To Wickerham, stories like this illustrate why the ESC is necessary. He hopes to work with the governments of countries like Peru and Ecuador to show them that they don't have to resort to heavy-handed regulatory legislation -- that the community can monitor itself.

“I hope we can prevent another tragedy.”

When Dr. Brian Rush started a crowdfunding campaign for ayahuasca research, he didn’t know what to expect.

In a greenhouse at the University of Minnesota, Dennis McKenna tends to one of two key plants used to prepare ayahuasca
Emily Utne
In a greenhouse at the University of Minnesota, Dennis McKenna tends to one of two key plants used to prepare ayahuasca

The campaign for ATOP ― the Ayahuasca Treatment Outcomes Project ― launched on Indiegogo in August 2013. By the time it closed in October, Rush and his team had raised $34,000 from 450 people. Some of them, Rush says, had personal experiences with ayahuasca; others had been touched by addiction; still others were simply intrigued. Most interesting of all was the support from doctors.

“I got notes from physicians and psychiatrists in the U.S. and Canada who have been using ayahuasca under the table in clinical practice, and really support this work,” says Rush. “I don’t think I expected that.”

Rush, an addiction researcher with a doctorate in public health, first heard of ayahuasca in 2011 and decided to travel to Peru to learn more. He checked into an ayahuasca center called Takiwasi, and during a ceremony, confronted his twenty-year addiction to nicotine. “I was laid flat out in a coffin, and my three children were standing around me,” says Rush. “Then I started purging, and it felt like I was purging the tobacco poison.”

Not long after Rush returned home, he gave up smoking for good.

“I had quit before, but this time was different,” he says. “It’s like I have no memory of smoking. I don’t have any tactile memory in my hands. That was a year and a half ago, and I haven’t had a cigarette.”

Having studied addiction science for thirty years, Rush asked the Takiwasi center what data it had. The answer was: not much. When he realized that other, similar programs also lacked decent evaluation data, he decided to change that.

“I said, ‘I am in your service,’” he recalls.

The Indiegogo campaign funded the project team’s first planning meeting, the kickoff of a study that will be several years long. The meeting took place in Peru at the end of October and brought together forty international researchers to help design the project.

They decided that ATOP will be an umbrella over studies in several South American countries, each looking at ayahuasca in the treatment of drug and alcohol abuse. By the end, the researchers hope to have definite answers on whether addicts treated with ayahuasca see a verifiable reduction in alcohol- and drug-related harms.

“It’s real clear that all we have now is kind of anecdotal evidence, and small studies with short-term followup,” says Rush. “This is a potential approach that a lot of people have some confidence in, and at least enough confidence to say, ‘We need more studies. We need to know more.’”

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15 comments
Sid Quintana
Sid Quintana

It causes mental illnes, cant belive you people promote this bullshit about time to delete westword

Mane Rok
Mane Rok

Ryan InkLine Howell Clint Edwards Matt Deca Kenney Koichi Ichiban Ninomiya

Jordan Snyder
Jordan Snyder

@Sid- you forgot the other half of that nugget of info - only for people who were predisposed already. And that goes for most psychoactive substances including caffeine.

Tianna Crowell
Tianna Crowell

Ibogaine blocks the physical symptoms of withdrawal. It's not a cure... You can only successfully quit if you are mentally ready... But it sure is a damn good starting point. It's a shame these types of medicines aren't mainstream.

Tianna Crowell
Tianna Crowell

Yes.... Ibogaine.. My friend was a heroin addict and he was on methadone for years... Flooded Ibogaine and it was a complete turn around

Jøsh Kåmm
Jøsh Kåmm

Actually it is used among the tribes in South America and another similar substance that has actually successfully cured heroin addiction is ibogaine no first hand experience tho

Oi'Ram Arejan
Oi'Ram Arejan

Ayahuasca has helped millions of people in south Africa nonetheless around the world, it would be dumb not to take it into consideration as a healing medicine in the states. But then again why in the world would our government want a medicine that spiritually awakens and shows hope in this distraught world we live in. O and don't forget all the antidepressant companies, they would no longer be needed. Can't have that happen

Oi'Ram Arejan
Oi'Ram Arejan

Only if people would actually read this with an open mind, makes me happy though the Denver Westword atleast tries to shine a lil light on this subject. Namaste

Rhine
Rhine

Had a bad trip friend ? 

 
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