Drug tourism is not rare to parts of the Peruvian rainforest, where travelers come to sample the supposed healing qualities and hallucinogenic effects of ayahuasca, a traditional herbal medicine.
Thousands of international backpackers are flocking to Peru's Amazon rainforest to drink ayahuasca tea, a plant mixture made by shamans and taken as part of a spiritual ritual. Those who drink the thick, rich liquid often throw up, but then experience hours of mind-altering visions and a sense of internal exploration.
Last year, an 18 year old tourism from northern California found dead after reportedly consuming the hallucinogenic drug in a ritual at a retreat in Peru. Authorities reported that the teen died as a result of exceeding the dosage of the hallucinogenic brew.
While the consumption of ayahuasca is legal in Peru and other Latin American countries, it remains illegal in almost all Western countries, such as Australia. Because it contains the hallucinogenic dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, ayahuasca consumption will continue to remain controversial. Australia's National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre describes the psychedelic drug as a powerful hallucinogenic. ''The effects of DMT are similar to LSD, but more powerful,'' says the centre's Lucy Burns. ''There is a major risk of having a 'bad trip', which can induce paranoia.''
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.