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Will Addicts Visit the New Ayahuasca Retreat in Washington?

By Zachary Siegel 12/21/15

Spend $1,500 to drink tea in a teepee, it may even your heal addiction.


If you’re in the market for a spiritual experience look no further than Elbe, Washington, home to the newest retreat in America dedicated to drinking ayahuasca, a healing hallucinogenic tea, whose roots can be traced back to Amazonian Peru. 

On a Doctors Without Borders trip to Peru during the ‘80s, french physician Dr. Jacques Mabit came in contact with local doctors. “I was surprised they had answers for certain problems that Western medicine couldn’t solve. Their practices were centered around a vine called ayahuasca,” he said in a documentary featuring addiction expert, Dr. Gabor Maté

Mabit’s contact with local Peruvian doctors inspired him to open a substance abuse treatment facility called Takiwasi. There, he administers ayahuasca and conducts ceremonies for people trying to kick their destructive habits. It’s a nine-month program which combines other therapies centered in communal living. 

It appears the newest retreat in Washington is not a treatment center of any kind, but nonetheless encourages visits from people who may suffer from psychic torment to sign up for a session with the tea. 

Both Dr. Gabor Maté and Dr. Josep Fàbregas said in the documentary that aya may hold the key to healing immense suffering caused by trauma and addiction. What would take years of psychotherapy to confront, devotees say could be accomplished of one night with Mother Ayahuasca. 

Ayahuasca Healings, operators of the retreat, claim they are the first to “legally” use it in the United States, though there are several churches that have fought lengthy court battles to keep it as part of their religious rituals. For instance, Santo Daime and União do Vegetal are both churches in the U.S. that have been sanctioned to host ayahuasca ceremonies. There is also Peaceful Mountain Way, based in Kentucky of all places, that has been hosting tea parties for several months. 

Ayahuasca, or aya for short, is no mere concert-going hallucinogen like LSD or psilocybin. Rarely, if ever, is it taken for kicks. Would embarking on a trip with the tea be considered a relapse? 

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.

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