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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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