War Vets With Severe PTSD Find Solace Through Ayahuasca In Documentary ‘From Shock To Awe’

Feb 2006
Here’s a figure that should be seared into the minds of every living American: 22. That’s the shocking number of United States war veterans who commit suicide every single day. Let that number sink in for a minute. In one year’s time, that’s over 8,000 people — who have managed to make it out of a brutal and bloody warzone — that are essentially left for dead every year in America.

The documentary From Shock To Awe details the devastation those soldiers face when returning home from war with shattered lives and insufficient support. Following the transformational journey of two combat veterans suffering from severe post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), the film traverses the lives of war vets Mike Cooley and Matt Kahl as they abandon pharmaceuticals to seek relief through the mind-expanding world of psychedelics. The pair find answers in the plant medicine ayahuasca, a brew containing the hallucinogenic substance dimethyltryptamine (DMT), used in tribal rituals in the Amazon for thousands of years. Its efficacy in helping people heal from deep emotional traumas has meant that over the past several decades the plant concoction has migrated to locations across the world and is now used in healing ceremonies throughout parts of America. While currently illegal in the U.S., ayahuasca exists in a kind of legal grey zone where ayahuasca churches find refuge under religious exemptions. Sessions drinking the brew are typically arduous, spanning over three to four days, and often include vomiting and vivid mental transport into sometimes nightmarish realms. It’s frequently a terrifying plunge into the darkest recesses of the human mind— but also has the uncanny ability to offer valuable information for traumatized individuals.