The news about ayahuasca:
Ayahuasca is a molecular soup that grows your brain. A study of mice brain cells in petri dishes showed that ingredients in the brew help neurons develop. Alzheimer's, depression and other broken brains may re-weave connections when cells are bathed in the tea.
It's attracting big philanthropists. George Sarlo, 74, used ayahuasca to heal his wounds from the Holocaust, and is donating millions to psychedelic research. "I think psychedelics should be seen as a kind of 'transformative medicine,'" Sarlo says. "They really do have the potential to change the world." He joins other big donors, like Dr. Bronner's Soaps.
It's a religious revival. Among Amazon natives, ayahuasca has a religious role, as well as a medicinal one. Now, in the North, handfuls of self-organizing religions are springing up, from Oregon to the Czech Republic. This month, there was news from a few fledgling faiths, including a low-key group in Minnesota and a higher-profile group in Canada lead by an ex-MMA fighter who, in typical MMA fighter language, called aya "a juice cleanse times a thousand." People organize as religions in part because ayahuasca churches are sometimes — but not always — left alone by governments, and in some cases are explicitly given permission to use the tea, like last month with a religion in Canada.
Ayahuasca inspires musicians. An up-and-coming singer-songwriter says he had a creative block and "ayahuasca was like Drano” for his block; Paul Simon says his classic song "Spirit Voices" is about his ayahuasca trips; electronic musician Random Rab says ayahuasca let him "see sound and touch sound"; Avicii Instagrammed about it.
Ayahuasca has a dark side. Because it disorients you, shady shamanic sham artists use it like club rapists use GHB. This happens often in the Amazon, in North America and in Asia, at alarmingly high rates. In Hong Kong two years ago, a 43-year-old Hong Kong man gave a 23-year-old German woman an ayahuasca brew filled not just with jungle plants, but with vodka and a roofie. Then he raped her. This month he was sentenced to 12 years in prison. (To stay safe, there are more and less reputable retreats, and a few that are women-only.)
Aya is driving techy projects. Australia's ABC has a cool interactive oral story. A virtual reality game simulates a trip.
It's part of an industry that's in its infancy. For my paying job at Rooster Magazine, I wrote a story I don't think anyone has quite written before, and that I'm asking you to read and share. It's called "The Next Drug Industry." It compares the state of psychedelics (including ayahuasca) today to the state of cannabis 20 years ago. Twenty years ago, remember, cannabis was totally illegal, totally marginalized and few people thought of it as a helpful medicine. Today, it's practically a health food. Grandmas use it. Athletes. Thinkers. Same thing seems likely to happen with psychedelics. It's fringe now, but won't always be. Psychedelics may be less lucrative and widespread than cannabis, but may change lives and in deeper ways, because they're much more powerful. And, yes — there will be jobs in psychedelics — there already are.
Here's some of the art my graphics guy cooked up. We were envisioning a future in which ads for psychedelics appear in your world as seamlessly as cannabis does now.
Those ads — though fake — advertise real things that either exist right now — like AyaMundo's trips and CIIS's psychedelic training programs — or will likely exist soon — such as MAPS's MDMA therapy.
Psychedelic swami and general good guy Dennis McKenna lets us know that he's running more retreats to Peru and is selling his cool recent book. McKenna works hard. And he likes to say that he doesn't do all this work for himself, but that he "works for the plants." "I just didn’t think the plants were gonna work me so darn hard!" he jokes.
The global ayahuasca survey is looking for experience reports.
If you want to do ayahuasca but don't want to join a religion — or maybe even if you do — there's AyaMundo and AyaAdvisors. Need help making sense of it afterward? Classes are available from Psychedelics Today, from a life coach named Tina "Kat" Courtney and from the Denver Psychedelic Club.
I write AyaNews for free, because my 44 trips over 10 years have treated my addiction and acedia as well as anything else in my life — except maybe exercise, meditation and therapy — certainly better than any pill.