December 23, 2020 7 min read
This story originally appeared on Lucid News
The rock star candidly revealed in a recent interview that she loves ayahuasca, and found it life-changing.
“Ayahuasca was definitely one of my favorite drugs I’ve ever done. When I did it, I asked everyone else in the room, ‘Did your entire life just change? Are you a new person?’” Miley Cyrus tells Rolling Stone. She goes on to describe the experience as “extreme,” saying she saw snakes immediately. “It was pretty crazy. I loved it, though.”
As a wealthy child star growing up in the entertainment industry, Cyrus has had access to a myriad of substances over her lifetime, and hasn’t shied away from discussing her experiences. But after a series of trying events in 2019, including vocal cord surgery and separating from her husband, Cyrus made the decision to stop her substance use. “It’s been really important for me over the last year living a sober lifestyle, because I really wanted to polish up my craft,” she told Variety in an interview earlier this year.
Miley Cyrus’s Ayahuasca Experience
The star doesn’t like to say “never” or be too concrete, she tells Rolling Stone, and disclosed that if she were to do any substance again, it would most likely be entheogens. “I would possibly take mushrooms. I did take ayahuasca, and I really, really liked that, but I don’t think I would do it again.”
Cyrus is part of a growing list of celebrities, including Paul Simon and Lindsay Lohan, who have taken ayahuasca, which is a psychotropic plant medicine traditionally used in spiritual ceremonies among the indigenous communities of South America. Typically made by a trained shaman from various Amazonian plants, ayahuasca is brewed into a tea that contains DMT, a strong chemical that can cause out of body experiences, heavy visuals, and euphoria.
Ayahuasca ceremonies have skyrocketed in popularity over the past decade as the therapeutic effects of psychedelics become more widely understood by the mainstream. Current ayahuasca research examines its use as a treatment for drug addiction and PTSD, and one study suggests that the traditional ritual context is just as significant as ayahuasca’s pharmacological effects when it comes to healing.
Given ayahuasca’s long history of ritual use among indigenous Amazonian communities, Cyrus’s usage of the word “drug” may upset some plant medicine advocates, many of whom believe that the word and its associated stigma cheapens ayahuasca’s traditional role as a plant teacher and medicine.
In spite of this, Cyrus’s descriptions of her experience suggest she understands ayahuasca’s therapeutic capabilities, and views the brew as a guide. During her September appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience, she said, “You end up seeing these snakes that take you underground, and you end up meeting Mama Ayahuasca, and she walks you through everything.” In a 2015 interview, she told the New York Times, “I think ayahuasca is a healing thing. […] I loved what it did for me.”
Dead Petz, Wayne Coyne, and Psychedelia
Cyrus’s ayahuasca ceremony took place in her home with a shaman, the psychedelic rock band The Flaming Lips, and a few other friends in 2015. She befriended Wayne Coyne, frontman of The Flaming Lips, in 2013 after a challenging period in her life, and felt an instant connection. Coyne told Rolling Stone, “Our shows are very childlike, like kids on acid, and hers are too. We’re so much alike in believing art is supposed to be fun. She’s just a freak. I love her to death.”
The Flaming Lips and Cyrus began to collaborate and tour together, with Coyne inspiring the psychedelic sound of Cyrus’s 2015 album, Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz. Dead Petz was a deviation from the pop ballads Cyrus was known for. Co-produced by Coyne and the rest of The Flaming Lips (among others), it includes experimental instrumentation, and was released on an independent label, for free, with little promotion. Coyne told Rolling Stone it was “a slightly wiser, sadder, more true version” of Cyrus’s previous releases.
Since taking ayahuasca with Coyne, Cyrus’s sound has evolved from psychedelic pop to rock. Her latest album, Plastic Hearts, features guest vocals from rock legends Joan Jett and Stevie Nicks.
On Substance Use and Sobriety
Cyrus told Rogan her ayahuasca experience “unlocked something,” and that it changed her relationship to mood-altering substances. “Since then I haven’t loved getting high as much as I used to.”
A recent study of DMT, the active component of ayahuasca, found that the compound promoted neurogenesis and modulated neuroplasticity in the human brain. This suggests ayahuasca has the potential to remap the mind, make new connections, and regenerate brain cells: all activities that point to the brew’s possible role in treating mental illnesses such as depression and addiction.
Over the summer, Cyrus told Vanity Fair, “I did a lot of family history, which has a lot of addiction and mental health challenges. So just going through that and asking, ‘Why am I the way that I am?’ By understanding the past, we understand the present and the future much more clearly.“
The singer’s past substance use is well documented. Last year she tweeted, “It is no secret that I was into partying in my teens and early 20’s. I have not only smoked, but advocated for weed, I’ve experimented with drugs, my biggest song to date is about dancing on molly and snorting lines in the bathroom.” She told Rogan that she has also done DMT and once had an anxiety attack after “smoking a lot of weed and taking a lot of shrooms.”
Taking Her Health Seriously
Cyrus tells Rolling Stone she began to see that her experimentation with drugs and alcohol and the people she was surrounding herself with was not pushing her to her highest potential. Since then, she’s made changes in her life.
Cyrus openly talks about mental health, seeing a therapist, and now, her sobriety. “I feel very weighted and grounded. I’m free, but I feel responsibility. I take my mental and physical health a lot more seriously than I ever did before,” she tells Rolling Stone.
“I don’t think that everyone has to be sober, everyone has to do what’s best for them,” she told Zane Lowe of Apple Music’s New Music Daily in November.
Billy Ray Cyrus, the singer’s father, commented in a recent interview with ET, “Sometimes you have to clear out the junk. And then you realize what’s most important. Whatever is going on, it’s working for her.” Ayahuasca is known to “clear out junk” on several levels – perhaps that is what exactly happened for Cyrus.