Young Backpacker Dies After Taking Hallucinogenic Drug In Amazon ‘Cleansing Ceremony’


A 24-year-old man has died in Peru after ingesting a powerful and dangerous hallucinogen during an ancient Amazon “cleansing ceremony”.

Matthew Dawson-Clarke, from New Zealand, was taking part in a week-long ayahuasca retreat in the country, where travellers seek a spiritual revelation.

Ayahuasca, also known as yage, is a plant that contains potent hallucinogen DMT (Dimethyltryptamine) and has a similar effect to LSD and magic mushrooms. However, it has been linked to serious health dangers and at least two other deaths.


Speaking to the New Zealand Herald, Dawson-Clarke’s father, Stuart Clarke, paid tribute to his son.

He said:

Whilst Matt only reached 24 years, he achieved so much in his short life and we remain completely amazed and proud of his achievements. Matthew was no different to so many other Kiwis who decide to travel the world in pursuit of their dreams. It is devastating to us that he won’t be returning home with all the travel stories like many others have done before him.

We want people to be aware of the potential dangers so other families do not have to go through what we’re going through.


The use of ayahuasca has been recorded since the 16th century and the drug is legal in Peru, Brazil and Ecuador.

Despite its use in local traditions and rituals, however, drug advice website Frank has pointed out that it should not be considered “safe” as it is still a chemical hallucinogen.