People Look to Psychedelic Medicines for Answers

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December 6, 2013 - By Christopher Soda

The Miami New Times recently published a story, “Jungle Drug Ayahuasca Could Revolutionize Psychotherapy,” which highlights the rift between American’s war on drugs and people’s impulse for experiencing moments of altered consciousness, truth, and optimal health.

Ayahuasca, and similar experiences of plant wisdom, is growing in popularity.  In places like Iquitos, Peru, streams of impressionable seekers arrive looking for Ayahuasca and transcendence.  However, it’s hard to know what you’ll be getting, regarding shamans.

Inaugurated last month at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference, the Ethnobotanical Stewardship Council “will develop community consensus on key safety and sustainability issues related to Ayahuasca and other traditional plant medicines,” providing a way people can better inform themselves.

In this Miami New Times piece, Olivia LaVecchia and Kyle Swenson tell the remarkable  story of the spiritual powers of Ayahuasca.

LaVecchia and Swenson tell the story of Lisa Yeo, a 47 year-old woman who’s struggled with substance abuse since she was a child.  She was arrested and spent two decades going the traditional court ordered route of rehab centers, and methadone treatment.  However, many people who go this route—which is grounded in the criminal justice system—find it’s an insufficient approach.

Luckily for Yeo, another opportunity presented itself.  After meeting with Canadian addiction specialist, Dr. Gabor Mate, she was able to wean herself off the opiates through ibogaine, another powerful psychedelic, and then go onto ayahuasca.  Yeo said of the latter experience, "It has given me a go-to place of safety and a knowing of how to be gentle with myself when any tormenting thoughts creep in," she says. It appears that this is an approach that allows one to peel back their defenses and enter “a kind of self-exploration that otherwise might not be available,” said Dr. Mate.

In America, this experience Yeo describes is illegal since DMT (present in ayahuasca) is listed as a Schedule I drug, devoid of any medical benefit.

Chris Soda is an intern with the Drug Policy Alliance.

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