Dimitri Mugianis, in the news

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Faces were painted and bodies were purified with smoke from a cup of burning sage. Drummers banged out furious rhythms, and a man twanged away on an African mouth harp. Some drug users sang and chanted and danced vigorously, and others nodded out in seats.

“They’re dope refugees, they’re looking for a better life” – Dimitri Mugianis

Mr. Mugianis said opioid users come to New York for drugs, but also because they can find more tolerance and support here than in their hometowns, and greater access to services such as syringe exchanges.

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When shamanic healer Phillia Kim Downs was training in Peru, she attended an ayahuasca ceremony, where people ingest a psychedelic drink under the guidance of a shaman. After she and her friend had each ingested a huge glass of the drug — they later learned it was around 10 times the amount normally given — the shaman told her, “Go outside and lay under the stars.”

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The shaman made his warning blunt so there would be no misunderstanding. What they were about to do was illegal. It was also dangerous. The medicine he was prepared to administer did not come from a doctor or pharmacist. It was grown in an African jungle, shipped across the ocean, and smuggled into the United States.

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“To say that people are totally dysfunctional on opiates as Americans, we’d have to discount all that active users have given to this culture, from Billie Holiday​ to Edgar Allan Poe to Jimi Hendrix; people who not only functioned but excelled and enriched our culture. The people who made our culture were high.

-Dimitri Mugianis