U.S. Teen Dies After Taking Hallucinogenic Drug, Ayahuasca, in Peru

Kyle Nolan's body was discovered by Peruvian Police, buried in the shamanic centre where he took the drug as part of a ritual.

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Wade Davis / Getty Images

A bundle of vines from the Banisteriopsis caapi, a plant used in the powerful Amazonian hallucinogenic preparation ayahuasca; Rio Piraparana, Vaupes Department, Colombia, 2009.

Drug tourism is not rare to parts of the Peruvian rainforest, where travelers from North America and Europe come to sample the supposed healing qualities and hallucinogenic effects of ayahuasca, a traditional herbal medicine.

For Kyle Nolan, an 18 year old from northern California, the trip was fatal. He has been found dead after reportedly consuming the hallucinogenic drug in a ritual at a retreat in Peru.

(MOREDown the Amazon in Search of Ayahuasca)

Peruvian police confirmed on Wednesday that the young American had been found buried on the property of the spiritual retreat of the Shimbre Shamanic Center, where he took the drug on Aug. 22. It sits about 530 miles east of Lima in the Madre de Dios jungle, based in the Peruvian Amazon basin that borders Brazil.

The shaman who led the ritual, Jose Manuel Pineda, has been arrested along with two other men after confessing to have buried Nolan. Pineda, who is also known as “Maestro Mancoluto”, told authorities that the teen died as a result of exceeding the dosage of the hallucinogenic brew.

(MORE: From the TIME Archive: Beyond LSD, 1967)

Nolan’s body was reportedly found the morning after a ceremony at the Shimbre Shamanic Centre, which has its own website advertising the trance-like effects of ayahuasca. His family raised the alarm and launched a media appeal after he failed to return home on August 27.

Ayahuasca literally translates from the Quechua language, spoken in Peru and other Andean countries, to ‘vine of the dead’, or ‘vine of the soul.’

Amazonian Indians have long been taking the drug, which is derived from the ayahuasca plant. It is taken as a brew that is comprised of the ayahuasca vine, tree bark and other plants.

(PHOTOS: Mexico’s Drug War)

The plant contains dimethyltryptamine, DMT, which is outlawed in the U.S. It is often likened to LSD, and the trance-like state that users enter is said to be one of psychological introspection – hence not always an enjoyable experience. In fact, side effects include severe vomiting and diarrhoea, which is why users sometime refer to it as ‘the purge’.

The allure of the drug, which is typically consumed as part of indigenous ceremonies run by a shaman, has attracted tourists to this part of South America keen to experience its trance-like qualities.

Some of its more famous users in the West include musicians such as Tori Amos and indie bands such as the Klaxons. Sting has said in a Rolling Stone interview that it’s not a drug “you’re going to score and have a great time on.”

(MORE: From the TIME Archive: Prop Drugs, The High As A Way Of Life)

45 comments
JackRColton
JackRColton

I just returned from an Ayahuasca retreat in Peru and had an overall positive experience. I generally agree with most of the people posting here, but I also think everyone is a little TOO defensive about the actual dangers of it. Let me be clear, I agree it is relatively safe, but there are definitely still dangers. And if you can't see that, step back and look at it all. Traveling to South America by yourself to do psychedelics in the jungle with a bunch of strangers certainly carries its own set of risks. 


One of the girls in our group fell asleep on her back while puking. Had no one noticed, she could have choked on her own vomit, and it was only by accident that anyone noticed (it was dark, she was covered with a blanket). I (stupidly) left the ceremony while in the middle of a horrible trip and went out into the Amazon jungle by myself in the middle of the night because it seemed like a better idea at the time, obviously that was dangerous. Simply walking the streets of Iquitos, plenty of dubious characters are trying to sell you "ayahuasca," which who knows whats actually in the crap they are trying to pawn off on you. 


And if you actually read this article, the shaman BURIED THE GUY ON HIS LAND. Thats kind of an important thing. It isn't a stretch to say maybe he screwed up the brew, gave everyone too much, something got in it, etc. 


Advice: Do your research, only go to well reviewed retreats, definitely don't be taking other drugs while you're on it, keep your guard up and be smart about it. Its an amazing experience, but, yes, it has dangers.

GiulioJulian
GiulioJulian

I haven't read any of the comments, but for me, it was a very beautiful experience. You have to be ready for it, not super-'strong' necessarily, but just ask yourself. I did, and with an open-mind -but with 'respectful fear/caaution' too - & also being ready for any of the Dark/sadder side of life to come into consciousness in a strong way, but just got very interesting, emotionally profound & illuminating experiences from it. 
So it's not like it's 'cool' thing; not everyone will need or suit its way of 'Medicina'

Let's wait and see; the boy/young adult may have died from something at the same time in life, or shortly in the future.

GinaRiedel
GinaRiedel

I have never used it and don't use drugs, but, they never stated the autopsy results.  So I'm assuming that they are assuming that he overdosed on DMT, which if true, would be a first since it's in everything and our own brain produces it and other than hallucinations it's benign. 

DGaiaCastillo
DGaiaCastillo

So cool to see so many Enlighten Beings here posting!

JohnnyTooBad
JohnnyTooBad

This article is brought to you in part by: Fear. Let's not make it out to look like this was a murder, people are customarily buried when they die. Also, this is not like Lysergic Acid, so let us not say ''it is often likened to LSD''. There is no point to that statement except to use dysphemism, which seems to be a common objective of the article. This drug is not dis-associative, and the side effects are temporary. At least Time wrote about its introspective qualities. But then you have that 'Photos: Mexico's drug war' so eloquently put in the middle of the article for again no reason than to please some fear mongering rich conservatives or something, and make bad associations with DMT. Ayahuasca has nothing to do with mexican cartels and other crazy nonsense like the time and the government of the united states wants you to think, except that many other countries have idiot laws that have it banned, under penalty of putting you in a metal cage like a vicious animal.

Iona-KathrynEvans
Iona-KathrynEvans

'Drug tourism' - pfffff. 

Ayahuasca is a tool people use, it's not a 'drug' that one using sensibly would want to score on! 

brilliantyahknow
brilliantyahknow

One person dies from ayahuasca, 60,000 died from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rofecoxib.  22,000 people died from prescription drugs in 2010 and they don't even get their own article.  That would be a lot of sensational articles wouldn't it?  Imagine anti-big-pharma press?  That's right, there is no anti-big-pharma press.  End of story.

ChristopherLanne
ChristopherLanne

This article is full of incorrect information and actually share no information as to the cause of death.  I encourage everyone to do their own research and if you choose to use ayahuasca, use it responsibly.  It's not a drug, it's a shamanic journey that should be done with deep spiritual honoring and intention.

soma
soma

DMT shocks the cardiovascular system - heart rate and blood pressure go up rapidly at the onset. There might be a remote possibility of that causing someone to go into cardiac arrest, similar to how otherwise-healthy athletes drop stone dead during a competition.

Also, DMT is a naturally-occuring substance in the human body. It is released into the brain upon death (or near-death).

MichaelBlackman
MichaelBlackman

Time is a piece of crap for a rag unworthy of wiping ones ass on.

maineydude
maineydude

this article is a demonizing article... I want to know how he really passed away, like cause of death... my guess (since I have partaken ayahuasca) is that he was throwing up & in a wrong position like lying down or something and he choked on his vomit... not the ayahuasca's fault but the person who would put him in that position

NoahVickstein
NoahVickstein

There are often admixtures added to the teas, so it isn't so simple as identifying a singular chemical compound.  It's possible that Brugmansia was used--with which it would be relatively easy to overdose.  There is absolutely no reason to assume that this experience is inherently dangerous given its long and storied history of use.  It would be interesting to know if the boy was on any medications or if there were evidence of other potential complications.  I'm not sold that someone deserves punishment in this case (or most cases for that matter).

PrincesitaCRose
PrincesitaCRose

@DjLORDofficial @TIMENewsFeed THEY SAY THIS ABOUT ALL DRUGS BECAUSE WRONG DOSE CAN BE LETHAL THEN MAKE THEM ILLEGAL - SORRY FOR THEIR LOSS.

Rak Razam
Rak Razam

Pedro Tangoa Pedro

Tangoa, de la etnia shipibo que aparece en la fotografia con su cabello

largo y tunica y su hermana Flora, pide a las personas que publican

este articulo, no utilizar mas este imagen porque es muy grave, muchos

personas del mundo pueden pensar que yo soy responsable de la muerte del

joven americano, Tengo una escuela de chamanes y soy el Presidente, por

favor no publicar mas mi imagen. Muchas gracias.October 3 at 7:55am · Like  Pedro Tangoa - the Shipibo Maestro who appears in the photograph ( wearing a tunic and with his hair long) with his sister Flora ask people who wish to publish this article to no longer use this image because many people around the world could think incorrectly that I was responsible for the death of the young American. I am the President and founder of a Shamanic School so please do not publish my photograph any more. Many thanks. (translation on behalf of Pedro Tangoa)

 

truthfrequency
truthfrequency

From what we've gathered from guests on our radio show who had firsthand experience with the Shimbre Center (and who was also pretty horrified at the way it was started and run) - You can download it from http://www.truthfrequencyradio... -  and from our own experiences with Ayahuasca, "overdose" just doesn't cut it. What most likely occurred was that he was left unattended during a ritual which usually requires constant attention and guidance from the shaman, due to overcrowding at the center (along with other things going on there that our friend alluded to). There are always other factors that could have been involved (like MAOI interactions as Baden was referring to). However, the LAST thing that needs to happen is for these entheogens to once again be demonized and thrown out the window, we've done that for thousands of years on and off - It doesn't work. Rather, if we can try to open up scientific research to better study these compounds and develop ways to prevent those kinds of catastrophes from occurring, that would be much healthier for society in the long run.

Randall Bart
Randall Bart

I don't believe it is possible to die directly from an overdose of Ayahuasca.   However, there are several apparent ways he could have died.  If he brought some refined DMT he might have died of DMT overdose.  The MAO inhibitor might interact with other drugs he had taken.  A person with sleep apnea might fall asleep in a position where breathing is obstructed and not wake up. 

loroayahuasca
loroayahuasca

Pedro Tangoa - the Shipibo Maestro who appears in the photograph ( wearing a tunic and with his hair long) with his sister Flora ask people who wish to publish this article to no longer use this image because many people around the world could think incorrectly that I was responsible for the death of the young American. I am the President and founder of a Shamanic School so please do not publish my photograph any more. Many thanks.

Juan Grisales
Juan Grisales

It makes me mad to read this article... Obviously whoever wrote it, has no idea of what Ayahuasca is.  I, also, went to the amazons to tried Ayahuasca.  I can say that it has been the most beautiful ritual I have ever done!  It is not a drug, it is a MAGICAL experience!!!

theliter
theliter

absolute propaganda.. what was conveniently left out of this propaganda piece was a basis for comparison amp; the surrounding realities i.e. during this same time period how many thousands of people died from alcohol, tobacco, amp; pharmaceutical medications..

ayahuasca/dmt naturally occurs in all living organisms; in amp; of itself ayahuasca isn't fatal, a proper investigation would likely reveal big pharmas hand in this.. by way of paxil, ritalin, etc.. which are fatal by themselves, amp; don't naturally occur, when combined with alcohol  other prescription meds, amp; yes ayahuasca the fatal aspects of big pharmas poisons are intensified.. btw that sting interview actually said he has used ayahuasca amp; has said it was one of the only truly religious experience he has had.. ergo the statement you're not going to score this drug amp; have a great time on it.This plant has been used by the shaman for all types of things form headaches to cloth dye.. I've never experienced it personally but I do my research.. the war on plants rages on...

anon
anon

I spent weeks living in the jungle outside Iquitos researching shamanic practice for a novel. www.amazon.com/And-Then-Magic-...

There are plenty of sham shamans catering to the acid trip tourism. Ayahuasca needs to be respected for what it is - a powerful healer with potent attributes. The purge is not a side effect - it is a part of the journey and a real shaman like any doctor, guages the correct dosage. As everywhere in life - buyer beware

Brett Greene
Brett Greene

People die from mountain climbing fairly often.  And yet, we don't sit around discussing why hiking mountains should be banned.  Ayahuasca is very much like climbing a mountain (in the bitter cold, sometimes).  This is a tragedy that this man went to seek help from this sacred medicine and ended up buried.  It's extremely rare for someone to die from Ayahuasca; it's far more likely that someone would be healed from it.

Ayahuasqueros tend to use special admixtures in their brews.  Often, the ayahuascsa will tell the shaman which plants to add and in what quantity.  It's possible he had an allergic reaction from one of these admixtures.  Unfortunately, we can't enjoy the myriad positives of ayahuasca freely and openly in this country which means that people have to travel to places where it's less regulated and where hospitals are not plentiful nor of Western quality.  It would be most tragic if this event led to a propaganda war against the medicine when what is most needed is transparency, regulation and promotion of it.

sageburner
sageburner

And here comes the propaganda, trying to scare people into not using this mind opening, life changing, sacred medicine. Let's not even mention all the healing that comes from it,  for thousands of people.

sageburner
sageburner

And here comes the propaganda, trying to scare people into not using this mind opening, life changing, sacred medicine. Let's not even mention all the healing that comes from it,  for thousands of people.

Baden Lucas
Baden Lucas

A number of reasons why this could happen. If he was on any prescribed anti-depression medication or other substances such as cocaine then there's a risk indeed. Its highly unlikely that Ayahuasca was the direct cause. Other variables would for sure be involved. This is propaganda undoubtedly. Even if it was just as simple as an overdose, thousands of people die from proscription medication, alcohol and cigarets every year... Do the research in to

Ayahuasca to see how many lives this medicine has actually saved.

Nick Polizzi
Nick Polizzi

Ayahuasca rarely kills.  The brew will definitely make you feel like

you're going to die, but very few cases have been reported of fatal

overdose. 

There's something fishy going on here and I have a feeling there is

crucial information being withheld.  You can't trust the folks who

buried this poor kid in the yard to tell the full truth about how he

died.  CSI Lima, get on it!

Read more: http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/...

Nick Polizzi
Nick Polizzi

Ayahuasca rarely kills.  The brew will definitely make you feel like you're going to die, but very few cases have been reported of fatal overdose. 

There's something fishy going on here and I have a feeling there is crucial information being withheld.  You can't trust the folks who buried this poor kid in the yard to tell the full truth about how he died.  CSI Lima, get on it!

Brad Holman
Brad Holman

Looks like someone failed their fortitude save.

 

macewan
macewan

@GinaRiedel my understanding was that he drank too much... seeing that he was young I doubt he followed the dietary guide...

JohnPaulCrawford
JohnPaulCrawford

@ChristopherLanne ayahuasca contains more than just DMT. The jurema tree (mimosa hostilis) contributes the DMT, but the caapi vine (banistriopsis caapi) contributes harmaline and other MAOI's. If he died as a result of overdosing, it is far more likely that it was an excess of MAOI's that killed him.

MichaelBlackman
MichaelBlackman

@PrincesitaCRose yes ban it and turn it into a black market commodity for the criminal underworld to exploit like heroin and methamphetamines and cocaine because banning those drugs has been such a smash hit success (NOT)

macewan
macewan

@Rak Razam I noticed that TIME has not responded. You deserve an answer.

KamJos
KamJos

Have you written a letter to TIME? I agree your picture should not be used. 

maineydude
maineydude

@Juan Grisales i agree brother, a nice spiritual journey... fascinating how you perceive things during and after

Nathan Horowitz
Nathan Horowitz

That's all fine that it's a mind opening, life changing, healing, sacred medicine, and I agree with that, but it's not propaganda to simply report a death, especially one in unclear circumstances. 

Nick Polizzi
Nick Polizzi

 Agreed.  There are numerous contraindications to Ayahuasca.  You would be hard pressed to find one documented fatality from the plant medicine alone.

Margie B. Pierce
Margie B. Pierce

In fact, side effects include severe vomiting and diarrhoea, which is why users sometime refer to it as ‘the purge’. http://Ace16.com

macewan
macewan

@JohnPaulCrawford @ChristopherLanne Agreed. It was found that he drank too much. Probably ignored all prep recommendations too - like diet. This kid was not prepped. The author of this article & his family is absolutely clueless about this medicine.


It works wonders on depression. Deep seated depression and so much more. Looks to me like they told little timmy that if he wanted to do this he'd have to save his own money to go off to the jungle for drugs. Naive. 

Baden Lucas
Baden Lucas

Yes but I'm almost curtain information is being withheld. The Shaman obviously is illegitimate considering he attempted to cover it up. The whole thing is just disappointing and I would hate people to get mislead as subsequent to the reports on the case.

Nathan Horowitz
Nathan Horowitz

By whom do you think information is being withheld? Maybe the shaman himself and his two confederates. But I don't know why anyone else would withhold information. That particular shaman has been extremely controversial in ayahuasca circles for his practice of giving people ayahuasca to drink and then leaving them alone in isolation with nature. Many people urged the owner of the center to make him shape up or get rid of him. No reputable shaman leaves patients alone after drinking.