Taking any Psychedelic Medicine comes with significant unique risks. The Psychedelic experience places the participant in a very vulnerable state of mind, which is completely open to suggestion.
Set and Setting
The term referred to most often when discussing safety in psychedelics is ‘Set and Setting’; originally coined by Al Hubbard in the ’50s. This is a good place to begin…
‘Set’ refers to your mind(set) or what you are bringing to the ceremony with you. (eg. drama, various problems, outstanding tasks, etc.)
‘Setting’ refers to the environmental components of the ceremonial space. Eg. sound and music, your host and assistant, other participants, the medicine, etc.
You should have a good sense of your host’s competence, experience, and integrity. You need to go into the ceremony with complete trust that the facilitator, that he/she is working towards your best interests and has your back.
There exist contraindications with the MAOI (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitor) in the medicine and certain foods and medications.
‘Monoamine Oxidases are a family of enzymes that are found bound to the outer membrane of the mitochondria in most cell types of the body. MAO are important in the breakdown of monoamines ingested in food, and also serve to inactivate monoamine neurotransmitters. Because of the later, they are involved in a number of psychiatric and neurological diseases, some of which can be treated with Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors or MAOI which clock the action of MAOs.’ wiki
It is important that you understand these contraindications before embarking on an Ayahuasca journey. An ethical host will provide information regarding these contraindications so that you will have the opportunity to prepare and, possibly, consult with you physician.
Although there are additional guidelines and warnings with respect to certain foods containing Tyramine (largely fermented foods), The contraindications with the MAOI contained in Ayahuasca is the most serious matter.
There are no guarantees in the bold and relatively new psychedelic space. There are a lot of unethical practitioners out there whose main motivator is money. There are just as many hosts who might take advantage of women or men, in their vulnerable state of mind. Please do not think that if you go to South America things will be any better. Indeed, it may not.
The Bottom Line
The large centers have a reputation to protect so your safety is,, more or less, assured. But, then, you may be paying upwards of $6.000US or more for a 7 or 14 day retreat.
Some things to look for –
- Is there a Medical Questionnaire? There should be!
- Is it a (safe) Ceremonial ‘Setting’ / other participants?
- Does the host exude safety, compassion, and empathy?
- Does the host stress ‘Set’, ‘Setting’, and Dieta?
- What happens after the event? Integration, getting home?