Veterans Are Turning to Ayahuasca for PTSD Relief

Matthew, a 33-year-old veteran, prepares for his first ceremony. Image: Josh Adler
At Soul Quest, a psychedelic church in Orlando, I met war veterans looking for peace of mind.


Like congregations throughout America’s expansive and eccentric religious history, the members of Soul Quest—a church offering psychedelics in Orlando, Florida—are looking for the light. For some like Jimmy, a young war veteran wearing a ‚Hakuna Matata‘ t-shirt, that light comes from spending two years Googling on his laptop.

Jimmy was a squadron leader and drill sergeant in the US Marines for 13 years, with numerous deployments on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan. When he completed service, he couldn’t go to a movie or walk in public without feeling accountable for securing everyone’s safety. His mind wouldn’t stop playing war games.

Diagnosed as suicidal, he spent time in a clinical psychiatric ward where they took away even his shoes so he wouldn’t harm himself. Then he discovered Veterans for Entheogenic Therapy, a group of over 200 people led by former Marine Ryan LeCompte, which provides funding and therapy for veterans to do ayahuasca ceremonies in Peru, and now Soul Quest.

Ayahuasca has been used for centuries in South America as a healing ritual. In the correct setting, the hallucinogenic brew is said to induce visions and realizations that can help people see their own lives more clearly. There is also preliminary evidence that the psychedelic can help people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and addiction, two mental health issues that often plague US veterans, so it has gained increasing popularity as treatment.

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