In another blog, I have written about the concerns about the abuse and misuse of psychedelic substances locally. In this first part, I will be producing what the author Jeff Brown wrote about Ayahuasca, which is a psychedelic substance and sold as ‘The Medicine’:
“I have received a heartbreaking (and anger-provoking) email this week from a woman who was introduced to my work in the most painful of ways.
Her beloved brother committed suicide just before Christmas two years ago, leaving both a suicide note and a copy of my book ‘Love it Forward’ beside it as a parting gift to her. I only wish something in that book had been able to save him.
As always, the reasons for suicide are complicated. In his case, he’d had a particularly difficult childhood, divorced after a lengthy marriage, was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder some years before, and his mother had recently passed, igniting a whole wave of intense triggers and unresolved issues from childhood.
In his emotionally flooded and desperate state, he saw an advertisement for an ayahuasca retreat in Peru. The ad said, and I paraphrase, that ‘disease is caused by negative spirits’, and that shamans can heal you with ‘the medicine.’ It also claimed that you would become ‘enlightened’ if you went on the healing journey with them.
He was desperate for relief, and so he took the plunge, signing up for an expensive two-week retreat. No one inquired into his current emotional state.
Once there, they did seven intense ceremonies in two weeks. It is important to note that no talk or somatic psychotherapists were on staff. And that the participants had only one day between ceremonies to process and integrate the enormous amount of intensely dark material that emerged in the ceremonies.
When he returned from the Amazon, he at first appeared to be in a good place, according to his sister. He lost weight, his skin glowed, and he seemed lighter and happier. Kind of like someone who’d had a real good vacation. But then he began to share his inner experience with her, telling her about many disturbing visions of dark spirits that had flooded his consciousness during the ceremonies.
The shamans reassured him that the spirits were showing themselves to give him an essential message and would soon disappear. They stayed with him. After a brief period back home, he soon became an angry person for the first time in his life. And he shed his relational nature, becoming a hermit.
When they did speak, all he could talk about was ayahuasca and the need to return to the Amazon to regain the ‘feel-good effects.’
So he went back six months later for another expensive series of ceremonies with ‘the medicine.’ After this trip, he changed even more dramatically. He became closed off and inaccessible. He became depressed for the first time in his life. And then he killed himself soon after. In his note, he said that he could not fight off the negative energy anymore. Dark spirits surrounded him.
He couldn’t close his eyes for weeks because of the fear.
It is clear to his sister that his experiences with ‘the medicine’ took his pre-existing grief state to the next level of intensity, one that took him over the edge. In his already depleted physical and energetic state, and without proper therapeutic support, he could not assimilate that level of shadow material.
She feels strongly that if he had not had these experiences, he would have eventually moved through the triggering that emerged after his mother’s loss without committing suicide. Yes, the ayahuasca gave him a momentary boost, but all the stuff that surfaced then cascaded into an unstoppable soul-nami of suffering.”