Ayahuasca has grown in popularity in recent years among yogis and people seeking spiritual experiences. Yet, in addition to spiritual revelations, the drug can also have nasty effects. Here you can read everything about the drug, what it does to you and what effects it can have. 

What is Ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca is a South American hallucinogenic drink often taken during rituals and ceremonies. Ayahuasca means 'vine of the soul'. It owes its name to the lianas from which the drink is made and the often spiritual feelings experienced by users. Other names used for the drug are: Yagé, Hoasca and Caapi. The drink is reddish brown in color and has a very bitter taste.  

A commonly used nickname is 'La Purga' which means 'purification' in Spanish. This nickname is because the user often vomits and has diarrhea during the intoxication. Amazonian Indians have used this drink for centuries in religious rituals and they believe that vomiting is caused by the body's rejection of impurities.


Dimethyltryptamine, also known as DMT, is a psychoactive drug that changes the perception of stimuli in the brain. The substance DMT is produced in organisms, including various plants, and occurs naturally in small amounts in the human body.

Two plants are used in making ayahuasca. The basis of the drink is the liana of the vine Banisteriopsos Caapi. This is supplemented with the leaves of Psychotria Viridis. The liana ensures that the DMT from the leaves is not immediately broken down and can therefore be active in the body for longer.

The effect of ayahuasca

Ayahuasca in the right dose causes a strong intoxication with visual hallucinations and visions. Normally, the substance DMT is quickly broken down in the body, but adding the Caapi plant to the ayahuasca slows down this process. This allows the substance to reach the brain and the psychedelic effects of the drug can be felt.

In the beginning, the effects of Ayahuasca are often unpleasant. You become nauseous, dizzy, sweat profusely and may experience vomiting or diarrhoea. The throwing up is seen from the traditional interpretation of the drug as a cleansing. It is the release of psychological ballast. This refers to negative emotions, patterns or other psychological mechanisms that get in someone's way.

Then the hallucinations usually start. Some people experience it as if they are in a kaleidoscope. They see brightly colored and moving geometric structures. Users of the drug also sometimes claim to have religious and mystical experiences. Sometimes this even involves contact with strange creatures.       


During an ayahuasca ceremony, people often drink the drink in groups of 15 to 50 at the same time under the guidance of a shaman. In most cases, these shamans come from Amazonian tribes, where they have been dealing with this drug and ceremonies for centuries. Traditionally, these shamans have followed a long training in which knowledge is passed on from one shaman to another.

The ceremonies in which ayahuasca is used usually take place after sunset. During the ritual, the participants sit or lie down in a circle. There is often no or very little light and each participant has their own mat and bucket. The shaman gives the participants the ayahuasca and sometimes there is singing or music. Also, when the drug takes effect there can be hours of silence interrupted only by the sound of people throwing up.     

Despite the fact that ayahuasca has been used for centuries by different tribes, it has also become increasingly popular in the Western world since 2010. In the Netherlands we are now seeing an increase in the number of providers of the drug and the ceremonies. Ayahuasca tourism is also increasing in the Amazon. This commercialization comes with risks: ceremonies are increasingly held by inexperienced people. Because there is no control over the providers, the quality of the sessions can vary greatly. This can lead to unsafe situations.  

Addiction and treatment

Negative emotions, trauma and insecurities can surface just like with any tripping agent. Users can become very frightened during the ceremony due to the hallucinations they experience. The experience can even be so intense that it can be experienced as traumatic.

In addition, ayahuasca can increase blood pressure and heart rate. The drug can also be life-threatening if it is combined with medicines such as antidepressants and ayahuasca can provoke psychosis in people who are sensitive to it.

Long-term effects are not yet known due to a lack of research. As a result, it is currently unknown whether ayahuasca can be addictive. 

Are you or do you know someone who is addicted and do you need help with that? Then please contact us. Bee Castle Craig we have more than 20 years of experience in treating people with addictions. Look at the page about 'Our addiction care' for more information about our treatment methods.