Health authorities in Vancouver have ordered a doctor to stop treating addicts with hallucinogenic tea or face criminal charges.
According to the Toronto Star, Dr. Gabor Maté recently received a letter from Health Canada asking him to halt treatment with ayahuasca as it is a controlled substance that requires government approval.
Maté says he used the ritualistic Amazonian medicine to help 150 addicts for almost two years.
His treatments were featured in the documentary, The Jungle Prescription, which just aired on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s The Nature of Things.
"I wish it was otherwise because I have seen how I can help people with this and now it is going to be much longer to seek approval if we even get it," Maté told The Star.
The psychedelic drink Ayahuasca is made from a vine that grows in the Amazon basin and has been used as medicine for hundreds of years by shamans.
The substance affects the parts of the brain that control emotional memory and insight. When addicts drink the tea, it allows them to remember traumatic events and/or the "emotional resonance" that these events caused. The traumatic events are what led to the addictions in the first place.
The tea helps the addicts to reprocess the traumatic events as adults. Maté says the tea should be consumed in a ceremony guided by someone trained in shaman traditions. The addicts must also continue to follow up with a doctor.
"If you understand that there is nothing wrong with you but that you have just been hurt and … you can begin to let go of it," he says.
Maté pointed out that he never imported or distributed the tea. He’s only given advice to those have used it while treating their addictions caused by bad memories. He doesn’t even know where ayahuasca comes from.
His methods may seem unorthodox, but Maté says he has had some noteworthy achievements with the tripping tea. He’s also had some failures.
"People have given up sex addictions. People have given up cocaine addictions. People have given up their heroin and crystal meth use. People are relocating from the Downtown Eastside. People have reconciled with their families and that kind of thing," he explains.
For now, Maté says he will follow Health Canada’s order and apply for authorization to use the tea as a treatment.