How dangerous is ayahuasca?
History of Ayahuasca Deaths
There are plenty of stories about deaths involving the visionary brew ayahuasca, but almost none of these deaths are actually attributed to consuming the ayahuasca itself but rather from circumstances or events that occurred pre- or post-consumption. Still, these stories certainly offer cause for concern. It is always a tragedy when someone dies unexpectedly and with ayahuasca popularity and accessibility on the rise, there will likely be more scenarios where lives are at risk due to either negligent providers, uniformed participants or avoidable accidents.
In the last few years, there have been international headlines along the like of 'Tourist dies at ayahuasca retreat' or ' Tourist dies after taking psychedelic drug' - but these headlines only tell part of the truth, the details revealed in the articles show that many times, ayahausca has very little to do with the death associated with it.
Still, there must always be consideration when life is lost, and many of these deaths could have been prevented with proper education and safety practices. One of the things we do at New Life Ayahuasca Costa Rica to ensure participant safety is complete a thorough medical screening with every participant before the are accepted for the retreat.
One of the questions we ask is in regard to medication – specifically antidepressants. In an age where it seems everyone suffers from some degree of depression or anxiety, prescription antidepressants – SSRI’s, SSNI’s MAOI’s, etc, are prevelant. These types of medications have a severe interaction with ayahuasca and can not be combined, yet when we inform potential participants of the interaction, many are shocked to learn they cannot drink ayahuasca while taking anti-depressant medication. The result could be serotonin syndrome, which in its worst-case scenario can cause death.
Yet still, many ayahuasca centers do not require participants to complete a medical background or disclose medications or other diagnosis. Another thing we are looking for a history of psychosis, suicidal tendencies, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Ayahuasca can make some of these conditions worse, and it is not advised that anyone currently suffering from any of these conditions consume ayahuasca.
Other things to consider are heart health as ayahuasca can affect blood pressure levels, liver health, as that is where ayahuasca is processed and substance abuse disorders. Ayahuasca combined with recreational or other prescription drugs can be a recipe for disaster.
In other cases, ayahuasca death has occured from participating in a common pre-ceremony ritual of drinking tobacco tea, a purgative designed to clean the system before drinking ayahuasca. Unfortunately, the tobacco purge can result in nicotine poisoning, and some have died from drinking the tea.
*Note- this is not the same as ritualistic smoking of tobacco in the ceremony, which is used for protection and is no threat to anyone in attendance* New Life Ayahuasca does not offer a tobacco purge.
These stories of ayahuasca death have caused a great deal of concern and fear for western tourists seeking out the wisdom of the ancient plant to heal and overcome ailments that western medicine has failed. Yet ayahuasca remains safe when used properly with consideration of the risks and correct preparation.
Do research on any centers you are considering – ask if they have ever had any medical situation or what they would do in response to one.
Verify that the center is conducting medical screenings to ensure your safety
Make sure a trusted loved-one knows where you are and how to contact you
Know your shaman
Ask what is in the ayahuasca brew
Check reviews for the center
Ask how far the center is from an emergency medial center
Ask about medical personal or staff traning.
We both come from dark backgrounds filled with depression, drug abuse and hopelessness. Through the use of plant medicines, we slowly but surely began to reconnect to the strength within and see our lives with a fresh perspective.
It was through the lessons we learned from ayahuasca that we were able to transform our lives. It is with humble gratitude that we provide an experience for others so that they too may find balance, peace and self love.
Since 2014 we have been fully immersed in our work, not only in an effort to help others but to continue to help ourselves. We created our retreats with an emphasis on safety, inclusivity, tradition, intention and respect.
Your physical and emotional safety are our highest priority.
While ayahuasca is generally considered very safe when used properly, there are a few medical conditions as well as medications that are contraindicated with ayahausca. During the booking process you will be asked to complete a brief medical questionnaire over the phone to ensure that you can safely participate in an ayahuasca retreat. In case of emergency, both Matt and Jeanae are certified in CPR and have training with the use of our AED (Automated External Defibrillator). We are 25 minutes from a medical center.
Our small groups ensure that we can provide quality service and attention to each guest. Every ceremony is supported by 3 of our staff : Our ayahuasquero, Matthew, drinks ayahuasca with each group at every ceremony to help guide the experience through Icaros and 2 additional support staff: Jeanae and an additional helper, who do not drink during the ceremony and are there only to assist or help any participant that may require attention. A male responds to the men and Jeanae responds to the women ensuring that everyone feels safe and comfortable during such a vulnerable and emotional experience.
A warm and welcoming enviornment for all.
Regardless of an individuals background, an ayahuasca experience can bring about intense emotions and revelations that can lead to a better life. The only thing you need is an open mind and the desire to have an experience that can enhance your spirituality and awareness of life and all that surrounds us.
At New Life Ayahuasca, all are welcome. We embrace each individual, appreciating the things that make us unique but understanding we all are one. It is our promise to provide an equal, compassionate and therapeutic environment for every guest that comes to our center.
Ayahuasca has been used in a traditional way for thousands of years. We aim to respect the Peruvian traditions and honor them through our ceremonies. Since 2014 our ayahuasquero, Matthew, has been traveling to Iquitos, Peru multiple times a year to complete his plant dietas and learn the Peruvian traditions.
During the ayahuasca ceremonies, Matt sings traditional medicine songs, called Icaros. Some of the Icaros he has been taught, ancient songs passed down from teacher to student. Other of his Icaros are uniquely his, given to him by the medicine and spirits. Mapacho, also known as jungle tobacco, is also heavily used during the ceremony for cleansing and protection.
What drives the experience
When considering an ayahuasca retreat, it is important not only to consider safety, qualification, experience, etc. but also to know the intention of the facilitators. Jeanae and Matt are completely dedicated to this work. They are indebted to ayahuasca for everything it has brought into their lives.
Matthew puts 100% of himself into each ceremony and the purity of his intention is clear. We do not take lightly the trust each guest has given us to facilitate an experience with ayahuasca and all her wisdom.
It is our deepest intention to respect ayahuasca and facilitate a therapeutic and healing experience in a supportive space. We hope that we can help you find and focus on your own intention, a commitment to growth.
Our promise is to treat every guest in a compassionate and professional manner. The respect of each guest's process, space, privacy and values is always upheld to the highest standard. We are an intimate center offering small groups of no more than 9 participants per retreat. With over 100 5 star reviews and testimonials, our commitment and dedication to guest is clear.