Ayahuasca retreats are very popular- but is ayahuasca safe? People have asked multiple times why we do not offer access to ayahuasca ceremonies at our retreat. There are multiple reasons, but the main one is safety. Ayahuasca is just not nearly as safe as magic mushrooms, especially for more sensitive individuals. Coming in close second is repeatability. We designed the retreat to provide our guests with the tools needed to incorporate psychedelic therapy into their home routine, and this is just not possible with ayahuasca. The effects of the two are remarkably similar, though a rather high dose of mushrooms would be required to provide an experience comparable to ayahuasca. We have no issues with allowing for access to this dosage at the retreat.
Ayahuasca is safe under most circumstances and for most individuals, but it is just not as consistently safe as mushrooms. Ayahuasca contains a compound that that suppresses one of your brain’s protective mechanisms. It is quite safe in healthy individuals with proper preparation, dietary control, and medication review. Inhibiting this protective mechanism can make for dangerous interactions with certain foods, especially those that contain tyramine. There are also more medication interactions to consider with ayahuasca. Visitors to our retreat are often more sensitive than the average individual seeking a psychedelic experience and we consider the safest option to be the best option.
Because ayahuasca has more potentially negative interactions with medications, it makes nausea control difficult. It limits what you can take to prevent nausea. I personally do not find the idea of uncontrolled vomiting and nausea appealing, though I have heard that many ayahuasca shamans consider it to be an important part of the experience.
This being said, thousands of people participate in ayahuasca ceremonies every year with no lasting ill effects. In fact, many refer to it as a the most spiritually significant moment in their lives. Sometimes even an experience that is a bit extreme, borderline traumatic, can do us some psychological good.
The psychedelic effects of a both high dose of magic mushrooms and an ayahuasca experience are remarkably similar. The same serotonin receptor is being stimulated to produce the effect. The therapeutic effects are also similar and involve the same mechanism. Taking ayahuasca has the potential to address pain in a similar manner to mushrooms, but the ayahuasca experience is not as easy to continue at home. The purging may be so unpleasant that very few people would be even willing to repeat it at all, much less at the frequency needed to make progress in pain management.
Since both ayahuasca and magic mushrooms interact with same 5HT2A receptors in the brain, they produce comparable effects. A large dose of magic mushrooms will produce effects like ayahuasca, but the substance is significantly safer. Any a comparable dose of mushrooms is going to be quite intense and disorienting, and probably include intense visual hallucinations, synesthesia, and bodily sensations. You can expect to experience the famed “ego death”, a complete loss of subjective self-identity.
When I refer to someone as particularly sensitive, it could mean a variety of things. Maybe they are taking various medications to control pain and want to avoid interactions. Maybe they have had chemotherapy and is just not physically robust enough to handle more nausea and other unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms. There are many reasons why an individual would prefer to not overly stress their body, and there is no reason to do so if easier options are available.
As a psychedelic guide, I naturally appreciate and enjoy intense psychedelic experiences. It is comfortable for me. I have no qualms about applying large doses of mushrooms for myself or recommending it for anyone else looking for that level of experience. As a pain patient, I also must see the practical side of using psychedelics to control my pain condition. Call me crazy, but I am just not a fan of the idea of forcefully puking in the middle of a group of intensely dissociating and vomiting individuals. I am particular about my comfort.
Don’t Miss Out On Long Term Benefits
I would also be concerned for anyone looking to benefit from the pain-relieving benefits of psychedelics in that environment. Such an experience could be so unpleasant that they would be unlikely to continue follow up therapy. It would be easy to write off the whole experience as ineffective and too unpleasant resulting in the person missing out on future benefits.