Is Ayahuasca a Cure for Bipolar Disorder?

Hi, my name is Sean Blackwell and I have a YouTube channel called bipolarORwakingUP. So this blog piece is intended to help people heal from bipolar disorder – something most people think is incurable and is also on my website, Here’s the post….

Last week I watched a video by Graham Hancock on TED Talks in which he talks about his Ayahuasca experience. [High Existence was cool enough to post the video on another blog about censorship, so I’ll leave that topic for over there.]

Then, around the same time, one of my YouTube viewers asked me about my take on the Hancock video, especially since I’d recently done a video on the relationship between marijuana, drugs and bipolar disorder.

So, even though I´ve talked about the necessity of stopping all drug and marijuana use if you wish to completely recover from so-called bipolar disorder, I think that adding a little extra detail regarding Ayahuasca is important. After all, if you watched Hancock’s video (and just about everything else you will find on the internet) you will know that Ayahuasca has been experienced by many people as a transformative, life changing experience. But the question is,

“If you´ve got bipolar disorder, would Ayahuasca be good for you?”

In Graham Hancock`s video, he shares a number of supposedly ‘controversial’ opinions regarding the use of Ayahuasca within the context of Amazonian shamanism. In truth, I found his perspectives on the whole thing to be nothing new. Just as Terrence McKenna talked about 20 years ago, Hancock sees it a sacred plant which carries within it the spirit of Mother Ayahuasca who comes to teach us about the meaning of life, healing our souls and our planet along the way. Hancock feels that he has had a number of profoundly spiritual experiences on the sacred root. He also says that, one particular time, Mother Ayahuasca cured him of his 24-year addiction to marijuana.

He also says that the “healing” message of Mother Ayahuasca is one that is “received by almost everyone”. Then, going even further, he says that sacred plants like Ayahuasca are illegal because our “society” (I assume the government) wants to deny us access to them, in order to keep us under their control. We live in an insane, sick society, Hancock tells us, and that the solution is for people to be allowed to reconnect with Spirit through the sacred plants. He also says that we will never be able to call ourselves a “free society” unless our governments grant us legal access to using the sacred plants which allow adults to enter sacred states of consciousness in a responsible way.

Now, I have no doubt that Hancock has had a number of therapeutic sessions with this plant. The question is, “Is the beneficial, healing experience of Mother Ayahuasca universal?”

To start, Ayahuasca is legal here in Brazil, where I live, as it has been used in spiritual and religious practices for centuries; so many people here have experience with it. I know some people who have had very positive, spiritual experiences taking it, but also others who have ‘sworn off it’ due to very difficult, often frightening experiences which they felt were of no therapeutic value at all.

Personally, I was interested in taking trying it about 15 years ago, when I visited Peru. However, I chose to stay clear of it after meeting a number of people that had had very disturbing experiences.

Has Ayahuasca been associated with psychiatric hospitalization?
Yes. In fact, we have two members of our Brazilian social network, Alma Bipolar, who, during different Ayahuasca ceremonies, entered into spiritual `psychosis` and were then hospitalized. I don`t know all the details, but one of these guys returned to another Ayahuasca session some time later and – guess what happened? He entered into psychosis again, and was hospitalized again. In both cases, it was the Ayahuasca sessions that initially triggered their so-called bipolar disorder. Both guys are on psychiatric medications today.

Has Ayahuasca been associated with violence?
Yes. Much like Hancock, a few years ago, here in Sao Paulo, a local guy joined an Ayahuasca ceremony which was run by a pastor who uses it to treat people who have drug and alcohol addictions. However, rather than being a ‘healing experience’, the boy entered into a paranoid psychosis, in which he thought he was Jesus Christ. Then, in order to prove to his family that he was Jesus, he decided to kidnap the pastor. Somehow, things went wrong, and while still in a non-ordinary state, the boy murdered the pastor and his son. This was a very famous case that even had the Brazilian government questioning whether or not they should continue to keep Ayahuasca legal.

Also, last year an American boy ended up dead after he went to Peru for a shamanic session with the healing plants. In this case, the details of how he died are very unclear, however, it was obviously far from the ‘healing experience’ the boy had hoped to have with Mother Ayahuasca.

So, it seems that the spirit of Mother Ayahuasca does not always bring beneficial messages to everyone, and in truth, like all other drugs, she may turn your life into a bigger nightmare than it is already.

Now I should point out that every weekend, thousands of people across Brazil drink this plant in a ritualized form, and that horrific incidents are few and far between. However, as I mentioned in my “drug” video, for most of you, using drugs or marijuana is part of the reason you are currently stuck on psychiatric medications. For someone in your situation, I seriously doubt that additional drug use is going to have any therapeutic benefit. Is there someone out there who has had their bipolar disorder cured by Ayahuasca? Maybe. But, in 6-years online, I’ve never met anyone who has been cured of their mental disorder by any drug. However, I know many people who were able to heal their disorder, in part, because they stopped using all drugs and marijuana.

Also, it’s important to mention what my wife called Hancock’s biggest mistake. He seems to think that using sacred plants or other mind altering substances are the ONLY ways to access our connection with Spirit. In truth there are many drug free techniques that allow people to enter into non-ordinary states of consciousness. Personally, I’ve had a number of very profound, spiritual experiences while using drug free practices.

Three terrific practices for deepening your connection with Spirit are:
1) Dr. Stan Grof’s holotropic breathwork (although many therapists will not work with people with a history of mental disorders),
2) Drug-free, shamanic dances, (which usually involve dancing to native chants over a few days, with no food and very little water),
3) Extended meditation sessions, like the 10-day vipassana retreat.

I’ve done all of these practices and feel that I’ve received spiritual healing from all three. I’ve also seen many others do the same.

It should be pointed out, however that these strong experiences are not ideal for people with a history of going into non-ordinary states spontaneously, as they may be too strong, sending you in too deep. What I think we need are practices where we use breathwork, meditation and shamanic dancing in less intense forms, so that people working through difficult materials can do so in a more gentle manner. Right now, there are not many places that do that, as the link between spiritual experiences and mental disorders has still not been recognized by very many people. However, I`m convinced that is where the future lies for healing mental disorders, gently allowing people to enter into non-ordinary states with drug-free approaches, in an emotionally supportive environment.

And finally, I’d say the biggest mistake Hancock makes is the same one made by Terrence McKenna. These spiritual experience we have, are not “given” to us by Mother Ayahuasca, LSD, marijuana, or any other drug. The experiences are not in the drug, they are within your own soul. That´s why they can be accessed without drugs. What the drugs do, either manufactured or organic, is “cut” through our normal ‘ego’ brain functioning, allowing our own soul to come forward. Sometimes, the drugs cut too deep, giving us more than we can handle, leaving us frightened and paranoid. Sometimes they bring up trauma that we are not prepared to face, and, as a result, we may do dangerous things.

Funny enough, I found this great article in Wired magazine confirming this idea – that, in truth Ayahuasca lowers activity in the part of our brain identified with our “sense of self”.

So, my advice, as always, is take it slow….treat your non-ordinary experiences with the respect they deserve. I`m not saying this because I want to deny you your diving right to Ayahuasca….I`m saying this because I hope to see you live free of psychiatric medication and repeated trips to the psychiatric hospital!

And finally, please remember, the Mother is not Ayahuasca.

The Mother is inside of you.
Sean Blackwell

May 21, 2013 at 2:19 pm
Anonymous (0) (@) 8 years, 1 month ago ago

The following link doesn’t mention anything about psychotic states where this man believed himself to be Jesus Christ. It also specifically states, “Folha’s own reporting published today suggests the murder was pre-meditated and not conducted in a hallucinogenic haze.”


And considering that, as new studies are indicating(, psilocybin inhibits brain regions that are responsible for constraining consciousness within the narrow boundaries of the normal waking state, then these states are being “given” to us or brought out by the use of psychedelics.

Sergio (0) (@Sergio-Leal) 2 years, 5 months ago ago

I think what he’s saying is that there are many techniques that exist that are not in need of psychoactive drugs and sit down you ego in order to reach these mystical experiences and healing methods, from breathwork to bodywork to sweat lodges and even trauma healing sometimes in itself. I would asssume the drug is for those who can’t do it themselves without drugs, like maybe aren’t so in tuned with their body or something, but the are definitely risks. I know tons of people who have developed a dissociative disorder after a panic attack on marijuana, and weed is not remotely as strong as ayahuasca is in its psychoactive effects

O’Reilly (804) (@oreilly) 8 years, 1 month ago ago

It couldn’t hurt to try using ayahuasca to deal with bipolar disorders. If anything, it could give you some interesting perspectives on the condition. In any case, taking ayahuasca can only benefit you.

Sergio (0) (@Sergio-Leal) 2 years, 5 months ago ago

It’s almost like you didn’t read this article. To negate the possibility which is statistically significant although not understood which psychedelics and even marijuana is like spitting in the face of researchers and scientists working with psychedelics. 

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