Can drinking an Amazonian tea cure addiction?

 

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Is Childhood trauma the root of addiction? According to Dr. Gabor Maté, yes. The Canadian physician believes that the origin of addiction can be traced back to a painful experience in childhood. He argues that addicts suffer from hurt and stress that can come from violence, abuse, addiction in the family, neglect, and other discomforting experiences. Dr. Maté’s stance on drug addiction posits that the drugs themselves are not causing the addiction, but that psychological or physiological stresses are. His 2010 book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction, highlights his theory that if we only address addiction as a disease, we do not treat addiction at its core. Dr. Mate is one of the proponents of ayahuasca-assisted treatment to help his patients address the root source of addiction.

Ayahuasca – The Hallucinogenic Tea

What is Ayahuasca-assisted treatment? It is a form of psychedelic-assistance which helps patients relive and address trauma they experienced as children. Ayahuasca is a hallucinogenic tea made from Amazonian tree bark and has been used by shamans for centuries. Ayahuasca is legal in South America, but only legal in the United States for certain religious groups. The Supreme Court ruled that the União do Vegetal, a religious group with Brazilian origins, can use the brew for its religious services. A limited but thought-provoking number of studies suggest that ayahuasca provides a remedy for addicts.  The Ayahuasca-Assisted Treatment for Addiction was the first observational study in North America. Conducted in British Columbia, Canada, the published results showed that patients, who were treated with ayahuasca for substance abuse, reported a decline in the use of alcohol, tobacco, and cocaine. The patients also gained psychological benefits, feeling more hopeful and empowered. The study’s results suggest that more research should be done on ayahuasca-assisted treatment. Although studies suggest that ayahuasca can be used for drug addiction, PTSD, and depression, its active ingredient, DMT, remains a Schedule I controlled substance in the U.S., and in 2011, the Canadian government ordered Dr. Maté to stop treating his patients with ayahuasca tea.

Ayahuasca is controversial

Dr. Maté’s theory is backed by research, but critics assert that linking addiction to childhood limits the scope of treatment and cripples research. One critic, Dr. Stanton Peele, believes that Dr. Maté reduces and simplifies addiction to a problem that can be cured via controversial and dubious treatment. Dr. Peele argues that not every person who suffers from childhood trauma becomes an addict, and that family history and mental illness are just some of many factors that can predispose one to addiction.

Searching for new ways to treat addiction

Although ayahuasca may help addiction, it is probable that psychedelics will remain controversial as these substances need to overcome their stigma as drugs that are only used for people who want to ‘trip out.’ However, other cultures have used psychedelics in medicine, and there is much to learn from this cathartic-induced treatment. Dr. Maté has never stated that ayahuasca is a cure-all, but his work encourages therapists and researchers to investigate innovative ways to treat addiction.

The War on Drugs

The War on Drugs punishes people who have an addiction problem, however, the body of growing evidence would suggest that the very last thing they need is to be jailed, labeled a criminal, and released with no opportunity. This popular TED Talk calls for an alternative approach to punishment; instead, substance abusers need treatment options, support, and employment opportunities to sustain their connection with the rest of society. If you have been charged with a drug-related offense, contact an attorney to find out about drug court programs such as the one offered in Montgomery County. These specialized courts help non-violent offenders through intensive treatment and extensive accountability.

 

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