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THIS IS LIFE WITH LISA LING
Aired November 1, 2014 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LISA LING, CNN NARRATOR (voice-over): Psychedelics, alternate realities, mind expansion. If you think that sounds like the '60s, take a closer look. These American tourists are under the spell of a hallucinogenic plant mixture called Ayahuasca. It's made from a jungle vine, and it's proponents claim it's transforming their lives.
What has Ayahuasca done for you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Raised my level of vibration, raised my self- awareness.
LING: Are these psychedelic adventures actually leading the way to new levels of consciousness? Or are they experimenting with a potentially lethal substance?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't know what it would be. What if it's not Ayahuasca.
LING: Jungle healers claim it holds the promise of cures that defy modern medicine for centuries.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And there's no way to prepare yourself until you actually go there.
LING: The truth is hidden deep in the heart of the Amazon jungle. We're going there to find out if a so-called healing vine can really transform lives and soothe troubled souls.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like to have Ayahuasca all the time.
LING: In a peaceful town in Pennsylvania's heartland, a successful internet entrepreneur is raising his family. This is 40-year-old Stan.
STAN, 40-YEARS-OLD: Fire.
LING: From the outside, he's got it all. Two adorable daughters, and a beautiful wife named Beergit. You might think Stan has the perfect life. But you'd be wrong. He's been haunted by a traumatic event over three decades old.
STAN: I was 6 years old. I ended up getting molested by a stranger outside the house. That changed things for me.
LING: How do you think that event shaped the rest of your life?
STAN: I always thought I could have fought him off and done better, but I can't picture fighting off this bigger person. It definitely put a cloud over things, and I distinctly remember after, maybe like a week or two after, I remember saying, like, I'm different. Like, I'm scared of the world. There was a violent element to it. So it really overloaded my nervous system. I remember saying, why does everything look kind of, not so colorful like this used to.
LING: In the years following this traumatic event, Stan grew up living a typical middle-class life, but continued to be haunted by his past. With each milestone, he hoped his bleak moods would disappear. They didn't. No one knows this better than Stan's wife Beergit.
BEERGIT, STAN'S WIFE: I fell in love with him. So it was just like, my God, this beautiful person. But I always felt like he was holding back something and I just couldn't get to it. He could transform into this genius, awesome, glowing person, and he is that. Part of him is that too. But then he's got that shadow, and I guess some people get more sad than others.
LING: How bad is his depression?
BEERGIT: Sometimes he will just lay in bed, like doesn't want to get up. Or he will not go to sleep. And it creates, like, friction and arguments, and you just can't really talk to him.
LING: When he's in the grip of depression, Stan feels the need to isolate. Even as his family gathers, he pulls away, cutting himself off from those he loves.
How does that make you feel? That he can't have dinner with you and the girls?
BEERGIT: It's horrible.
LING: Therapy, meditation, antidepressants, Stan's tried them all, and nothing's worked. Now he's ready to try something extreme. Stan is preparing to fly to the jungles of Peru in search of a cure, in the form of a powerful hallucinogenic concoction called Ayahuasca.
What are you hoping happens over the course of the next 12 days?
STAN: I'm hoping to go to resolve that, that kind of lingering, indefinable, dark cloud that's, you know, kind of follows me around. And not have it there anymore, so it's not subverting my life. So I'm hoping Ayahuasca will help me go inward and have it heal me.
LING: We're off to Peru, where we're going to meet Stan. He's someone who has just had this tortured soul for the last 30 years. And he's hoping that this substance, that's illegal here in the U.S., is going to heal him. We'll see.
Stan's journey will take him to South America, to the frontier town of Ekeetos (ph), located deep in the Peruvian Amazon. This tropical outpost has become the epicenter of a growing industry of Ayahuasca tourism.
I'm on my way to a jungle retreat, one of many run by ex-pat Americans. These forests produce many of our modern medicines, and I want to find out if Ayahuasca could someday become one of them.
This is Elpugero or the Purger, a collection of simple huts tucked away in the forest. It's amazing to me there are over a hundred of these Ayahuasca centers in this part of Peru, almost all of them are run by foreigners and most of them don't have electricity or even running waters. But yet, people are coming. They are coming and they are staying in little huts like this one, because they say they're not finding what they need back home.
Here, Stan hopes to find solace. And he's seeking it from this man. Ron Wheelock (ph), aka, the Gringo Shaman. He's a former mechanic and pot dealer from Kansas, who spent two decades in Peru, cooking up psychedelic teas in his role as Shaman or traditional healer.
I meet up with Stan and Ron at Elpugero as the Gringo Shaman breaks down the mix used in Ayahuasca brew, acclaimed as the most powerful in the region.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are the leaves of the (INAUDIBLE), the chalepanga (ph), it contain five (INAUDIBLE). This is shock ruina (ph), this contains Indian DENT (ph). And these are from the Chidey mango (ph).
LING: For millennia, native Shaman in the Amazon has tapped this jungle pharmacy for all types of cures. But in the past decade, thousands of American tourists have flocked here, seeking help from local medicine men, including a new wave of Gringo healers like Ron.
A ten-day retreat at Elpugero costs about a thousand dollars and attracts a wide range of seekers from across the globe. A father and daughter from Canada, an online entrepreneur, the son of a successful CEO, and a professor from Belgium. Like Stan, these travelers are serious. They want healing for mind, body, and soul.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what's the strongest part in the Ayahuasca, is it the bark or the whole thing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actually, when you harvest the whole plant, best you take the root. The root is the strongest part.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Each one of you, tear it open, and put one in.
LING: To produce this powerful potion, this mixture of leaves and vines is combined with water, then simmered for hours over an open flame. In Peru, this psychedelic mixture, which locals call "the medicine" is legal in the U.S., but in the U.S. it's a schedule one drug, carrying serious jail time.
What do you say to people who call Ayahuasca a drug?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My definition of a drug is pills, and the stuff that the pharmacy sells. These are natural plants. This is medicine. LING: The myth surrounding Ayahuasca and its miraculous powers are
spread by psychedelic travelers, like this 33-year-old artist named Roman.
How many times have you done Ayahuasca?
ROMAN, ARTIST: Tonight will be my 32nd Ayahuasca ceremony and fifth trip here to the jungle.
LING: So what has Ayahuasca done for you?
ROMAN: Everything. It has helped evolve my consciousness, raise my level of vibration, raise my self-awareness. It becomes a part of you. It speaks to you. I always allow it to flow through me and together we kind of do this healing dance, in a way, this trance. And we're both in that trance.
LING: Ron says he's worked with thousands of seekers like Roman, who is recovering from an accident that's left him with headaches, depression, and insomnia.
People come here with real serious issues, and deeply rooted.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very deeply rooted.
LING: How does Ayahuasca help heal those wounds?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By showing people where they came from. Maybe a childhood trauma, and even deeper. It is a healing process. I've had several times people who have seen psychiatrists for over a year. One Ayahuasca session, and never go back. I tell them, you can read all there is about this, and there's no way to prepare yourself until you actually go there.
LING: Night falls. Stan's psychedelic journey begins. Ron blesses the hut, using rituals he's learned from local indigenous healers.
This is where the ceremony is going to take place. In a little while, it's going to be pitch black in here and Ron will be presiding from his altar. The first part of the ceremony is called the purge. And so you'll see a lot of basins in front of the chairs. That's because it's inevitable that people will start to vomit profusely or even have to defecate. But many people have said that this one experience can be life-changing.
As I watch Ron's guests file in, it's clear there's more to Ayahuasca than just the promise of an hallucinogenic experience. Stan's quest is steeped in playing tribute to the forest and a spirit being called Iowa Ayahuasca.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for all the plants in the world, for without them, no one would live.
LING: Supposed to have intention before they go through with the ceremony. Do you have one? STAN: Yes, I was thinking about just focusing on my own healing.
Kind of letting the wisdom of the plant and let that process happen in the ceremony.
LING: In careful measures, Ron doles out shots of his potent tea, which he guaranteed will send them on mind-bending explorations. But there's a toll to be paid on this jungle odyssey. Because for first- timers, Ayahuasca can be a wild ride. Exactly what will happen to Stan and the others is anyone's guess.
LING (voice-over): It's pitch dark, but our night vision cameras capture every moment. And one hour into the ceremony, the physical effects of Ayahuasca start to kick in. Some people vomit. Others teeter on the brink of collapse. Though I'd been forewarned, these intense reactions are still disconcerting. But this is just the beginning. The gringo shaman steps up the healing, blowing smoke on the seekers like Stan, to drive off negative spirits.
These are native traditions repackaged by Ron to give his guests an authentic Ayahuasca experience.
You know when everyone around you is intoxicated or drunk and you're the only one not under the influence, that's how it feels to be in that room. There are people in there who are having extremely intense experiences, and then there's Stan who has been kind of sitting just stoically the whole night. It's hard to tell how, or if, Ayahuasca has affected him.
One person tripping hard is Roman. His very physical performance contract sharply with the first timers who struggle to keep it together during this five-hour ordeal. But whether anyone will experience real healing will have to wait for the light of day.
I've been around a lot of people who have been under the influence of various drugs. I myself have been under the influence, but I've never experienced anything like what I experienced last night. The ceremony and the ritual were so elaborate. But the people here are emphatic about the fact that Ayahuasca is not a drug, it's a medicine, they say.
The first person I see upon arrival is Roman.
Do you remember what was happening to you in the ceremony? You were very physical.
ROMAN: I don't hold back at all. It might look a little strange, of course, but I was doing exactly what I was needing to do to get exactly the healing I was getting.
LING: Like many Ayahuasca devotees, Roman claims he's visited in ceremony by serpents and spirits who enter his body to enhance his healing.
ROMAN: I was hoping to see them, and I was not disappointed. They didn't come right away, but they came.
LING: Ad what was that like?
ROMAN: You're in the psychedelic world, and you can feel their presence and invite them to come into you, to create that bond. And it was just like another piece to my spiritual arsenal.
LING: What are the serpents doing now? Are they part of you now?
ROMAN: It's not like I feel them crawling around me. But I believe from now in difficult times of my life that consciously and subconsciously, they will be with me, protecting me. I just know that.
LING: While Ayahuasca might be protecting Roman's soul, it's been having a field day with his body and mind. Like magic mushrooms, Ayahuasca contains a psychedelic agent called Dimethyltryptamine or DMT. DMT accelerates and enhances communication in the brain between areas responsible for sense of self, emotion, and perception. Scientists believe this induces a dream-like, or hypnotic state that triggers personal revelations and new ways of thinking about old trauma.
For Stan, that would mean coming to terms with haunting memories of abuse, dating back three decades.
LING: So how was it?
STAN: It's really hard to explain. I think I made big progress last night. The most profound thing was, you know, kind of connecting with when I was younger and the molestation attack. And you know, I remember struggling to get away because the attacker was in a frenzy.
LING: So you thought about that last night?
STAN: Yes, yes. Saw that I was strong, not weak, from that experience.
LING: Has it been hard your whole life? Because you are actually, a big, imposing-looking guy, to not feel strong, to feel weak?
STAN: Yes, that's the thing. My self-identity was one of like a weak, broken, you know, young boy versus like, you know, a capable adult. I look at pictures of myself, and I wouldn't see an adult there. I'd see just a weak person, a child. And it's a very personal experience to go through this. It's really hard work, but it's also an opportunity to grow.
LING: What an interesting group of people Ron has assembled at his center. People are really divulging and sharing to try and resolve some very serious and painful issues. I really hope that they can finally find peace.
LING (voice-over): The river town of Iquitos, a launch pad for American tourists, looking for a trip to the rainforest. Their first stop is often the bay lane market where all kinds of exotica are up for sale.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
LING: Vendors here sell everything from vegetables and alligator skulls, to snake charms, and yes, even Ayahuasca.
We just asked one of these shopkeepers if they had any Ayahuasca, and this woman said, let me run over and get some. How much does she sell this for?
To guide me on the potential pitfalls of Ayahuasca tourism is the writer and Ayahuasca expert Peter Gorman.
What are some of the dangers of buying Ayahuasca just randomly in a market like this?
PETER GORMAN, WRITER/ AYAHUASCA EXPERT: You don't know what it would be. What if it's not Ayahuasca? The danger wouldn't be anything specific, just who the hell knows what they're doing?
LING: People are caring a lot of abuse, so many things that are deeply rooted. Is Ayahuasca a cure for this stuff?
GORMAN: If you can dislodge that negative energy, if you can glimpse what you could be without it, you can go back home and work on getting rid of it. If you think you're just going to take joy juice and dislodge it, you're nuts. The five years of work together is so (INAUDIBLE).
LING: Peter settled on Iquitos in the 1990s when he witnessed the first wave of Ayahuasca tourism. While he endorses psychedelic healing, he's worried about how traditions are changing.
GORMAN: Traditionally the shaman drinks.
LING: The shaman?
GORMAN: -- of reality to find out where the business is that is the Shaman corrects, will it eliminate the symptoms of this could be physical, it could emotional, it could be bad luck. We Americans come and we said, we insist on drinking the damn stuff. We want our lives changed and we want that experience. So that certainly set things right on its head. And I've had this feeling in my bones for five or six years, that something can go slightly wrong here, that could sour a lot of stuff.
LING: Like Peter, there are many here who believe Ayahuasca is a miracle substance with great potential. But recent headlines speak to hidden dangers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: 18-year-old (INAUDIBLE) resident Kyle Nolan died at a spiritual retreat in Peru three weeks ago.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: The death of a British teen in Columbia has police shrouded in mystery.
LING: The boom in Ayahuasca tourism has come with a price. In the last decade, several people have died after drinking Ayahuasca, the majority of them in Peru. Experts believe mixing this jungle medicine with stimulants and antidepressants can have lethal consequences. But in most cases, the cause of death remains unconfirmed.
For old pros like Ron, these tragedies forecast a troubling trend.
Given the explosion of Ayahuasca tourism and the amount of money people are making, do you think there will be more deaths?
RON, GRINGO SHAMAN: I hate to say it, yes, there probably will be. It's in the cards.
LING: But such warnings aren't enough to stop another group of Americans who have been to hell and back and are ready to try anything. They're veterans of war who have just arrived at this jungle retreat called Phoenix Ayahuasca. This vet suffer from profound PTSD, which kills 22 soldiers every day. They are here because they don't to be next.
The trip's organizer is former marine lance corporal Ryan Lacont (ph).
How do you feel so certain this is something that can help veterans? I mean, to bring people all the way out here to the jungle to do something that you haven't even tried before. It's kind of risky.
RYAN LACONT (ph), TRIP ORGANIZER: Well, it is risky. But it's a calculated risk. Ayahuasca is a way to give relief to those who are suffering. At the VS, with these medicines, antidepressants, sleep aids, like ambient, they don't mix well. And there's really not a lot of psychotherapy being followed up with that. It's just --
LING: Here's a pill.
LACONT (ph): Here's a pill. Here is a band-aid. Yes, Ayahuasca is a way of instead of sweeping your dirt under the rug, you know, these medicines force you to take it outside and beat it with a stick until it's clean. And that's how I prefer to clean my house.
BOB, VETERAN: There was a guy about ten feet from me, had a piece of shrapnel hit him, he was opened up from here down to here, and I saw his skin just fly off and it was flapping in the breeze like a flag. I'm staring at this guy, and that's when you know it's going to be over soon. Last body count I got was 67 wounded and 11 killed. There was a guy about -- sorry. I wasn't expecting this.
LING: Bob is a Vietnam army infantryman, long suffering from PTSD. He claims Ayahuasca has cured him. He's returned to Peru to support fellow sergeant, Richard, a marine who did two tours in Iraq and Libby, an airman first class, whose PTSD diagnosis includes sexual trauma while on active duty.
How has it affected you all these years?
LIBBY, VETERAN: Relationships, I can't hold them. I kind of become a cruel person, but that's not really what you want to be.
LING: And you when you say you've tried everything, what do you mean?
LIBBY: The therapies, the sessions, (INAUDIBLE) and drugs, drugs, drugs, drugs, drugs. Antidepressants were the worst, because it just made me more suicidal. People just don't need to live like this. You know, you want to die all the time. You want to kill yourself, but you don't want to die. You want to keep going. Just life has been over.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll just ask, what are you expecting from this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After I got back from my first appointment, I was showing a lot of signs of PTSD. I was very depressed, and I felt numb and detached, and then I experienced some sexual violence at the hands of another marine. I kept it in for a long time, because it just felt embarrassed, like. It was just another marine, right? Like why I couldn't even protect myself from that. And you know, they'd laugh about it while he did it, you know, like it was some sort of joke, or ha-ha, you know, you're the bitch.
And it took me a long time to admit that that was even sexual violence. I realized I'd been hanging on to suicide. And there have been many times where the reason I didn't do it was because I was afraid to (bleep) it up. And like I know I don't want to die. I don't want to end my life. I just want to end this thing inside of you, and I know that it's a way out, that I have control of, and I can exercise the decision. So that's why I'm here.
LING: Guys, I'm so moved by your stories. Feel so honored that you guys are sharing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, guys. Appreciate it.
The veterans don't want to be sedated anymore. We would like an alternative treatment option. We're standing our ground. We flew thousands and thousands of miles away, to drink from a cup that has something in it that might help us. Let's do it.
LING (voice-over): Extreme PTSD makes war vets prone to dark moods, rage, and violence. For Libby, a recluse from Arkansas, her story of trauma begins in the 1980s. And she's sharing it with me here, away from the others. Why did you want to come here?
LIBBY: I would like to not wish to die all the time. Yes, I'd like to --
LING: Can you tell us what happened to you?
LIBBY: It was out one night after training, and I was taken by the marines, and each one of them took their turn. And then left me in a ditch.
LING: How old were you?
LING: What were you like before that happened?
LIBBY: I was pretty outgoing. Now I'm kind of just a shell. It made me an isolated person, a depressed person. Just messed up in the head.
LING: Did you ever get any justice?
LING: Has the VA been helpful to you?
LIBBY: Not really, you know. When you go through every kind of pill they offer, you are grasping at straws.
LING: Hard to imagine living that way for decades.
LIBBY: It is. I'm kind of at my wit's end. That's why I'm here. I figure I got this much life left, surely I can accomplish something besides hiding from society.
LING: Tonight, Libby and Richard will take a radical step, accompanied by Ryan and Bob. Instead of popping prescription pills, they'll drink a psychedelic brew. A familiar ceremony, a new shaman. This one born here in the Amazon.
Bob purges, as Richard and Libby succumb to the effects of the hallucinogen.
But something about this fight feels different. Ryan is on cloud nine dancing, and then communing with nature. Back in the hut, it appears Bob has left in a panic after the shaman blessed him with ceremonial smoke.
The ceremony is fairly different from the one the other night. Bob, for example, just stormed out and apparently feels overwhelmed by something. Ryan just seems like he's having the time of his life and dancing and just overjoyed. Richard is obviously going through something. It's hard to tell what, and Libby is just kind of curled in a ball. And it seems like she's in a little bit of pain. So obviously it's kicking in, and it's manifesting itself in different ways.
Concerned for Bob, I head off towards his bungalow. For four decades, his battle with extreme PTSD, has left him with a short fuse, the smallest trigger can produce explosive reactions.
LING: What happened, Bob? You kind of stormed out of there.
BOB: Don't tell me you got to blow smoke in my face for me to have the correct kind of journey. Smoking has nothing to do with the healing powers of Ayahuasca. It has nothing to do with the spirit world, the vision world, often that reality is different dimensions. You think those beings up there are smoking and --
LING: You've since the war have been prone to serious anger issues. Was the anger tonight similar to that anger that you felt all these years?
BOB: Yes, I think so. But I knew I had to get out, because I knew I was close to slipping into the combat mode. Sometimes you can just black out and have a flashback.
LING: Before you had familiarized yourself with Ayahuasca, what might you have done?
BOB: That's why I'm alone all the time. Because I know somebody's going to kill me, or I'm going to kill somebody or I'm going to end up in prison. Maybe that's why I stay alone so much.
LING: This show is so hard to do because I have no idea what these people are going through. But if this is a real opportunity, if this gives them any semblance of peace, if it helps them think differently about living and about suicide, I hope people take the opportunity to try and better understand if there's merit to this.
LING: It's been two days since the ceremony, and we're going to check on Bob in his hut, since he had a little meltdown the other night, check and see how he's doing.
LING: How you doing?
BOB: Can I get a hug?
BOB: All right, thank you.
BOB: Thanks for coming back.
LING: Tell me what's going on.
BOB: As you know, the last time I saw you, I was angry about the smoke. Now when I go back to the Loca (ph), if the shaman wants to blow the smoke over me, I'm fine with it.
LING: Bob, you been dealing with PTSD for decades. Where are you in that process right now of recovery?
BOB: I don't think it -- I think it's always underneath the surface. But Ayahuasca is helping me to learn to live with it. You know, PTSD is the dangerous thing for us, somebody does something, I react right away without thinking. But we're trained to do that in the armed forces, because if you take time to think, you can be killed. So it's engrained into us, cause, you need to have an effect right away, because you can die.
So it's about creating a space between that cause and effect to give you time to think and pause and breathe. And Ayahuasca has been helping me do that. So it's a long process. It's not going to happen in just a few journeys.
LING: Are you hoping that by continuing this work you'll be able to get to a place where you can communicate with people?
BOB: I hope so. That's my hope. So I have my faith in the medicine. But the thing about it is, I don't communicate with humans at home. I speak to maybe two humans a month, and that's about it. That's all the communication I have. But I have communication with other Ayahuasca. I play by flute, and I communicate off that realm and my cat.
LING: Is a spirit being called mother Ayahuasca really speaking to Bob? And could such messages actually be helping him? From what he's told me about his history, homelessness, drug addiction, jail time, his life appears more stable. So maybe this jungle fix has helped him find a new equilibrium, one without the powerful side effects of antidepressants. I'm curious to know if any of the other communed with mother Ayahuasca two nights ago. So I track down Libby to hear about her first excursion into the psychedelic realm.
I see you wearing a piece of Ayahuasca on a necklace. Does that mean you had a good experience the other night?
LIBBY: I really can't say. It was odd, definitely.
LIBBY: Yes. LING: Can you describe what you experienced?
LIBBY: And make sense about it?
LIBBY: Try? It was sickening and gut wrenching sickening. But then after I recovered from that, I started feeling good again.
LING: It was hard for us to tell how you were feeling, because you looked like you were asleep.
LIBBY: I wasn't. I'd come to a little bit, and then I would go off into this, like, trance again. I had some revelations.
LING: Like what?
LIBBY: Just that I'm not a bad person. That I'm OK. It was just like a being talking to me.
LING: A what?
LIBBY: A being. And it was like an audible voice saying, it's OK. You know, I'm not going to harm you. And you think, weird. It was a warm feeling.
LING: Have you ever felt that before?
LIBBY: No. No.
LING: What are you hoping to achieve here?
LIBBY: I guess one of the biggest things is to not be suicidal. You want to kill yourself but you don't want to die. I guess you just want everything to stop, that's going through your head, that you have to hide and other people don't know. So, I want that to go away.
LING: Ayahuasca enthusiasts claim miraculous moments of realization, and transformation, but for these vets, such moments have always eluded them. That is, perhaps, until now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I remembered a lot of things in the ceremony the other day, that I didn't recall previously.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like that your mind has shut out completely.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel a lot more motivated as an individual. I feel more empowered.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm ready to get back and do the work, man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you feel like there will be some triggers left, that you may have a hard time dealing with?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not -- I'm not afraid to find out.
LACONT (ph): I know it's figure to take some time, but do you feel at all that you can be exposed a little bit and still keep a part of your heart protected and open at the same time?
LIBBY: I think I've got a lot more out of it than I've realized at first.
LACONT (ph): Because by now you would have called me an a-hole and said, go away.
LACONT (ph): You really would have.
LACONT (ph): If on the plane you did that.
LIBBY: Yes, go away. Don't talk to me.
LING: Has Ayahuasca really hoped the door for Libby to undergo a personal transformation? She seems more at ease with her fellow veterans.
LIBBY: I like that.
LING: But the real barometer of change won't be found here in the jungle, but back in the states when they return to life on the home front.
LING (voice-over): In the Peruvian Amazon today, gringo shamans are slowly replacing native healers who once had exclusive knowledge of the forest. They're part of larger changes here, some good, some bad.
You said an interesting phrase, we prostitute Ayahuasca.
LING: There are some who might say you prostitute Ayahuasca.
LING: You're this white guy from Kansas making money off of Ayahuasca. How do you respond to that?
RON: I tell all the foreigners that I know here, we're all guilty of exploiting people here. All right, of us. myself included. I could make a lot more money if I wanted to. But I'm not about making money. I do all I can to look after people and to take good care of them. But there's the ones that don't take the precautions, and antidepressants, that's the real danger.
LING: Tens of thousands of people use Ayahuasca worldwide today, and the ranked of the newly converted now appears to include Stan, who'd just done a day time dose of Ron's mighty brew.
STAN: Just out here in the jungle, wrestling with my demons.
RON: It's probably about as good a place as any to wrestle with them. And a good place to leave them. Want a little smoke blown on you?
LING: A journey of change, a modern pilgrimage. Call it what you like, Americans are traveling to the Amazon, hoping to expand their minds and soothe their souls.
The question is, what happens when they get home?
STAN: Hey, Stan, back from Peru. It's been a couple months now, and with the family, I feel more patient and everything's going good.
BEERGIT: Since he's back, I don't see him acting weird. Seems he's let that baggage go and his weight just went down. I see him transformed. But he still needs to figure out how to integrate that into our family.
STAN: Ayahuasca isn't any kind of silver bullet. It's not like you can just go and do Ayahuasca and your life's perfect. You get out of it what you put into it.