Beyond Prophecy: Predicting the Future of Ayahuasca

While enthusiasts debate if ayahuasca can predict the future, I’m here to predict its future.

Will it go down in history as the best form of psychedelic therapy we have ever seen?

Will this all-powerful hallucinogen get corrupted and unethically commercialized by pharmaceutical companies?
Or will we discover ayahuasca is not what it’s cracked up to be and does more harm than good?

I will answer these questions using in-depth research. Mind you, everything here is purely predictive, anecdotal, and hypothetical.

The Globalization and Commercialization of Ayahuasca

Yes, ayahuasca is gradually becoming a legitimate psychological medicine.

They have used it in South America for centuries as a spiritual and healing practice. And in recent years, its popularity has also been skyrocketing in North America and Europe.

Despite this, ayahuasca is still an unorthodox treatment, and its use is either unrecognized or highly regulated in many countries.

But the plant has improved South American tourism and created a market for ayahuasca-inspired products, including gifts, clothing, and jewelry. We also have artworks, music, books, documentaries, and communities dedicated to its awesomeness.

A diverse range of communities celebrates and promotes its use. You can join region-, gender-, interest-, religion-based, and all sorts of communities.

Even celebrities are not left out in promoting ayahuasca’s healing properties. Recently, quarterback Aaron Rodgers(1)https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/packers/2022/08/03/aaron-rodgers-ayahuasca-experience-aubrey-marcus-podcast/10231898002/ had a life-changing session and insisted it’s not a drug, crediting it for his MVP awards.

But as with every ground-breaking discovery, some smart-aleck individuals are trying to corrupt the sacredness of ayahuasca.

It’s become a big pie that everyone wants to have a bite of, and their intention is mainly for profit rather than its essence, which is to transform the well-being of humanity.


The Globalization of Ayahuasca

Globalization is the interconnection and interdependence of cultures and economies.

It started with trade and colonization, but today, the Internet has spread its tentacles—improving intercultural communication and building communities in a way colonization couldn’t.

The Internet has propelled ayahuasca to the limelight. A simple keyword search produces several websites, all providing information on the history and potential of this power plant.

You can even buy the ingredients at online stores, delivered to your doorstep. And to connect with other enthusiasts, people can join ayahuasca forums online, like reddit.com/r/Ayahuasca/.

Indigenous people are also reaping the benefits of its popularity. It has boosted local markets and created job opportunities.

While globalization made the brew famous, it also resulted in what David Harvey terms space-time compression(2)https://routledgesoc.com/category/profile-tags/time-space-compression. As different societies interlink, culture is no longer static, making it easy for outside forces to affect local events directly(3)https://neip.info/novo/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Hudson_J-Ayahuasaca_and_Globalization_2011.pdf.

Ayahuasca is no longer reserved for the Amazon but has evolved to incorporate Western ideals, leading to a loss/alteration of the plant from its native habitat and the erasure of indigenous shamanism(4)https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/anoc.12056.

Undoubtedly, these cultures benefit from its increased demand, plus the world is more interested in their tradition. In fact, the globalization of ayahuasca has led to discussions of maximizing its benefits and reducing its harm(5)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18638702/.

However, transnationalism has also weakened the cultural ties of the plant to its cultural heritage.

Those cultures are being reinterpreted and slowly transformed to suit foreign ideals(6)https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1935-4940.2010.01091.x. So, the original owners are becoming an afterthought in the plant’s narrative.

Ayahuasca attracts the attention of scholars, scientists, and superstars, and even theologians are incorporating it into religious contexts (Christianity and co).

Many scholars have written publications exploring different themes of the visionary plant. Santo Daime churches use it for communion, while celebrities produce documentaries based on personal experiences.

Retreat websites constantly advertise a life-changing ayahuasca experience through TV and magazines. All these have facilitated the recent growth of ayahuasca, making it a global name.

But, again, the originators are losing their rightful place in the story—unless retreat centers use them for bait-and-switch. Retreats may claim to have natively trained shamans, only to discover that their guides are Westerners who didn’t even take an online class.

Prediction: Ayahuasca will become more widespread over time, but Western influences will sidetrack most indigenous shamans. Only a few will stay true to their cultural heritage.

Enthusiasts who do their homework will either travel to those few or find a shaman in Western society that’s genuinely natively trained. But most experiences will be with (poorly trained) foreign or (sidetracked) local shamans.

Many Amazonian shamans have also moved to Western countries – some come to heal; others are here for the money.


The Commercialization of Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca being available in physical and internet markets shows that it’s become a commodity sold for financial benefits.

Due to the global interest in its potential, pharmaceutical companies, entrepreneurs, tech giants, and neo-shamans use different marketing strategies to sell ayahuasca.

Every year, tourists visit Amazonia enticed by the promises of heavily advertised retreat centers to transform their lives through ayahuasca ceremonies.

A seven-day retreat costs about $900-2,600(7)https://www.behold-retreats.com/post/ayahuasca-retreat-costs minus flight tickets. And they justify these outrageous prices with pictures of the luxurious comforts and “guaranteed” solution you’ll get on your trip.

Those who cannot go to the rainforest (or afford it) resolve to attend underground weekend ceremonies for up to $1000 in major American cities.

Of course, there are donation-only retreat centers as well—primarily churches you must join before participating. They’re basically free, but you should donate something.

But what about the laminated ayahuasca roots designed as pendants and belts or the shredded vines sold in markets? Even a hair brand launched a line of ayahuasca-infused products(8)https://www.vogue.com/article/hair-shaman-stefani-padilla-launches-la-tierra-sagrada.

The entheogen has become a bourgeois phenomenon and a cash crop with no regard for its sacredness and role in the traditions of the indigenous people.

Many non-indigenes are riding on its popularity and parading as shamans, building lodges, and offering ayahuasca sessions to unsuspecting visitors.

Some are luring local shamans to work for them in their lodges, leaving some villages without spiritual heads and causing a decline of shamans in the Amazon.

Pharmaceutical companies and tech giants are doggedly investing millions of dollars into scientific research on the psychoactive potentials of DMT, the chief ingredient in ayahuasca.

As a schedule 1 drug, DMT is illegal, and manufacturing it without a license can attract a prison sentence. That limitation does not daunt these money-minded capitalists.

Once approved, they will try to over-commercialize it just like they did with CBD(9)https://www.forbes.com/health/body/cbd-oil-benefits/) (the most therapeutic component of cannabis.

It works wonders for stress, anxiety, chronic pain, insomnia, addiction, and depression. But many CBD oils, pills, and gummies are substandard because pharma companies want to maximize profits rather than improve patients’ health.

The market is filled with CBD products that lack potency or purity. Some brands even have wild, unbacked claims (e.g., because the compound stopped coronavirus in a test tube(10)https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/cannabis-compound-cbd-stops-coronavirus-test-tube-can-it-treat-covid-2022-01-25/, some sellers falsely advertise that it cures COVID).

Prediction: Big pharma and tech giants will lobby to legalize DMT. Once that happens, they’ll find a way to make products that contain only DMT and DMT with an MAO inhibitor (i.e., ayahuasca). It could be tea bags, capsules, gummies, oils, lotions, etc.

They’ll grow the plants in industrial greenhouses, patent their products, advertise and market with big budgets and creative campaigns, get listed on the stock market, and get doctors, clinics, and hospitals to administer these products.

Still, some ethical psychedelic companies are doing unbiased research and working on creating products that will help millions of people, with some already listed on the stock exchange(11)https://psychedelicalpha.com/psilocybin-stocks-shroom-stocks.

But the villains will bastardize this power plant. Only a few products will retain the potency or purity of DMT and ayahuasca. Alas, it’ll be better to drink the natural brew than buy a product.


DMT and β-carbolines: The Future of Ayahuasca Research

With the testimonies of ayahuasca’s healing abilities making the headlines, scientists are conducting further research and experiments to unite these testimonies with empirical results.

Some of their preliminary studies(12)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6343205/ explored the use of ayahuasca in treating anxiety, addiction, nerve restoration, and many more. Most studies show that ayahuasca positively affects individuals, especially treating psychological disturbances.

Scientists are convinced that ayahuasca has a long-term healing effect compared to most psychedelics.

However, some studies show that ayahuasca and DMT can have adverse effects(13)https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/306889#risks, mainly when used without medical screening or in an uncontrolled setting (recreational use).

Studies(14)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5848100/ also show that some individuals are better off without it; for instance, patients with

• Psychosis
• Manic psychosis
• Psychotic depression
• Chronic mania
• Psychotic disorders
• Schizophreniform disorder
• Schizophrenia
• Bipolar disorder

But you can still try it in a controlled environment.

These studies have laid the groundwork for the scientific aspect of the entheogen, but they have limitations. Most only examined a small population, and the scope and timeline did not give room for intensive research.

The drug’s illegal status may be a factor, but with society’s perception of psychedelics gradually evolving, scientists are putting renewed efforts into analyzing ayahuasca.

Scientists are teaming up with pharmaceutical companies to conduct comprehensive studies using the latest technologies.

Ayahuasca contains the bark of Banisteriopsis Caapi (a source of β-carboline alkaloids) and the leaves of Psychotria Viridis (a source of N, N-dimethyltryptamine or DMT).

The preparer can add other ingredients, but those two are ever-present and work together to produce psychedelic effects.

Many psychoactive alkaloids make up the chemical composition of ayahuasca, but the basic β-carbolines in the brew are harmine and (+)- tetrahydroharmine.

Traces of harmaline and other demethylated variants also come in minor compounds. So, due to the different B. Caapi species used in preparing ayahuasca, the quantity of β-carboline may differ.

The same goes for DMT content—it’s determined by the plant used.

European-prepared ayahuasca has adulterant traces of MAOIs such as moclobemide, psilocin, and yuremamine.

These impurities are nonexistent in the original ayahuasca preparation and have a higher toxicity profile.

Prediction: Future research will delve deeper into the human psyche and discover how ayahuasca can trigger it to heal itself.

With better technology and more participants, these experiments will produce more detailed results. And with more funding, they can study users for months or even years, not just a few weeks.

But we don’t discuss the preparation of the studied brew as often. As stated earlier, different people prepare the mixture differently, so the results of one study may differ from another.

In the future, scientists will have to disclose the exact components of the studied brew so that we can draw specific conclusions.

Ayahuasca research is also tricky because the placebo effect(15)https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/what-is-the-placebo-effect influences some reports. For example, when studying ayahuasca ceremonies, how do we account for the ritualistic nature boosting users’ moods?

When depressed people travel to a safe, comfortable environment, they usually feel better. Taking part in rituals can make you feel less lonely and depressed, which has nothing to do with the brew itself.


Is Ayahuasca the Future of Psychedelic Therapy?

For years, scientists and psychologists have struggled to find drugs that can treat mental health and speed up the recovery of people with such conditions.

Standard medications for mental health usually take weeks to work or only work for as long as the person takes them. This limitation has caused patients to depend on their drugs for a lifetime, leading to addiction and abuse.

Since the rediscovery of psychedelics, psychotherapy has improved, with mind-altering plants and compounds treating illnesses such as PTSD and depression.

Since the 1930s, psychotherapists have used ketamine, MDMA, psilocybin, and LSD in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy (PAP). But with ayahuasca being a more potent alternative to these compounds, a reasonable prediction is that ayahuasca will gain more prevalence.

Couple that with its ongoing globalization and research, and you can see ayahuasca soon becoming a recommended treatment for numerous psychological issues.

People are already using it for trauma, PTSD, depression, anxiety, addiction, eating disorders, and many more. And that doesn’t include enthusiasts who use it for spiritual purposes.

Preliminary studies have shown that ayahuasca possibly has antidepressive, anxiolytic, and antiaddictive properties.

The University of Exeter and the University College London conducted a survey using data from 96,000 ayahuasca users worldwide.

The survey shows that respondents who took the brew a year before tackled their alcohol addiction better than those who used LSD.

It also showed that the drink has a higher percentage of treating depression. Besides, researchers discovered that ayahuasca users responded instantly to treatment after a single dosage.

Weiss, Miller, Carter, and Campbell(16)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33758236/ studied the personality of 256 participants of an ayahuasca ceremony before, immediately after, and three months after their experience.

Results showed that the drink significantly reduced neuroticism the week after the ceremony and remained below baseline after three months. This indicates that ayahuasca is more effective compared to other therapeutic psychedelics.

Therefore, doctors—with patients unresponsive to standard treatments—are using ayahuasca as an alternative.

Authentic shamans are constantly improving their plant knowledge and partnering with scientists to look for ways to heal people with its properties.
Some also organize therapy sessions after the ceremony, helping users understand the implication of the recent change in their lives and guiding them through as they take baby steps.

Prediction: Ayahuasca will become the go-to for psychedelic therapy because its effects are longer-lasting than others. The brew is also less applicable in recreational settings, meaning people use it to heal, not get high.

In the future, even those without psychological problems will use ayahuasca to expand their consciousness, awaken their inner mind, and reach spiritual enlightenment.

But as much as people are raving about the psychoactive beverage, studies on its capabilities are still limited. Most ayahuasca literature recounts personal accounts, not scientific experiments.

Hopefully, there will be more controlled studies, which will go a long way in projecting its potential in psychoactive medicine.


What Is Holding Ayahuasca Back?

Ayahuasca may have been globalized, but compared to Coca-Cola, it still has a long way to go.

For one, we can blame the illegality of DMT in several parts of the world. Because of its classification, individuals interested in psychedelics often visit South America to participate in ayahuasca ceremonies.

Of course, you can join an ayahuasca church like Santo Daime or partake in underground ceremonies spread across big cities worldwide. However, its tag as a Schedule I drug curtails it from being used publicly.

The limited scientific research is another culprit hindering its growth. We need more empirical data backing the extraordinary stories(17)https://qz.com/963683/the-ayahuasca-ceremony-is-going-under-the-scientific-method-microscope of its therapeutic effects.

Other factors include

• Some scientists trivializing the entheogen
• The religious context of ayahuasca, which some people don’t care for
• Scientists’ greater interest in LSD, magic mushrooms, and other psychedelics because they’re more accessible

Furthermore, the influx of tourists has led to an uprise of unskilled shamans. The ratio of tourists to shamans is low. And to meet demands, fake healers have sprouted in the Amazon and underground centers in Europe, North America, and Oceania.

This sacrilege demystifies ayahuasca and makes a caricature of the indigenous cultures.

Similarly, encountering an unskilled shaman leaves users confused after their experience. Unskilled shamans don’t understand the essence of bonding with their participants because they’re busy profiteering from the business.

Some lodges offer to teach foreigners how to make and serve ayahuasca, which is inappropriate because being a shaman is a call, and it takes years to become one.

But being a shaman or guide is not about race, ethnicity, or origin; it’s more about connecting with the essence of Mother Ayahuasca and staying true to healing and helping others heal.

Another thing holding ayahuasca back is the irreparable neurotransmitter damage it can cause. The brew contains ingredients unsuitable for people with underlying heart diseases or mental conditions.

It doesn’t interact well with some drugs; the combination can be disastrous or even deadly in large doses.

Finally, with the increase of unskilled shamans, you need to be mindful of who you trip with, as some shamans aren’t attuned to the power of the brew.

There have been reports of shady shamans adding toé or Brugmansia(18)https://www.vice.com/en/article/xd43ea/to-the-witchcraft-plant-thats-spoiling-ayahuasca-tourism to the brew. This witchcraft plant heightens psychedelic effects but causes mental damage when abused.

In addition, there are cases of tourists being raped and killed in ayahuasca ceremonies(19)https://www.mensjournal.com/travel/the-dark-side-of-ayahuasca-20130215/, which is just sad.

In 2010, a shaman and his accomplice raped and brutally beat a German woman after traveling for a 3-night ceremony in Barrio Florida, Peru.

Fortunately, they arrested the culprits.

Another case is that of 18-year-old Kyle Nolan(20)https://www.cnn.com/2014/10/24/justice/ayahuasca-death-kyle-nolan-mother/index.html. Inspired by a 2011 ayahuasca documentary, Nolan traveled to Peru for a 10-day stay with a shaman.

After his 10-day stay, Nolan did not come back to California. His worried parents had to go to Peru, only to meet the devastating news that their son had died during an ayahuasca ceremony.

The cause of his death is still under investigation. These cautionary tales are not to demonize ayahuasca but advise people to be careful of who they entrust their lives.

We need science to pay more attention to it. We need more qualified shamans to offer guidance and ensure participants do not overdrink the brew or feel unsafe during a ceremony – either of these can lead to a terrible experience.

We need ceremonies to be more organized, structured, and run by nonpredatory guides.

We also need the authorities to regulate the growing lodges offering ayahuasca ceremonies and hold shamans responsible for their clients.

What’s the point of seeking a psychedelic experience when you risk losing your life or being taken advantage of?


Final Thoughts

As of now, the future of ayahuasca looks promising, and for obvious reasons.

It’s a tool for spiritual growth and suggested for everyone to have at least once. Ayahuasca is for self-exploration and a positive experience; with the baggage we carry around in modern-day life, it should be on your to-do list.

Scientists agree, and research is going on to understand and maximize/minimize the pros and cons, ensuring users do not end up harming themselves.

Opt for the best shaman if you’re interested in taking an ayahuasca trip. That decision will define your experience.

So, to recap the fate of ayahuasca:
• Growing popularity
• Reduced indigenous values
• Potential regulation
• Over-commercialization
• Better and increased research
• Expansion of therapeutic applications

I hope you enjoyed reading this article. See you around!

References

References
1 https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/packers/2022/08/03/aaron-rodgers-ayahuasca-experience-aubrey-marcus-podcast/10231898002/
2 https://routledgesoc.com/category/profile-tags/time-space-compression
3 https://neip.info/novo/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Hudson_J-Ayahuasaca_and_Globalization_2011.pdf
4 https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/anoc.12056
5 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18638702/
6 https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1935-4940.2010.01091.x
7 https://www.behold-retreats.com/post/ayahuasca-retreat-costs
8 https://www.vogue.com/article/hair-shaman-stefani-padilla-launches-la-tierra-sagrada
9 https://www.forbes.com/health/body/cbd-oil-benefits/) (the most therapeutic component of cannabis
10 https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/cannabis-compound-cbd-stops-coronavirus-test-tube-can-it-treat-covid-2022-01-25/
11 https://psychedelicalpha.com/psilocybin-stocks-shroom-stocks
12 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6343205/
13 https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/306889#risks
14 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5848100/
15 https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/what-is-the-placebo-effect
16 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33758236/
17 https://qz.com/963683/the-ayahuasca-ceremony-is-going-under-the-scientific-method-microscope
18 https://www.vice.com/en/article/xd43ea/to-the-witchcraft-plant-thats-spoiling-ayahuasca-tourism
19 https://www.mensjournal.com/travel/the-dark-side-of-ayahuasca-20130215/
20 https://www.cnn.com/2014/10/24/justice/ayahuasca-death-kyle-nolan-mother/index.html

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