In what’s been described as a ‘paradigm shifter’ for psychiatry, Australian clinical trials are exploring the therapeutic benefits of illegal substances. It was out of desperation that Michael Raymond found himself sitting in a remote retreat in the Peruvian Andes, sipping a cup of bitter tea. Raymond had reached breaking point. His 16-year career as an electrical engineer in high–security situations for the Australian air force had seen him deal with near-death experiences, crashes, casualties and “the aftermath of human remains”.
“I was going to kill myself at one stage,” he says. “I couldn’t keep going.” After being medically discharged with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression, Raymond was prescribed antidepressants and underwent psychotherapy, but with no success. Taking the ayahuasca tea, which contains the psychoactive compound N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), and San Pedro cactus, had been his last resort.