Criminalization Makes It Harder to Study Ayahuasca, Scientists Say

published on November 23, 2017 by Victoria Chan in VICE

It’s an impediment to medical research on ayahuasca’s potential to treat mental health disorders.

For Isabelle, the need to seek out ayahuasca as an alternative form of treatment came after a long and continuous battle with an eating disorder growing up.

“When I was young I had experienced some trauma and abuse in my family, and I had a lot of resentment towards it, and I think it definitely contributed to my eating disorder,” Isabelle, 25, who works in the energy field in Toronto and has requested anonymity due to ayahuasca’s illegality, told VICE.

“I had tried a lot of external things for my mind to heal my eating issue, and none of them worked for me. I tried a lot of therapy, medication, drugs, diets—so many things,” she said.

Dr. Kenneth Tupper, director at the BC Centre on Substance Use, told VICE that what makes ayahuasca unique to other psychoactive drugs is its rich spiritual history and ceremonial aspects.

But he said the legality of ayahuasca use is a “major impediment” to determining how ayahuasca in its traditional form, can address mental health disorders.

“As a result, there’s no standardization or accreditation on who has done the training,” said Tupper. “It’s a bit of a wild west.”

Ayahuasca, which contains the drug dimethyltryptamine (DMT), is classified as a Schedule III drug in Canada, making it illegal. Other schedule III drugs include amphetamines, psychedelics and hallucinogens. According to the Canadian Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, those found trafficking ayahuasca could potentially face up to ten years in jail.

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