Drug tourism

Approx read: 3 mins

Drugs have always been a part of the human experience, and although governments and authorities legalise some substances and forbid others, people across the world continue to seek out different states that mind altering substances deliver, often at personal risk. From the feedback battleface received from our review of the spike in tourism to Iquitos in Peru’s Amazon Basin for the Ayahuasca trip (an Amazonian plant mixture that induces altered states), it seemed like a great idea to share some other extreme drug tourism stories.

Our perspective on this starts with an appreciation that in some places, drugs, like food and drink, are culturally embedded in local tradition. Just as tourists seek out travel destinations known for great cuisine or music, many travellers are in search of local drug culture and the trip that locals experience.

If we’re starting at one of the classics, then weshaman-431960_960_720 can look no further than The Golden Triangle. Opiates made the Golden Triangle that connects Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos a name in drug tourism long ago, but opium and heroin are not the only drugs available in the region. Ecstasy, mushrooms and cannabis are equally easy to score. A note of warning though: just because drugs are easy to get don’t think that you won’t face tough penalties for getting caught with them in your possession. The best advice for drug-seekers in the Golden Triangle is to avoid carrying drugs and always buy from a trusted source.

Gabon, on Africa’s west coast is the new kid on the block with tourists lining up for wood chips that contain one of the world’s strongest psychedelic drugs, known locally as iboga. The psychedelic power of the iboga drug comes from the roots of the plant Tabernanthe iboga which has been known for its specials powers in the region for centuries. The local Bwiti religion is steeped in spirituality around the mind-altering states delivered by iboga, and the careful preparation of the concoction is a guarded secret. As for the effects of this drug, little has been recorded or shared outside of Gabon which only heightens the thrill for the daring drug tourist. However, with reward there is always risk and the unknown quality of iboga should be balanced against knowledge that it can cause severe nausea, convulsions, vomiting, and sharp stabbing pains. Then there’s the risk of death, most often by cardiac arrest.

Nature’s best surely can’t come any more unadulterated than the magic within Himalayan honey produced by the Giant Bee of Himalayas. Apis dorsata will grow up to 3cm in length and swarms of them build huge nests on the overhanging rocks of cliff faces in the high forests of Nepal. They harvest the nectar from Rhododendron flowers which are normally highly poisonous to humans. In small amounts the honey is intoxicating and delivers a feeling of relaxation, pleasant dizziness and tingling sensations. However, eating larger amounts can induce a hallucinogenic state, and although there is little scientific literature regarding its effects the locals will go to extremes to harvest the honey from dangerous the sheer cliffs. That’s how sweet this honey is!

If the beaches and rhythms of Jamaica aren’t the excitement that you’re searching for in this Caribbean playground, then the drug tourism in Kingston might be. For a tourist, let alone a local, this is the world’s edgiest place to score. Though marijuana is synonymous with this Rasta culture, it is still illegal in Jamaica even though you can buy it from just about anywhere except a police station. Venturing into some areas in Kingston such as Trenchtown, Rema or Tivoli Gardens come with warnings that start and end with a clear ‘don’t try it!’ which hasn’t deterred some drug tourists from hiring a local to drive them through the myriad of back alleys in Kingston’s no-go areas to deal with the most notorious Jamaican posse in town; the Yardies. Apparently, the smoke that the Yardies control is so good that it will flip your eyes over so you can see inside your own head – that is what the rumours are apparently. Obviously the smoke isn’t going to harm you…. It’s the risk death that make the journey to score the real rush behind the weed

So, without judgement and without prejudice we wish all the extreme travellers out there the trip that they seek, be it a safe high or not. Be prepared, understand the risks and whenever possible get the backup and insurance that guarantees you’ll be taken care of; from the remotes of jungles in the Golden Triangle to urban Jamaica.




An avid international traveller, surfer lover of the oceans, writer and researcher.