The philosophy of the Beyond Psychedelics initiative and subsequently also our main event, the Global Multidisciplinary Forum BP18, is to provide a platform for an open and out-of-the box discussion. We aspire to facilitate the exchange of both scientific knowledge and practical experience and we encourage innovative discussion.
One practical implication of trying to hold on to such philosophy is that we try to invite speakers based mainly on their ability to present coherent models and reasonable arguments. Their opinions or ideas don’t necessarily reflect the opinions of the organizing institutions. Sometimes, they are also perceived as fringe and unreasonable by mainstream society. Given the uniqueness and efficacy of psychedelic states, any attempt to debate the topic openly will have to include and share space with controversial positions and persons.
It will always be difficult to decide and moderate which speaker or practitioner should receive more attention than others. Although we do not wish to change our open attitude, we are becoming aware of the fact that the desired discussion did not always take place to a satisfying extent and by providing space for some personas we are seen as indirectly supporting the malpractices conducted by them. It is even more difficult to deal with allegations that two of our guests has been somehow involved in criminal activity or unethical practice.
There have been ongoing concerns and repeated reports of malpractice in connection to two facilitators of psychedelic experience, namely Octavio Rettig and Gerry Sandoval. The substance most connected to their practice is secretion from the Bufo alvarius toad which contains 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamin (5-Meo-DMT).
To stay aligned with our philosophy and keep with the ideal of open discussion, we are now sharing the other side of the story, as communicated by the World Bufo Alvarius Congress (WBAC) which has dealt with a similar situation (see below).
We want to emphasize that the practices addressed by WBAC (psychological, physical and sexual abuse, neglect, fraud, lack of informed consent) are serious transgressions of the ethical codexes of current health care and helping professions, declaration of human rights, and in some cases legislative authorities. They are considered harmful and dangerous. Depending on the legislation of different countries, when properly followed up by a lawsuit, a confirmation of such acts can result in the perpetrator losing their medical licence or even incarceration.
We want to make clear that current statements are not addressing the safety profile of the secretion from glands of Bufo alvarius toad, nor 5-MeO-DMT. Although anecdotal evidence so far suggests that similarly as other tryptamine psychedelics, also those aforementioned might be relatively safe when administered in the carefully controlled setting (including exclusion of the possible contraindications), this cannot be stated with the sufficient reliability until the rigorous studies will be done.
At the same time, we wish to remind all explorers of altered states of consciousness of the importance of study, caution, patience and diligence when putting oneself in the hands of any facilitator.
Neither is it our intention to flatly discredit the whole work of Octavio Rettig and Gerry Sandoval, but only to disclose and inform the wider public about the allegations of malpractice conducted by these facilitators.
Following texts originally appeared at WBAC webpage.
Toad medicine ceremonies with Dr Octavio Rettig
At WBAC 2018 a panel discussion talked about Bufo Alvarius Facilitators’ Ethics and Code of Conduct and discussed these crucial issues, including some of the controversial practices utilized by Dr. Rettig in his ceremonies. Most commentators disagreed with Dr. Rettig on the following aspects of his practice, as outlined on his website: https://octaviorettig.com/toad-medicine/
“Toad medicine ceremony with Dr Octavio Rettig
All participants should be aware of and agree with the following conditions. Please be informed that during the Toad Medicine ceremony, Dr Octavio Rettig:
The webpage says also: “All these actions have been carefully tested and have proven their unique value as a part of the neo shamanistic rituals that Dr Rettig developed while working with the toad medicine. They have significantly increased the results and improved the wellbeing of participants during and after the ceremonies.”
To our knowledge, there is no evidence about reported benefits of use of those practices.
Nevertheless, experience of those techniques in the ceremony held by Dr Rettig have shown to have some risks, in some cases resulting in life-threating events, serious injuries, even in death (especially use of rapé and water as recent reports indicate). Participants have also reported it unnecessarily disturbed or cut off their experience with toad and reduced the potential beneficial effect they could get from it. Those techniques might also be forced and used non-consensually. Moreover, there have been reports and videos of other practices by Dr. Rettig:
– Rapé administered during the toad experience itself when people are not consciously controlling their body
– Participants being left on their own during or after the experience
– Informed consent rarely provided before the experience
– Water poured in the participants nose
– Physical and psychological violence
It is the belief of WBAC that these aforementioned practices are unethical, dangerous and should not be used in this way in ceremony. There is the danger of physical harm, death, emotional and psychological trauma and other mental health issues, and issues around lack of consent by people under the influence of the medicine when these techniques are used. Those practices are also widely recognized as unacceptable in the ethical guidelines of any kind of therapy or healing (ranging from shamanic practice to modern health care).
We also want to make clear, that some of those practices might be beneficial when used responsibly, which is not always the case of ceremonies done by Dr Rettig who is using them in the excessive amounts (rapé, water).
Conversations around Dr. Rettig’s controversial practices have been ongoing for some time online, and recent reports of the death of a Mexican woman from Leon, Guanajuato, in her 40s who aspirated due to the application of rapé and water, and reports another near death in Europe from the same techniques in ceremony, have led us to believe that a line needs to be drawn in the sand for the safety of the community at large.
We ask the global toad community and all future participants to choose their practitioners well, to be fully informed of the risks of the medicine and ceremony, and to support ethical practices that nurture, not harm, those partaking of the sacred toad medicine and more widely all psychedelics. For more information on best practices and integration, see: http://awareproject.org/blog/2018/5/5-meo-dmt-health-and-safety
Statement on the Removal of Dr. Gerry Sandoval
Over the time the voices of opposition to our offering of time to Dr. Gerry Sandoval as a speaker and panelist at the World Bufo Alvarius Congress (WBAC) has been undeniable. The primary focus of WBAC is that of a Congress, a place for notable members of the Bufo community to gather, speak and learn, without preferential treatment.
Our initial intention was to allow Gerry, and the community, an opportunity to express opinions and grievances in a way that would hopefully bring about a change in what is seen by many as extremely irresponsible facilitation practices. The loud opposition did not fall on deaf ears. While we had hoped to give rise to a dialogue on good and bad practices–with all facilitators–recent information has been presented to us by concerned parties regarding the behavior of Gerry Sandoval that if true, goes beyond bad practices with the medicine and amounts to grievous criminal acts.
Our intention to hold space for an exchange of valuable information is further undermined by the real possibility that victims of such acts may be further traumatized when exposed to such a confrontational setting. Therefore, we have revoked his invitation to attend, speak or participate in any way at WBAC. This decision was not taken lightly, as this is a medicine of unity, and we had hoped to be agents of change in a meaningful way. In general, we have instituted a “No Naming, No Shaming” policy when discussing facilitators and their practices as the best way to approach issues that are coming up in the community. However, in this instance it is now clear, more than ever, that Gerry Sandoval’s inclusion is inappropriate and being misunderstood as unilateral support, which it was not. The Congress is not a vehicle for the approval of Gerry Sandoval’s actions.
We will now be taking some time in the WBAC programming schedule to offer a space for those who feel harmed by any facilitator, to express themselves in a moderated dialogue so that we as the community can be honest and transparent about our traumas, to unify and to heal.
It is not the intention of WBAC to promote, condone, or reprehend individual Bufo facilitators, but rather to assemble the global Bufo community to bring about a safe space for dialogue on issues such as best practices, duty of care, ethics, sustainability and the like, in a way that can hopefully transcend politics and online aggression.