’s suppose you are in a work situation a week after your Ayahuasca ceremony. You will be a lot more sensitive and things that trigger you might be experienced in a more intense form. This can be a negative effect of Ayahuasca.
However, in the majority of cases (for the people who want to change and not stay in the victim mentality) Ayahuasca will help with anxiety. It can show you the root cause of your anxiety and start to let go of the suppressed emotions that you carry that are the reason for your anxiety.
Ayahuasca also helps to find more stability and confidence within, both different factors which lead to feeling more secure about yourself which also helps with anxiety.
Ayahuasca bad trip – possible negative effects of Ayahuasca:
In this video, I dive deeper into the topic of a bad trip and mention real-life examples. One example is a person drinking Ayahuasca by himself by a waterfall and eventually jumping off which ends in a death case, the other example of a person leaving the ceremony place, running aimlessly through the countryside, feeling like she is chased by an evil spirit and eventually breaking her arm.
Another example of a horrible experience is when the topic of sexual abuse is part of the experience for an individual.
All 3 of these experiences can be traced back to untrained facilitators, so I want to stress again the importance of finding a trustworthy place to not experience the negative effects of Ayahuasca.
In the video I also talk about how having a difficult experience in a ceremony does not mean you had a bad trip. It signifies that you had a difficult experience that hopefully you learned something from it and will change certain parts of your life because you felt that those are in disorder.
If you are looking for a safe place to drink Ayahuasca, we created Ayahuasca Retreat Guacamayo in Colombia specifically for that purpose.
Longer effects of the Ayahuasca ceremony than anticipated:
Usually, an Ayahuasca ceremony takes between 6 – 8 hours. Usually…, but there are always expectations. Sometimes the Ayahuasca just takes longer to start to take effect and because of that, it goes on longer.
Another occurrence is that after you eat, you start to feel the effects again. Therefore it is important to eat something before you leave the ceremony space, wait a bit, and leave when you are feeling grounded. This specifically applies when you are driving a vehicle!
Not following the rules of the ceremony, for example using your phone:
One of the rules we implement in our ceremonies is that you cannot use your phone. We even collect the phones of the people before the ceremony. Because you might have a certain realization about your life, about a relationship and you reach out to that person.
Sending a message at 2 am in the morning is generally not a good idea and the person will be worried about you. Another situation is that you might be fearful, you reach out to a family member, they will be worried and it can even impact the relationship down the line, they might think you are in a bad spot in your life because you are doing some kind of drugs.
Or you message your employer about how much you hate the job, you call the police, etc. All of these are unlikely scenarios, however, they can still happen.
In a way, the person does those actions under the influence of Ayahuasca, but in most cases unconsciously, and from an ungrounded place. In this case, it is not really the Ayahuasca, but the person's actions that can create negative consequences in their life. Not being responsible can create negative effects of Ayahuasca
Making decisions after Ayahuasca:
After an intense experience, you might be compelled to make drastic changes in your life. And those changes you are making might be the best things that you could do with your life. On the other hand, maybe do not quit your job, only because you hate your boss. Maybe you can find a different way to deal with it and harmonize the situation.
Or you do quit your job. But those are things that you do, and also need to take responsibility for.
Do not take the easy way out and say, “oh Ayahuasca told me to do this”. Ayahuasca can show you things and it is your sovereign decision if you act on it or not.
In a lot of cases, it is also not just the decision but how we conduct ourselves after we made a decision and what energy are we cultivating. Are we acting from a position of strength or doubt?
Maybe Ayahuasca also showed you that you need to clean up certain relationships in your life, to talk about the elephant in the room. And I encourage everybody to do that, however, there is also a way to approach those difficult conversations.
Part of that is to understand that everybody is on their timeline of healing, to make judgments and expectations out of the conversation, to focus on your part in the story, to not blame the other person, to apologize, and to practice compassion.
Those are ways to lead a successful conversation that can result in healing.
Just blaming the other person for the hurt that they caused you might feel good in that moment but nothing really good will come out of it. And if that person is not ready for the conversation you can also write a letter about how you feel and not send it!
In this Blog on Ayahuasca Integration, I talk in more depth about these topics:
Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD)
It is normal to experience certain flashbacks about your ceremony 1 week, sometimes 2 weeks after your ceremony, and in most cases in your dreams. This usually happens to people who have a lot of things to uncover in their subconscious mind and the “Ayahuasca keeps on working in them after the ceremony”.
This is not something to be afraid of. It is actually something positive that things are still being processed and moved in your subconscious.
Understandably this can be very intense, especially if things come up, that we do not want to see.
Having the understanding that this is normal helps us go through intense periods and understand that we are not going crazy, but it is just a part of the process.
However, there is also a condition called “Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder” (HPPD). The “American Academy of Ophthalmology” describes this condition as:
“Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD) is a rare clinical condition in which patients who have had previous exposure to a hallucinogenic substance continue to experience perceptual distortions months to years after complete cessation of the initial substance use.”
This condition usually only comes up in people who have a psychiatric condition and choose to partake in a ceremony. And it is still incredibly rare but can be one of the negative effects of Ayahuasca.
Ayahuasca doesn't give you what you want, it gives you what you need.
So there are many challenging and difficult situations that one can encounter when drinking Ayahuasca. It is easy to label this as negative, but the question one needs to ask is: “In the grand scheme of things is something positive coming out of this?”. And in the high majority of the cases, the answer is yes.
Sometimes people come with the intention to Ayahuasca of wanting to find their purpose or how to make more money. And sometimes Ayahuasca shows them the answer. But in other cases, Ayahuasca points them in a totally different direction.
Before finding their purpose they need to clean up certain relationships first, change in other areas, etc. Maybe in this case you can say, Ayahuasca did not work for me, but the reality is Ayahuasca just did not work for you in the way that you wanted it to work for you. Because you wanted to put it in a box, put expectations on it and it wasn’t that.
Therefore, it is important to stay open for the teaching of what this master plant has to offer you.
Can you get addicted to Ayahuasca?
Ayahuasca does not cause a physical dependence on the substance and there are no withdrawal symptoms from people who stop drinking Ayahuasca. Also, the access to Ayahuasca and the difficult aspects of the ceremony adds to the unlikelihood of an addiction developing.
However, more of a psychological dependence on Ayahuasca and the community around Ayahuasca can develop. Generally, people in Ayahuasca circles/ceremonies are very welcoming and understanding toward each other.
This can lead to a bond/friendship between the people who are participating in the ceremonies. These friendships can feel more profound to certain participants than other connections they have in their day-to-day life.
For that reason in those people there can be a tendency to join an Ayahuasca ceremony not really for themselves, but more for the community aspect.
In this case, it is obviously important to not see Ayahuasca as an escape from your day-to-day life, but as something that you do, that helps you to improve your day-to-day.
Then there are also people who participate in a very large number of ceremonies in a shorter time period. Let’s say 10-20+ ceremonies in a year. From the outside looking it could be perceived as an addiction.
However, it is important to take a closer look. In many of those cases, these participants are in the process of resolving a deeper topic around their personal life.
MUST READ: How many Ayahuasca ceremonies do you need
How can you minimize the risk of having a negative Ayahuasca experience?
For you to have a safe Ayahuasca experience, it is important that you go to the right place. Where the facilitators know how to handle difficult situations in the ceremony, but also where you feel safe before drinking Ayahuasca.
Parts of that include being heard and listened to, to develop a level of trust with the facilitators and the group. This will allow you to be comfortable and open up so you can make the experience you need to make.
Also, you should have enough time after your Ayahuasca ceremony to decompress before exposing yourself to high-pressure environments.
Furthermore follow guidelines set by the facilitators like not using your phone during the ceremony so you do not create a situation you will regret later on.
Make sure that you are medically cleared to drink Ayahuasca and that you prepare your body and spirit before drinking Ayahuasca.
If you follow these steps and you do not live in a victim mentality, there is a very, very low chance of you experiencing the negative sides of Ayahuasca, which are talked about in this blog.
Embracing the Ayahuasca Journey: A Balanced Perspective
In conclusion, the Ayahuasca journey is a complex and multifaceted experience that offers both profound insights and potential risks. By understanding the positive transformations it can bring and being aware of the challenges it may present, individuals can embark on this journey with a balanced perspective, allowing for healing, growth, and self-discovery while minimizing the potential negative effects.
Ayahuasca, when approached with respect and responsibility, has the power to catalyze transformative journeys of the mind and spirit.