Health Canada’s letter to Dr. Gabor Mate
By Philippe Lucas (*)
I’m the Coordinator and co-researcher of an observational study of ayahuasca-assisted addiction treatment with a focus on Dr. Gabor Maté’s Working with Stress and Addictions Retreats (PI Gerald Thomas PhD). Dr. Maté’s work with ayahuasca was also the basis for a documentary project called “The Jungle Prescription” that aired on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) well-regarded The Nature of Things documentary series, which is hosted by David Suzuki, one of the Canada’s most famous and respected environmentalists and public intellectuals.
On November 4th – just 6 days before “the Jungle Prescription” was to air nationally in Canada – Johanne Beaulieu, Director of Health Canada’s Office of Controlled Substances crafted and sent a letter to Dr. Maté advising him that ayahuasca contains three substances – DMT, harmaline and harmalol – that are controlled substances, and that as such any further work or research that he wished to conduct involving ayahuasca would have to go through a federal clinical trial approval process (see here and here). Although Dr. Maté had noted remarkable progress in regards to the treatment of stress, trauma and addiction for many of the people he’d seen treated with ayahuasca, he agreed to comply with Health Canada’s request. At the current time I’m not aware of any plans to pursue clinical trials on ayahuasca-assisted treatment for addiction, as there are concerns that the concessions that would have to be made to standardize this treatment protocol and substance would inevitably alter the efficacy of the process.
I feel very fortunate to have been able to study this remarkable healing modality, and hope that our findings will create momentum for further research. However, for now, I’m saddened for Dr. Maté and for those who might have benefitted from these retreats, for I know that he is an agent of kindness and compassion, and that the process his team developed is profound and potentially very effective.
(*) Philippe Lucas, MA, is Coordinator/co-researcher of An Observational Study of Ayahuasca-Assisted Addictions Therapy.
The final data gathering for this study is taking place this month, and the authors plan to submit a paper with their results by spring/summer 2012.
To contact Philippe Lucas: email@example.com