Canadian kills fellow tourist during ayahuasca ceremony

Photo credit: El Comercio

A Canadian man killed his friend and fellow tourist after both men consumed ayahuasca in a ceremony outside Iquitos last night.

According to Reuters, Joshua Freeman-Stevens stabbed British citizen Unais Gomes after the latter attacked him with a knife.

Witnesses say Gomes was suffering a bad experience after ingesting ayahuasca, which contains the hallucinogenic chemical DMT, and attacked Freeman with a knife from the kitchen of the Phoenix Ayahuasca retreat outside Iquitos. After a struggle, Freeman stabbed Gomes with the same knife in the chest and stomach.

“It might be folkloric, spiritual or whatever else, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a drug that dramatically alters your state of mind,” Iquitos police officer Normando Marques told Reuters. He added that Freeman was in police custody.

The Phoenix Ayahuasca is a hotel and retreat in Iquitos catering to foreign tourists looking to take the hallucinogenic drug, ayahuasca, which is legal in Peru as indigenous communities of the Amazon jungle have taken the drug in religious ceremonies for hundreds of years. According to Reuters, ayahuasca tourism has increased in recent years. Phoenix Ayahuasca charges $1,200 for a 10-day stay which includes three nights of ayahuasca dosing.

“Approximately 40 minutes [after taking ayahuasca] visions begin, which may be of ‘other worlds’ or new perspectives on ‘this world’ and/or recollections in words, sights, sounds or feelings of episodes and events from your life which need to be healed and which can now be approached from a position of knowledge and strength, aided by the spirit of ayahuasca,” reads the Phoenix Ayahuasca website.

A New Zealand man died from a nicotine overdose after ingesting tobacco tea in the purging stage of an ayahuasca ceremony last September. In February a Canadian woman also died from an overdose.

Ayahuasca is currently classified in the United States as a Schedule I drug with “no currently accepted medical use.” However recent studies have shown it could be useful in the treatment of diabetes or addiction to alcohol and nicotine.


Canadian man kills Brit in psychedelic ceremony in Peru’s Amazon (Reuters)

Phoenix Ayahuasca’s F.A.Q’s Page (Phoenix Ayahuasca)

Book a Retreat (Phoenix Ayahuasca)

  • Awhile back some friends and I dropped in to this Phoenix Ayahuasca place after meeting with Tracie (the owner) in Iquitos. At first she seemed nice, but after getting to the center, I and others started to get creeped out especially after the first ceremony. Fortunately, I had experienced good ceremonies and well run centers elsewhere in Peru… so I knew the difference. Owners Mark and Tracie to me often came across as very “know it all”, i.e., condescending and I was further concerned about how they would sit around on the center’s pleasant deck and talk trash about other guests and former attendees; very unprofessional. Tracie really got on my nerves in her approach to “de-brief” attendees at the end of ceremony while they were still highly under the influence of the medicine. She would “fish” for personal and private background. Mark was busy hitting on the young girls which I found disgusting dirty old man stuff. Yuck! Mark was trying to come across as a “shaman” and to me it was clear he was on some kind of weird ego-trip. My skin would crawl as he sang during the ceremony. They (Mark & Tracie) are both are recovering addicts and I think they simply discovered a way to combine the wonderful medicine Ayahuasca with their lack of professional accomplishments, little formal education and avarice for a quick tourist buck. For Tracie to claim in regards to the murder at Phoenix Ayahuasca that there was “nothing” they could of done if they had been there is ludicrous! First of all, they should have been there and “on it” as much as they own it. Good center managers (or capable deputies) closely monitor every ceremony and when someone is “freaking out” or on the verge of it, the Shaman is to step in and control the space. I have seen potentially disruptive situations controlled at other more reputable centers like Kapitari and Nhue Rhao. Tracie and Mark (any owners) should be sued into oblivion and be dealt with to the fullest extent of Peruvian and International law. I left my visit to Phoenix Ayahuasca with gratitude for the medicine… but with a deep distrust of Tracie and Mark. I chose not to get on a soapbox to denounce them in hopes that the community would sort it graciously. It is a tragedy that lives have been ruined and a murder has ensued as a result of Tracie and Mark’s cavalier attitude and bad management. It was only a matter of time, but alas, how sad. BTW, while I was there, Tracie administered San Pedro (another powerful medicine) to two guests and immediately left for town to go shopping, leaving these two totally inexperienced guests who never had done San Pedro previously, totally on their own; completely unsupervised One of them wandered off into the jungle and got lost. He didn’t freak and finally made it back some hours later. I know Tracie and Mark have their followers and avid supporters…. but in my experience and informed opinion they are dangerous, reckless and should be legally and socially removed from the Ayahuasca community as “leaders”. There is no excuse or plausible apology. Those who disagree should ask the victim’s family.

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