Using Ayahuasca to Help Brazilian Prisoners

In stark contrast to the treatment of prisoners in the United States, therapists working with some prisoners in Brazil have implemented a holistic approach to treating inmates with meditation, yoga and Reiki. Now they have gone a step further in the hopes of initiating changes for the inmates at a deep spiritual level…

As reported in The New York Times: Two years ago, the volunteer therapists at Acuda (a pioneering prisoners’ rights group in Porto Velho) had a new idea: Why not give the inmates ayahuasca as well? The Amazonian brew, which is generally made by blending and boiling a vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) with a leaf (Psychotria viridis), is growing in popularity in Brazil, the United States and other countries.

“Many people in Brazil believe that inmates must suffer, enduring hunger and depravity,” said Euza Beloti, 40, a psychologist with Acuda. “This thinking bolsters a system where prisoners return to society more violent than when they entered prison.” At Acuda, she said, “we simply see inmates as human beings with the capacity to change.”

Growing throughout the Amazonian rain forest, the herbal medley is a potent catalyst for expanded awareness. From : “In Ecuador and Peru this medicine is known as Ayahuasca, a Quechua Indian word meaning, ironically, ‘vine of the dead’. In Columbia and parts of Brazil, the Tupi Indian name Yage (pronounced Ya-hay) is used, and among Amazonia’s proliferating mestizo religious cults it is called Daime… While each shaman has his own secret formula for the mixture (with probably no two exactly alike), it has been established that true ayahuasca always contains both beta-carboline and tryptamine alkaloids, the former (harmine and harmaline) usually obtained from the Banisteriopsis caapi vine, and the latter (N, N-dimethyl-tryptamine, or DMT) from the leaves of the Psychotria viridis bush. (There may be variations among plant species, but the alkaloids are always consistent.)”

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by Staff