Finnoexpert reports on why regulation is needed and quickly…
With its crumbling walls, concrete floor and grubby mattresses, blankets and pillows, the old stone outhouse looks more like a seedy squat than a wellness retreat.
Ominously, several buckets and a toilet roll are placed on the floor. And for the next three days, a group of 20 people – each paying £800 for the privilege – will vomit, wail and hallucinate here for up to 15 hours at a time after indulging in the latest craze for the South American psychedelic drug ayahuasca.
In this nondescript farm building on the outskirts of the historic mill village of Compstall, near Stockport, hundreds of people have already flocked to try the drug, tempted by claims that it can help to alleviate addiction, depression and anxiety.
Ayahuasca is illegal in the UK because it contains the powerful Class A hallucinogenic drug dimethyltryptamine, or DMT.
Yet an undercover investigation by The Mail on Sunday has found that it is being provided at this retreat, run by self-styled ‘shaman’ Chris Hargreaves and his yoga teacher girlfriend, Rebecca Stewart.
An undercover investigation has found that ayahuascais being provided at this retreat, run by self-styled ‘shaman’ Chris Hargreaves and his yoga teacher girlfriend, Rebecca Stewart (pictured)
It is not the only one. We have evidence of similar illicit retreats in London, North Wales and Brighton.
Some, such as the one being run by Hargreaves and Stewart, are so brazen that they operate as limited companies.
The couple’s records show they have assets of more than £80,000, and they are clearly in demand. When I tried to book a place in their Sacred Nature retreat at the start of this year, I was told that the next available one was not until late February.
That’s how I found myself in the Compstall outhouse last month among a group of mostly middle-class professionals – including a mother with a baby who was still being breastfed.
With me were a management consultant and a tennis coach, a couple from Scotland who had taken a ferry and driven eight hours to get there, and a young woman who had made the five-and-a-half-hour journey north from Bournemouth by car.
The mother of the four-month-old baby also had her eight-year-old with her, and was accompanied by her 22-year-old son who, she excitedly told everyone, would be taking ayahuasca with her for the first time.
In contrast, almost everyone else had drank the hallucinogen before – one man revealed that he attended the retreat every month.
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