Dr. Gabor Mate: Ayahuasca Is The 'Antidote To Western Psychological Distress'

By Victoria Kim 06/21/17

Dr. Maté, who once dismissed the hallucinogenic tea, now runs ayahuasca sessions twice a year. 

Dr. Gabor Mate
Dr. Gabor Mate Photo via YouTube

Dr. Gabor Maté was at first skeptical of the healing power of ayahuasca, but after experiencing the “spirit vine” for himself, he’s one of its biggest advocates.

It had such a profound effect on the doctor that he now calls it an “antidote to western psychological distress and cultural alienation.” 

“It put me in touch with a deep love that I both wanted and had been running away from all my life,” Maté told The Georgia Straight. “I saw how deeply beneath the usual conscious mind the plant could help you penetrate into yourself.”

Maté, the author of In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction—in which he discusses the impact that trauma has on people who later become “addicts”—initially dismissed the notion that ayahuasca could heal the mind as “mumbo jumbo.” But after one session with a shaman visiting from Peru, the doctor now helps run ayahuasca sessions twice a year.

“I could see how deep it takes you into your psyche and beyond your psyche, actually, into some deep truths—sometimes very painful, sometimes very beautiful, but always potentially very edifying,” he said.

The hallucinogenic tea, brewed of a tropical vine native to South America as well as other ingredients, has roots in indigenous cultures there, but is attracting a growing interest among Westerners who seek “purifying psychological journeys” documented by every outlet from The New York Times to The Fix.

Maté has worked in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside with patients suffering from drug addiction, mental illness, and HIV. In January 2016 he spoke in-depth with The Fix contributor John Lavitt about properly addressing the deep roots of drug addiction. “They didn’t know they were traumatized…They thought they were just fuck-ups,” he said. 

“They thought they were just bad people," he went on. "They didn’t realize that they were using the addiction to soothe a deep pain that was rooted in trauma. In all cases of addiction that I have seen, there’s deep pain that comes out of trauma. The addiction is the person’s unconscious attempt to escape from the pain.”

Maté is featured in the documentary The Path of the Shaman, which follows “Dave,” a healer who hosts ayahuasca retreats with the help of Dr. Maté.

Even the director of the film, Todd Harris, attested to the life-changing potential of ayahuasca. After participating in a ceremony with Dave, Harris said he was “freed” from his alcohol and marijuana addictions, allowing him to develop a more “deeply connected” relationship with his family.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr