Enlightenment, at a Cost

Email a Friend

In trend-obsessed places like Brooklyn and Silicon Valley, ayahuasca, an ancient Amazonian hallucinogen, is experiencing a boom. The psychedelic is brewed from two plants traditionally found in the Amazon. Many users of the drug have reported transformative effects during trips, and researchers have found that the drug has positive effects on conditions like P.T.S.D. But a dose of ayahuasca comes at a price: the drug can induce its user to vomit, then cry, scream, and experience visions of death. Ariel Levy interviews the ethnopharmacologist Dennis McKenna, who first used ayahuasca during the psychedelic frenzy of the nineteen-sixties. And she tells David Remnick about her night in an ayahuasca circle, where she was the target of “the Victoria Falls of vomit.”