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Teen on trip dies after drinking Shaman tribal ritual mixture

Henry Miller, a UK student visiting Columbia, dies after drinking yage during a shaman tribal ritual.
Henry Miller, a UK student visiting Columbia, dies after drinking yage during a shaman tribal ritual.

As "Footwork" hip-hop fans bemoan the unexpected drug overdose death of DJ Rashad, parents in the UK are concerned about the death of a teen male after he participated in a shaman tribal ritual and died from the hallucinogenic drink.

According to a Yahoo News report on April 28, 2014, Henry Miller was found dead on Wednesday on a rural road right outside of Mocoa, which is the capital of the Putumayo region in Columbia.

Amazon native plants were used to make the tribal ritual drink, which the boy's family believes led to his death. The Putumayo region's police commander said the psychedelic brew the youth drank is known as yage, and that it is very popular due to the hallucinations and other effects it produces. The hostel where Miller stayed advertised the experience as a recommended "thing to do" while in Columbia.

This was the second use of yage by Henry Miller, according to the Telegraph, who reported that he told a videographer following the first ritual ceremony that he did not feel much effect from the first encounter with the drug. Thus, he opted to participate in yet a second ritual ceremony with its use.

One young man present at that ceremony describes the young UK teen as making animal noises at one point, like a pig, then trying to fly. But he never spoke, just lashed out with his hands and feet instead, according to Christopher Dearden, who witnessed the reaction.

Authorities in the region conducted an autopsy, sending the toxicology samples on to Bogota for analysis, but they say the Thursday autopsy proceedings showed there was not any type of violence sustained by Miller prior to his death.

The local shaman had instructed two young men to take Miller by motorcycle to a hospital for treatment, reportedly, after he appeared to have the reaction during his second ingestion of the drug within a two day period. Other members of the international community, including some from Italy, Germany and France, also participated in drinking yage, but none had the same adverse reaction. But it is not known if they, too, ingested it twice in a two-day period.

Yage is also known more frequently by the name Ayahuasca, which Wikipedia reports sometimes contains DMT, which makes it illegal for use in the United States, as DMT is a Schedule 1 drug. It is not known what was added to the plants consumed by Henry Miller in the yage drink he ingested, but as recent as 2010 the International Narcotics Control Board was advocating criminalization of yage at the national level. More importantly for now, youth traveling to foreign countries which advocate ritual or regional drinks that can make you hallucinate should be avoided for your own safety.

The Atlanta Top News Examiner Radell Smith has a degree in criminal justice and behavioral forensics. You can reach her at with questions or story ideas.

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