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Canadian Doctor Uses Amazonian Herbal Medicine Called Ayahuasca to Break Addictions

A Canadian Doctor talks about the nearly 200 people he’s treated with an Amazonian hallucinogen called ayahuasca.

Dr Gabor Maté is a family physician in Vancouver Canada and over the past few years he has provided an Amazonian addiction remedy to between 150 and 200 addicts in East Vancouver – and many, he says, have had significant breakthroughs.

Called ayahuasca, this hallucinogenic is taken as a spiritual aid in several religious traditions of the Amazon basin and has been used in ritual for thousands of years. The drug is legal for spiritual use in the US and a Health Canada study on the substance found that it produced no adverse effects and provided spiritual benefits.

Dr. Mate says he first became interested in ayahuasca after learning of addiction treatment clinics in Peru using the herbal medicine which had ‘cure’ rates many times better than that typically seen in North American and Europe.

Working in some ways similarly to the African origin opiate treatment medication Ibogaine, Dr. Mate talked to journalists about  how ayahuasca helps people to break free from addiction, saying, ayahuasca is not a drug in the Western sense, something you take to get rid of something. Properly used, it opens up parts of yourself that you usually have no access to. The parts of the brain that hold emotional memories come together with those parts that modulate insight and awareness, so you see past experiences in a new way. The natural human response to pain is to escape it. That’s the essence of addiction. Ayahuasca allows users to hold pain and not run from it.”

36 year old Megan Hames of Vancouver is one of the almost 200 people who have received ayahuasca treatment from Dr. Mate. Describing her experience, she says, “Ayahuasca saved my life. It enabled me to look at all those dark things I buried long ago … to unleash them and the pain, so that I could move forward.”

*Nov 13th Story Update

In the wake of media reports on Dr Mate’s successes with ayahuasca, Health Canada officials sent him a letter which asked that he immediately cease his use of the drug, which remains a controlled substance within Canada, and threatened prosecution should he fail to comply with the demand.

Based on this, the doctor says he will no longer, for the moment, use ayahuasca in his clinical practice, saying, “I have no intention of breaking the law. But I hope to get permission to use it in therapeutic context. I’m surprised no one thought to talk to me before sending the letter, but I suppose someone in Ottawa is just doing their job.”

Health Canada has previously allowed the use of ayahuasca for spiritual practices, but the director of Ottawa’s Office for Controlled Substances, Johanne Beaulieu, said, “For a controlled substance to be used in Canada, there’s a process that needed to be undergone. We’d welcome scientists like Dr. Maté talking to us before they start their work. Our intent is not to stop research or treatment. It’s to ensure the safety of Canadians.”

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