Substance Abuse

How Ayahuasca and Peyote Affect The Brain

How Ayahuasca and Peyote Affect The Brain

Sometimes, people use certain naturally-occuring substances to create a psychoactive response in search of spiritual meaning. Peyote and ayahuasca are two well-known substances used in many areas of the world to induce a psychoactive high.

While both of these drugs are psychedelics and have some similarities, they're quite different from one another. Here, we'll take a look at what you need to know about ayahuasca and peyote.

What is Ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca tea is a liquid made from brewing the leaves of the psychotria viridis plant and the vine of the banisteriopsis caapi plant. The tea has been used by South American people with the goal of helping people achieve a spiritual experience. In many tribes and groups in South America, ayahuasca ceremonies are associated with healing. Some tribes believe that ayahuasca allows people to get information from parts of the universe inaccessible through the standard human experience.

There are two ingredients in ayahuasca that create the hallucinations and experiences that the tea is known for: DMT (dimethyltryptamine DMT) and MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor). DMT is the chemical that actually causes the psychoactive effects of the drug, and MAOI is necessary to allow the DMT to become active. MAOI stops the body from breaking down DMT.

Typically, ayahuasca's effects begin within an hour of ingestion, and the trip caused by the DMT in ayahuasca can last for up to eight hours. Ayahuasca is usually taken during a ceremony led by a shaman. During preparation for the ceremony, shamans recommend that those who plan to ingest the tea limit their salt and sugar intake and avoid spicy foods.

Preparation for the ceremony takes weeks. Shamans also recommend that ceremony participants arrive at the ceremony clear-headed and focused on what they would like to experience while using the drug.

There are many side effects associated with the use of ayahuasca, including:

panic, tremors, increased blood pressure and heart rate, nausea and vomiting, euphoria, and anxiety.

It's recommended that people who are taking SSRIs (including antidepressants like Zoloft and Prozac) stay away from ayahuasca, as the increase in serotonin in the brain caused by both drugs can result in serotonin overdose and other negative effects.

What is Peyote?

Peyote cactus contains psychoactive compounds, such as the active ingredient mescaline. The plant has been used by Native Americans and indigenous people in Mexico for centuries. Peyote has been used by more than 40 tribes in the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico, and many tribes still use the plant for ceremonial purposes today.

Different tribes use peyote in different ways. Some use the drug for cleansing ceremonies, while others use it for meditation and other therapeutic rites.

While peyote was originally derived from the plant, today, the psychoactive chemical in peyote–mescaline–can also be produced synthetically. The drug is long-acting. While the effects of peyote begin to set in between twenty and ninety minutes following ingestion, some people experience the psychoactive effects of mescaline for up to 12 hours after the initial effects set in.

For some people, peyote is mentally stimulating and seems to help the user see a new perspective. For others, the drug leads to feelings of insanity. In some cases, the use of peyote has led to death.

There are many factors that can influence the type of trip a person has when using peyote, including the expectations that they have for their experience before ingesting the drug. Also, their personality and mood, and how much peyote they ingest.

A person's surroundings can also influence the type of trip they experience. People who have dealt with mental health issues in the past may be more susceptible to the negative effects of peyote than someone who has not experienced mental health issues in the past.

Peyote can be taken as a tea, paste, or as dried crowns. In Mexico, many people use peyote as an external pain reliever, rubbing the dried plant on toothaches, areas of the body with skin problems, and sore joints. In addition to being used for ceremonial purposes, some people use peyote tea to treat diabetes, colds, tuberculosis, gastrointestinal problems, and more.

There are many side effects that can come with the use of peyote, including:

impaired judgment, lack of coordination, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, hallucinations, altered space, time, vision, and color perception, dizziness, dilated pupils, shivering, excessive sweating, and more.

For most people, side effects begin within two hours after ingesting peyote.

Ayahuasca vs Peyote: Similarities

Both ayahuasca and peyote have been used for centuries to create experiences that are meant to bring people closer to their higher power. Both drugs are advised to be taken in a community under the supervision of an experienced guide.

Ayahuasca vs Peyote: Differences

While the main difference between the two drugs are the psychoactive ingredients, it's also important to note that ayahuasca typically provides a far more intense experience than peyote. Ayahuasca tea is rarely used recreationally, while peyote is viewed as a recreational substance in some regions.

Both drugs are capable of producing bad trips, however, many people report that bad trips with ayahuasca are far worse than bad trips with peyote. After a bad ayahuasca trip, some people feel more fearful and anxious about their lives, unable to stop reliving the memories of what they saw during their bad trip.

Both of the drugs are promoted as a way of achieving spiritual insights, but for many people, peyote and ayahuasca have the opposite effect. It's important for people who are considering consuming ayahuasca or peyote to carefully research how the drugs could interact with preexisting mental health conditions.

Potential Long-Term Side Effects of Psychoactive Substances

Some people who use psychoactive substances including peyote and ayahuasca experience life-changing hallucinations that feel positive. Other people, however, are left with long-term negative effects, including an increase in mental health issues, high blood pressure, paranoia, and other more.

Many people who use ayahuasca brews or peyote find that they need to follow up with a mental health professional following their experience. Doing so may help to mitigate the negative effects that can come with the use of psychoactive drugs.

It's also important to consider that peyote and ayahuasca are both deemed illegal by the Drug Enforcement Administration (with exceptions made for certain types of religious ceremony use).


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