Bri­tons at £500 re­treat get high on mind­bend­ing drug blamed for stu­dent’s death

The Mail on Sunday - - Femail - By Jonathan Bucks

A BRI­TISH ac­coun­tant is sell­ing £ 500 week­end re­treats to Spain where guests take a psy­che­delic drug that has caused a num­ber of hor­rific deaths.

Groups of up to 12 peo­ple gather at a lux­ury villa in Mar­bella to drink ayahuasca, a highly dan­ger­ous hal­lu­cino­genic brew which is il­le­gal in the UK and has been blamed for the death of a 19-year-old Bri­ton.

Nick­named ‘lit­tle death’, the po­tent psy­choac­tive drug is of­ten drunk dur­ing tribal rit­u­als in the Ama­zon rain­for­est by Western­ers who have been promised they will ex­pe­ri­ence ‘spir­i­tual en­light­en­ment’.

But Ar­ron Kil­burn, 31, is cash­ing in on the drug’s soar­ing pop­u­lar­ity by en­tic­ing hun­dreds of Bri­tons to Spain, where the drug is le­gal, and promis­ing them ‘ten years of ther­apy in one night’.

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Pub­lic­ity makes no men­tion of the dan­gers

Lo­han have en­dorsed the class-A drug, which is a blend of the ayahuasca vine and a shrub called chacruna, and have cred­ited it with trans­form­ing their lives.

But last month, an in­quest con­cluded that the drug con­trib­uted to the death of gap- year stu­dent Henry Miller, from Bris­tol, af­ter he drank the sub­stance dur­ing a ritual in Colom­bia in 2014.

Mr Miller’s par­ents warned against tak­ing ayahuasca and the coroner at his in­quest, Maria Voisin, said she would write to the For­eign Of­fice urg­ing ex­tra guid­ance to those vis­it­ing ar­eas where the drug is preva­lent.

Ex­perts have also warned that ayahuasca, which con­tains a dan­ger­ous LSD-like sub­stance called dimethyl­tryptamine, can in­crease blood pres­sure and cause se­vere psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­tress and hal­lu­ci­na­tions.

In 2015, Unais Gomes, 26, a Cam­bridge grad­u­ate and for­mer Gold­man Sachs banker, died af­ter tak­ing ayahuasca. He was stabbed to death by a friend who said he was act­ing i n self- de­fence af­ter t he pair be­came in­volved in a vi­o­lent strug­gle at a re­treat in Peru.

In an­other in­ci­dent in­volv­ing ritu- als in Colom­bia, Joe Til­ley, 24, of Le­ices­ter, fell to his death at a wa­ter­fall known as the End of the World.

For £560, cus­tomers of Ayahuasca English, the com­pany run by Ar­ron Kil­burn, are whisked to a vast villa in Mar­bella for a three-day re­treat where they take part in all-night ayahuasca ses­sions and ‘psy­chother­a­peu­tic in­te­gra­tion’.

Ac­cord­ing to the firm’s web­site, the or­gan­is­ers col­lect the nat­u­ral plant in­gre­di­ents in South Amer­ica be­fore they are pre­pared for guests ‘ by ex­pert con­nois­seurs of the plants and the mas­ter­ful for­mu­las used for thou­sands of years in indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties’.

Mr Kil­burn highlights none of the drug’s dan­gers in the com­pany’s pro­mo­tional ma­te­rial but in a slick video shot at the villa, he de­clares: ‘Many peo­ple con­tact us and feel very anx­ious about com­ing.

‘I’d en­cour­age ev­ery­one to trust them­selves and follow their heart. There’s a quote that I re­ally like which is, “The great­est trea­sure is found in the cave that we are afraid to en­ter.” ’

Mr Kil­burn, who runs an ac­coun­tancy firm called AK Fi­nance Sys­tems Ltd, de­scribes him­self as an ‘ayahuasca in­te­gra­tor’ on his Face­book page and has spo­ken at sev­eral con­fer­ences to pro­mote the drug.

An ad­vert on Face­book says ayahuasca ‘al­lows us to go deeply in­side our own con­scious­ness – to see the lim­it­ing be­liefs and pat­terns that we hold, and to let them go in or­der to re­alise our true po­ten­tial. Many be­lieve that ayahuasca it­self has now de­cided to make the change and ex­pand across the globe.’

Last night, a spokesman for In­ner Mas­tery In­ter­na­tional, the par­ent com­pany of Ayahuasca English, said: ‘Ayahuasca is only an op­tional tool that we use to go deeper ther­a­peu­ti­cally into our par­tic­i­pants’ emo­tions and hid­den trau­mas, and given in very mea­sured dosages.

‘We have a med­i­cal team to ad­vise our par­tic­i­pants and team mem­bers be­fore any per­son signs up. All par­tic­i­pants have to fill out a form with their med­i­cal history and treat­ments, and we do of­fer pre­and post-re­treat sup­port.’

SLICK: Stills from a video pro­mot­ing the re­treat run by Ayahuasca English in the pop­u­lar re­sort of Mar­bella

TRAGIC: Henry Miller died af­ter drink­ing ayahuasca in Colom­bia

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