April 26, 2014 8:47 pm

British teenager dies in Colombia after drinking hallucinogenic drug

Picture taken in February 1999 of an Ayahuasca liana (also known as yage) in Tarapoto, northeastern jungle of Peru. The Ayahuasca modifies the state of conciousness and is believed to recover those who take it. AFP PHOTO / JAIME RAZURI

BOGOTA, Colombia – A British teenager died in southwestern Colombia after he drank a hallucinogen during a tribal ritual and his body was left by the side of the road by two frightened local men, authorities said Saturday.

Henry Miller, 19, was found dead Wednesday by a rural road outside Mocoa, the capital of the Putumayo region, said Ricardo Suarez, the Putumayo police commander. Colombian medical authorities said the cause of the death has not been definitely established.

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In a statement published by the BBC, Miller’s family said he took part in a ritual that involved a drink made from local plant infusions, and “it is likely that a reaction to this drink was the cause” of his death.

Britain’s Foreign Office said Saturday that it was aware of the death of a British national in Colombia on Wednesday.

Miller drank yage, a psychedelic brew produced from various plants native to the Amazon, during a ritual led by a local shaman, Suarez told The Associated Press. Suarez said such rituals are popular in the Putumayo and Amazon regions of Colombia “for the effects caused by the drink, especially hallucinations.”

After Miller’s health deteriorated, Suarez said, the shaman sent him to a hospital on a motorcycle, along with two young local men.

Miller “died on the way. Everything indicates that the two young men panicked and left him on the side of the road,” Suarez told The Associated Press.

Suarez said investigators have identified and questioned the two men and the shaman, but they have not yet been arrested for any crime. He declined to reveal the names of the three.

Suarez said nationals of Italy, Germany, France and Colombia also participated in the ritual.

A fellow traveller told the Daily Mail newspaper that Miller had a bad reaction to yage.

Miller’s body was at a Mocoa medical centre Saturday and had not been formally claimed by his family. The director of the centre, Antonio Avila, said an autopsy was performed Thursday but he was not authorized to reveal details.

Carlos Eduardo Valdez, the head of Colombia’s medical forensic institute, said the autopsy showed no signs of violence against Miller. He said toxicology samples have been sent to Bogota for analysis to help determine the cause of death.

Suarez said he did not know when Miller arrived in Colombia but said he had had visited an archaeological site in southern San Agustin before travelling to Mocoa, about 475 kilometres (295 miles) southwest of Bogota.

© The Canadian Press, 2014

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