It all started with innocent curiosity.
UPDATE 22/08/2017 — This story was published on Ayahuasca Risks:
Ayahuasca Risks is dedicated to sharing stories like this and informing people of the dangers of doing it so that they know what they are getting into.
If you’re reading this then you’re probably like me: a seeker. I too was searching for a solution to my low self-esteem, my spiritual curiosity. It all started when I met a dating coach, who on the surface, seemed like a chilled out, normal guy, in a happy relationship. “I want what he’s got”, I thought.
I heard through the grapevine he did Ayahuasca and DMT ceremonies, and that was the secret to his success. “What’s DMT?”, I naively asked. Little did I know it was one of the most powerful hallucinogens in the world. Don’t get me wrong: I was doing more than good enough in my dating life — going on several dates a week with very attractive women. But something was missing. When I heard about this drug, I thought, “yes, that must be what is missing!”
So on my next session, I asked him about it. He said he ran regular ceremonies at his house and I could come along if I wanted to, but he said to do my research to make sure I know what I was getting into.
So like many people, I started Googling. I found out that DMT is the psychoactive component in Ayahausca — a supposed “plant medicine” which has been celebrated by some as a cure for various sicknesses, such as depression, anxiety, and heroine addiction. As a work addict myself, I was certainly intrigued. The drug is meant to be in and out of your system within 5 minutes — which is why it is nicknamed a “businessman’s trip”. DMT is also apparently in your system already, unlike LSD. What could be the harm? What happened next was the definition of living hell.
I pensively took a few hits from the vape gun and closed my eyes. “Hmm I’m not sure it’s work-”, I said before suddenly, my vision turned into a mosaic of red and yellow triangles, and I was travelling through a tunnel. I then saw elephants which started multiplying, which then grew wings. For a few minutes, I was high — it was unlike anything I had ever seen or experienced. I felt like I had travelled to another world. I also felt like at one point I was on a train in India (there was Indian music playing in the background — no surprise there), and that I was talking to God himself (yeah, right). All in all, a pleasant trip.
However, nothing could have prepared me for what was about to happen next.
The beginning of my living hell
I went home that night, feeling a bit confused about what I had experienced, and a little bit shaken, but glad that I did the experience. As I was walking home, the patterns on the pavement, drains, and walls really stood out. It felt a bit overwhelming. I thought it was probably my brain coming down from the DMT, so I didn’t think too much of it.
The next morning however, patterns on things like my floorboards felt really strange. Still, I tried to ignore it, and carry on with my day. I went to the shops, came back home. Suddenly, I started having what felt like an anxiety attack (I never had one before). I thought I might be coming down still, so I thought some fresh air and a stroll in the park would calm my nerves.
As I was walking in the park, the grass looked overwhelming. In fact, I felt overstimulated. I felt very fragile, and everything was making me paranoid. I thought some meditation would help, but even that didn’t work. By the evening I was seriously freaked out, so much so that I ended up going to A&E. They put me on Diazepam and a drip, and said I would probably be fine in a few days.
The next day however, I was more freaked out. I became more and more anxious. Eventually I couldn’t stand it anymore. I was desperate. I felt as if I was just scared to exist. I decided to find my nearest Narcotics Anonymous meeting. If there was anyone who would understand what I was going through, I would find them there. As soon as I arrived I burst into tears there saying that I did DMT and was freaked out. They were supportive and understanding, and I will forever be grateful to the fellows who helped me.
The next day however, I became even more anxious. I had such a bad panic attack that I had to call an ambulance. They did various tests, all of which were OK, and said I would be fine in a few days. However, I only got worse, and worse, and worse.
I began to experience what is known as “DPDR” also known as Depersonalisation/Derealisation. This is where there is so much panic in the nervous system that the body starts releasing opioids into your system because it thinks you are about to die and so life feels very dream-like. It also meant for me that I started not recognising things, such as trees, which terrified me.
In this altered state of consciousness, I began to obsess about the nature of existence, to the point of insanity and asking my therapist to have me sectioned.
I then started to get panic attacks every time I saw patterns on anything (be it clothing, flooring, textiles). I couldn’t use the London Underground (using it made me feel like I was being suffocated).
Plants started to freak me out — they felt “alien”. By this point, my therapist was seriously concerned and suspected I had drug-induced psychosis. I went to my nearest A&E again and told them about everything that happened and was distressed. They calmly suggested I go to the Mental Health Unit for assessment.
I was placed in a secure holding room for a few hours, and I felt incredibly guilty; I was a successful software developer, not a drug addict. What was I doing messing around with powerful drugs?! I began to cry my eyes out. I felt like I had screwed my life up because of one really bad decision. I started praying to God (if he still existed) and pleading.
The slow crawl out of hell
The psychiatric assessors came back. They said “we have good news and bad news. The good news is that you’re not crazy and we’re not going to section you. The bad news… is that you have severe anxiety”. Thank God. I left the hospital feeling shaken and confused, and got some food at a local cafe. I heard a song come on the radio — a Bob Marley song, and the lyrics were “we’ll get together, praise the lord and feel alright”. Funny coincidence.
It’s now been a while now since my ordeal and I’m still not fully recovered and have episodes of paranoia and hyper-vigilance. However, I have made great progress with mindfulness, medication, therapy, and most importantly, having fun. Some people knock Western medicine — for me though, I think it saved my life.
I honestly wanted to kill myself at times because I was in so much anxiety. It was unbearable. Thankfully, I am still here and I was able to withstand the storm, and I continue to recover everyday. Through recovery I also met some wonderful friends who had similar mental breakdowns from other hallucinogens, and they have been very supportive and inspiring for me, and it’s reassuring to see them living normal lives.
I know some will read this article and find any number of ways to justify their drug-taking, for example “Yeah but did you do the ceremony properly? Did you have a lot of trauma you were suppressing? If you had done shrooms before you wouldn’t have had that experience” Etc. etc.
My other friends who had similar mental breakdowns did a lot of LSD and other drugs, and still had their experience. And everyone carries trauma in some form — who has a perfect childhood? I’ve also read of similar psychotic breakdowns from people travelling to Peru and doing formal Ayahuasca ceremonies.
I had a good life before doing DMT and my mental health was fine. Since my psychotic breakdown, I’ve developed PTSD, have been declared unfit to work, and have flashbacks and insomnia. I never had a panic attack in my life before doing it. I’ve had to spend thousands on therapy and medication, not to mention money lost from not being able to work properly and having ruined my career.
What’s concerning is that more and more people are seeking to experiment with things like Ayahuasca and micro-dosing on LSD — and this includes people who are well-educated and successful in business. In fact, one of my friends who is a successful entrepreneur proudly swears by doing Ayahuasca several times a year!
If one person reads my horror story and decides to change their mind about doing DMT or Ayahuasca, fantastic. And if you do decide to take experiment with them, know this: you are playing with a loaded gun, and you might end up taking one trip too many.
And just because DMT is in your body already, it doesn’t mean it’s good for you!
Note: Hallucinogens can be fatal when mixed with any form of anti-depressants including over-the-counter ones like 5-HTP and St. John’s Wort. DMT is classified as a Class A drug and the maximum penalty for possession is seven years in jail and/or an unlimited fine, and for dealing, a life sentence and/or an unlimited fine.