There is a question I’ve continuously been asking myself since the beginning of my experiences with the shamanic snuff tobacco: is rapé addictive?
See also: what is rapé, the shamanic snuff tobacco from the Amazon?
Now that I’m leaving Arambol to spend the summer in North India, it’s a good moment to recapitulate everything I learned about it through my first-hand experience, aside from the scientific evidence I managed to collect and what I’ve been told by people who took rapé for years in many different countries.
I will start with some basic scientific evidence, and move to real life experiences further on.
Is rapé addictive? Scientific evidence
Let me put it this way: no matter how shamanic you wanna be, no matter how anti-establishment you are, there is an undeniable fact here. The main ingredient of rapé is tobacco. Actually, a particular kind of tobacco called nicotiana rustica, known to contain about 20 times the amount of nicotine usually found in regular tobacco.
Nicotine is an addictive substance. When smoked or inhaled, it releases dopamine in the brain and produces reinforcement: it teaches the brain to repeat the same action over and over.
But what about the other ingredients of rapé? The indigenous people who make it mix tobacco with various medicinal plants, such as mint, clover, tonka beans, banana peels and cinnamon.
Nothing wrong with mint, cinnamon, clover or banana. As for Tonka beans, they are considered toxic, but they are not known to be addictive.
Some rapé recipes also include other ingredients such as anadenanthera and jurema. In some cases even the powerful datura. We are talking about psychedelics here. But are psychedelics addictive? No, they are not.
So, is rapé addictive? Yes, it is addictive because it contains a lot of nicotine. But this is only one side of the story.
Addiction is strictly connected to the way we consume a substance. And from this point of view, it will be wrong to compare smoking cigarettes and taking rapé.
Let’s talk about personal experience now.
Is it possible to develop an addiction to the shamanic snuff tobacco? – First-hand experiences
I have been taking rapé for about two years now and I don’t think I have developed any dependence whatsoever. Taking rapé is not, at least for me, a repetitive act.
I have been smoking cigarettes for years and I remember very well that smoking had stopped being a choice a long time ago. I lit up cigarettes almost unconsciously, driven by my addiction and not by real desire.
With rapé, it’s a whole other story. Taking rapé is a ceremony. I do it with a specific goal in mind. I always focus on an intention and I follow a ceremonial procedure.
For some time, I took rapé around once a week. Sometimes more frequently. Sometimes less.
Rapé never became an addiction for me because it never turned into an unconscious action.
However, other people had a different take on this topic.
Some people say rapé is addictive
Nando Yanomani recently commented on one of my Facebook posts: “The effects I have seen them in first hand are nasty and the person after some time got very addicted to it”.
Andrej replied: “[When I was taking rapé] I was always super sick… projectile vomiting… I don’t like it at all… Nice clarity afterwards, but too high a price for the minor effect…”.
Most of the people I discussed this topic with have told me that they didn’t notice any signs of addiction after taking rapé, even long after having taken it.
But clearly, developing an addition to rapé is a possibility to be taken into consideration.
To sum it up: is rapé addictive? Yes it is, because it contains tobacco. On the other hand, the risk of addiction can be greatly reduced by taking the shamanic snuff tobacco not like a habit (like many do with cigarettes and alcohol), but as a ceremony.
What about you? Have you ever taken rapé? Have you experienced any addictive pattern? Please share your experience in the comments below.