Recently a senior medical doctor from the US attended one of our Ayahuasca retreats for the second time in 4 months. I thought that his views may be very useful to anyone who might be skeptical about the potential healing benefits of Ayahuasca and he kindly agreed to answer a few questions about his knowledge and experience of Ayahuasca.
Unfortunately he has to remind anonymous for the the time being because his new views now conflict with western medical dogma and that may cause problems with his current job; however, as he goes on to say, he hopes to change his career path in the future so that he can openly discuss and even work with psychedelics as a healing tool.
1) Could you provide some information about your professional background, and what your current role is.
MD trained physician specializing in critical care and internal medicine. 13yrs in the profession and now specializing as a consultant and medical director. I work with hospitals to create their inpatient medical programs and currently operate a 16 physician group in a hospital in Oregon, USA in this line of work. I’ve also developed 3 corporations during my career that specializes in this field. I am also in the process of developing and deploying a piece of healthcare software that I designed for this field.
2) How did you become interested in the subject of psychedelic healing, and particularly ayahuasca?
Without fully understanding it, I began having some very incredible and enlightening experiences on marijuana since my teens. Although I rarely had a chance to smoke it, each of those moments were incredibly powerful for me. It was beyond “entertainment” for me. I had visions while high, and my creativity exploded whenever I was under the influence. Much of my creative developments in career, at home in my woodworking shop, musical talents were boosted by the effect of marijuana. It wasn’t until my mid-30′s, when life’s difficulties really hit me that I began a half-hearted attempt to learn meditation. By trial and error, I realized that I could use meditation and marijuana together to see much more deeply and with emotional connection to the issues I struggled with. Then by happenstance I picked up a book called “Higher Wisdom” (editor Roger Walsh), which had 13 essays by leading psychedelic researchers, artists, scientists, and hallucinogenic facilitators, and learned the potential benefit of psychedelics for not just healing oneself but also take one further in their development emotionally and spiritually. This opened the floodgates for me. For the first time in my life, I learned that psychedelics were SAFE, there were decades of experience by serious people that proved this and all that I was taught by society and even medical training was based on false and purposely misleading scare tactics by the US government.
I began some serious research of my own on the internet and ran across information about Ayahuasca. The description of it’s potential for healing, teaching, and the description of this plant teacher as one of a personal interaction with “Mother Ayahuasca” was what stood out to me beyond all other hallucinogenics I’ve read about or tried (I tried LSD 3 times in my early 20′s for fun– my only psychedelic experience excepting marijuana).
3) I’ve heard some skeptics say that there is no science to support the idea that psychedelic substances may have some remarkable healing properties. One person I was in a discussion with thought that ayahuasca healing was nothing but superstition and that “science is not interested in superstition”. What would you say to that?
Psychedelic experiences are subjective. Like the Buddha stated as such, “you don’t need to believe me, try it for yourself”. Skeptics about psychedelics are generally people deeply rooted in the intellect and thus are prone to believing conventional propaganda. There is also likely an underlying characteristic of fear as well. They fear the possibility their positions and beliefs have been wrong. Their ego is invested deeply in the belief that there is no spiritual dimension, that life is merely atoms and molecules bumping each other randomly to create what we see of measurable universe. But I would pose to such “scientific minded” individuals, “well man, if you’re a believer in “proof” then take a trip and let’s see what you can verify by the experience.” In fact, I believe the people most antagonistic to the concept of spirituality (which is really what we are discussing when we speak of the psychedelic experience), are actually very close to breaking through into spirit. Their antagonism is the last great struggle of the ego to deny it. These folks, when blasted off via ayahuasca, LSD, psilocybin, DMT, mescaline, can be changed forever from that intransigent non-belief. In regards to your non-believing friend, refer him to “maps.org“. A growing body of scientists, doctors, and PhD researchers who are from the most prestigious universities in the world who are avid believers in the power of psychedelics, including their spiritual effects. Unless he’s got better credentials then some of these men and women, then he speaks from a place of ignorance, and arrogantly so i would say….
Arrogant ignorance, this a common finding in “practical” types..
4) The same skeptic that said ayahuasca was superstition also asserted that DMT was deadly or extremely dangerous. What would you say to that?
It’s difficult to assess the “dangers” of ayahuasca or DMT because we don’t have the research and tracking system in place to monitor the use of these substances in society. Frankly because they’ve been made illegal. The second hand reports (what we call anecdotal reports), indicate there are very few instances of negative outcomes from the both. But likely wise, there is no scientific evidence to say they are in fact dangerous! Meaning your skeptic has no basis to make the statement that they are dangerous. What evidence has he got? None. His belief is based on anecdote as well. It’s why we should legalize these substances for study, so their positive and harmful qualities can be examined scientifically. And thus a solid decision can be made by individuals and governments as to whether they have a place in society.
5) In your professional opinion do you think that ayahuasca is safe for most people to experience? What do you think are the dangers/risks, if any?
The only danger I am aware of for aya/DMT is its tendency to raise blood pressure. And even that information is thin. How much does it raise one’s pressure? Can it be safely consumed while the patient is on blood pressure medication? What are the effects on the liver? The Adrenal system (which produces the “flight or fright” hornones)? The vascular system? Again, objective and open-minded research needs to be done to know more its effects on the physical body.
6) What do you think has become so wrong with your profession, the US health industry and perhaps even our society that’s led us into this situation where you can’t speak openly on this subject (without anonymity) and not risk losing your credibility and perhaps even your career?
The “drug war” in the US was started in 1967 in response to the wide-spread exposure of average America to what was happening in San Francisco during the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations and the expressions of the hippie movement. Many serious psychedelic researchers and supporters put the blame on the shoulders of Timothy Leary, an acclaimed Harvard professor, for mainstreaming the concept of “partying” on psychedelics. His psychedelic research colleagues, implored him to avoid the limelight but he ignored their request and pushed forward with a confrontational style of exposing America to the possibility of societal transformation through hallucinogenics.
In what was still a very traditional culture in America, the images of naked people at Woodstock making love in the open and having orgies seemed like a descent into anarchy and “sin”. And underneath that was also an American government and ruling class that must have recoiled at the possibility that hallucinogenics would create a class of disobedient and rebellious people who would not fight wars or contribute to productive society.
So, without any solid scientific evidence, and in fact with the use of completely baseless claims of harm, the US government created a complete ban on marijuana and hallucinogenics, classifying them as “Schedule I” which implies “no positive contribution to health and potentially harmful”. Within a year, all researchers of psychedelic therapy was put on notice that their careers and legal lives were at risk to continue in the field. Tim Leary and Richard Alpert, another famous evangelist for psychedelic potential, were famously fired from the faculty of Harvard. This created a chilling effect that reverberated immediately across all academic research institutions and psychedelic studies were abandoned in droves. Even incredibly high potential studies that showed remarkable effects in the treatment of alcoholism, PTSD, Depression, and other emotional traumas.
That effect continues today. While there are brave members of the medical and research fields who have put their necks out in the past 10 years to push the departments of the Drug Enforcement Agency and Food and Drug Administration to re-open psychedelic research, and and increasing number of medical academies have once again re-invested in studying psychedelic therapies, the 40 years long “war on drugs” has smeared the character of psychedelics where to this day most medical professionals are still ignorant of the true difference between drugs of abuse such as methamphetamines, cocaine, etc. and psychedelics.
So why must i remain anonymous for the time being regarding my interest in learning about psychedelics? They remain illegal in the United States and are still Schedule I – “no therapeutic benefit and potential harmful”. As if…
But i am more encouraged every month by the evidence that psychedelic research is multiplying across the US and the world. It’s my prediction we’ve finally pierced the false veil created in the 1960′s against psychedelics and are about to witness a Renaissance of the psychedelics, and perhaps within 10 years, physicians such as myself may be able to prescribe and conduct psychedelic therapy for patients.
7) Why do you think the US healthcare system has become so dysfunctional?
There are 2 major reasons why the US healthcare system is dysfunctional: 1) It is profit driven 2) American society is not entirely realistic about the concept of life and death and personal responsibility for maintaining their health. The major issue that limits our system is that it’s represents a 3-5 trillion dollar industry heavily driven by profit making. All parties are responsible, including doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical and device manufacturers. It’s important to point out this major fact: America’s healthcare outcomes are only EQUAL to other developed countries of Europe and Canada when it comes to death rates, infant mortality, and survival from common illnesses such as heath attacks, strokes, etc. But we spend 3-4 times more money to achieve those equivalent results. As most Americans, and they will tell you they believe that America has the best technologies and are the inventors of all the new technology. This is incorrect. Healthcare developments are contributed to by ALL advanced countries, and now even from India as their research institutions come into their own.
Equivalent performance at 3-4 times the cost. It’s a hidden sham of our system, and it’s entirely because America is deeply entrenched in the capitalistic model of delivering healthcare.
The American society is also responsible based on unrealistic expectations about life and death, and are, at once, victim and perpetrator in the dysfunction. Victim because they are being influenced by massive marketing campaigns by the fast food industry to consume their very unhealthy foods and to do so anyways and rely on medications produced by the pharmaceutical industry for the illness they’ll develop from their unhealthy lifestyle. And of course the hospitals and doctors are happy to treat them when they become seriously ill. All players in the system stand to benefit when Americans get sick, and are in fact incentivized to profit when Americans are sickest. Americans continue to be their own perpetrators when they refuse to take personal responsibility for maintaining their own health.
It’s a perverted system. It’s my belief that healthcare should be designed as a social safety net system, ie. “socialized”. The healthier the people, the healthier a society, including its financial performance.
But that would destroy the profit model of the current system, and America is deeply addicted to profit making, even at the damaging expense to it’s own society. In medicine, we call that kind of process “parasitism”.
8) Many people who have experienced ayahuasca for themselves believe that ayahuasca has remarkable healing properties that are almost miracle-like in nature. Currently the majority of evidence to support this is anecdotal rather than scientific. What’s your opinion on the ability of ayahuasca to heal? How do you think psychedelic healing works?
It’s only my personal experience, but in the 2 retreats I’ve had I have had great healing and teaching from the experiences. It’s my impression that aya and other psychedelics, when done with the intention of healing and teaching, connects our spiritual selves to a greater wisdom that either lays within us or outside of us (or both!) and provides us with the greater vision we are unable to perceive with our limited minds. This process works on several levels I believe. First from the conscious (our normal mind state) by confronting us more clearly with what we are inclined to see/believe, but with more clarity from our deeper sense of mental and emotional understanding. Second, the psychedelic experience delves us into our subconscious mind and brings those hidden drives and emotions to the surface, again to confront and find resolution. And finally, I believe it does indeed connect us to a universal/God-mind, where we are shown things beyond that of our worldly experience.
9) Many people also believe that ayahuasca is a spiritual experience and that drinking ayahuasca allows you to access spiritual dimensions and higher levels of consciousness that are generally not available to us during normal waking consciousness. Many would also say that anything spiritual is completely at odds with science. Where do you stand on this subject, and would you describe any of your own experiences as spiritual?
Science in itself is a limited perspective. That is very clear if we look at the history of science itself. What was once superstition and “magic” to the former scientists are proven movements of the universe. Here we are now in the leading edge of science, and the theoretical and quantum physicists are describing the universe in the same sense as Buddhists did 2,000 years ago in their own spiritual language. That all of material existence is but holographic representation of energy (“spirit” as the meditators describe it), that there is no material solidity at all, that the very nature of awareness itself can change the outcome of what is observed. Meaning that there is a complete oneness between observer and the observed. No separation between the two at all. This is no different then what spiritual sages have been saying for millennia, that all is One and we are in delusion to believe we are separate from the One.
Science is a tool. And like all tools, they are improved with time to see deeper and more clearly into the nature of the universe. What it sees today is totally dependent on the 5 senses. Once it accepts that the human form is capable of seeing with a 6th sense (and perhaps more than that?), there will be a field of “spiritual science” that will evolve. In some sense, that science has already come about in the form of transpersonal psychology, which believes in the spiritual aspect of human behavior and emotions. Carl Jung would be best known for opening this field from the scientific side of academia. But in reality, there have been many sages who told us of this since early human history.
One more statement i’ll make about science is this; it is amoral. This is its danger. The power of harnessing scientific understanding has lead to great improvements in material existence, but has also contributed to unrivaled power to kill and destroy the planet we depend. The spiritual dimension gives us the same opportunity for creation/destruction, but where it is unique, is that one is confronted with the moral and ethics of how we live our lives. If the great sages are right, the direction of the spirit is towards love, and thus this journey invariably guides us to love, to compassion, to humility.
10) You’ve now attended two of our ayahuasca retreats in a period of about 4 months, so your first experience with ayahuasca must have been positive for you to want to come back again. How have your experiences with ayahuasca benefited you personally so far?
It’s been positive beyond words. It has healed some very deep hurts and gave me a taste of what depth of love exists within me that I never tasted before. It has caused me to re-examine all aspects of my life. It has stirred things up within me that I’ve yet to fully comprehend, but I am abiding by it without overthinking what is happening within. I am trusting the process to evolve me towards a great truth and understanding.
I’ve had both incredible “highs” of experience — coming back to my home with so much love for everyone and forgiveness for myself and others for wrongs. But it’s also put me into a place of instability and turmoil. In relationships that are not in accord with my life and there it has caused myself and others suffering. But I believe this is part of the process of shaking loose one’s dysfunctionally constructed life. That “tearing down” of poorly built relationships and intents is bound to hurt and cause turmoil. Ayahuasca showed me incredible bliss and love. But she’s also shown me how I’ve really fucked up. And now comes the personal action to make my life and my living of this life more healthy, more deeply considered, more whole.
11) Have your experiences with ayahuasca changed any of your views on the nature of health and healing? If so, how?
Profoundly so. To now know that there is a way to access the spiritual world and the possibility of using this path to help others heal from “the top down” is a mind-blowing realization. What can possibly be more important than healing another’s spiritual health? It’s what we’ll ultimately confront at the time of our death. The healing of the physical body matters in this limited lifetime, but our spiritual health will go on. I am in complete belief of the “mind/body” connection and how the effects of mental conditions can affect physical health. Well we can now add to it the “spirit/mind/body” paradigm. To heal from the “top down” allows us to approach the whole human in such a powerful way. To activate the spiritual power of “God” to engage in the healing of the individual’s spiritual being, which energizes our life force, thereby elevating our mental/emotional health, and then transferring that elevated health into our bodies. Disease can still happen, as that is life, but how we experience it is what matters most. The spirit can be an endless wellspring of hope, joy, peace, and power that will allow us to experience our physical lives with so much more equanimity and joy.
12) When I spoke to you on retreat about a month ago you seemed a little disillusioned with your profession and particularly with the pharmaceutical industry. Since working with ayahuasca have you considered changing your career path in any way?
Yes, I want to learn how to be more adept at using psychedelics for myself for personal healing and for expansion of my consciousness and spirit. And I see very clearly this is where my healing work will take me next, by applying what I know through these experiences to help others. This is completely new territory to me and I am very excited. Where once, I practiced medicine in a flat-land of molecules and biological receptors, I now see there is a whole new level of spiritual being, where energies can be healed and strengthened, but teaching plants and substances that are all around us and giving this healing as a gift to us.
13) Do you think there may come a time in your lifetime where you can prescribe ayahuasca or other psychedelic treatments to patients?
As stated above, absolutely. Once I feel I am well experienced in Aya, LSD, psilocybin, MDMA, Ibogaine, mescaline, I am very interested to help others find the healing these teachers can provide.