#77 ep2.8_First Responders as Last Resorts_Art Hsieh

CLICK HERE to listen to Season 2 Episode 8

Art Hsieh (pronounced see-uh) is a legend! What a conversation, I learned so much by speaking with him. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: how often do we (iboga/psychedelic experiencers and researchers) get to hear the perspective of Expert X, in this case, an emergency medical services (EMS) professional with 40 years of experience?! The iboga experience is more than just ingesting it and having a “trip.” What I really appreciate about Art coming on the podcast was that listeners and I got to hear a paramedic’s perspective if things go wrong for iboga experiencers. This is really important since iboga, and for that matter, any drug, affect people differently and there are too many variables at play for which to take stock. Some people, not many, will have a negative experience on iboga that calls for professional assistance. As sobering as this may sound, there have been deaths and hospitalizations from iboga use and there will surely be more in the future. What concerns me is that desperate individuals addicted to opiates might try anything to kick their addiction while simultaneously not doing the necessary research and preparation prior to ingesting a very potent hallucinogen, equally toxic as it is visionary.

The purpose of this episode was to understand what the paramedic’s perspective is, all those things that go on in the background and that which the experiencer-now-patient doesn’t notice because they are seriously ill or even dead. Adding the paramedic’s perspective to one’s knowledge base increases one’s awareness of other dimensions of the iboga experience, and further, knowing such perspectives allows one to prepare as much in advance, just in case.

What really stood out for me was Art’s compassion, understanding, and reassurance to patients. He and his colleagues are not there to judge, but rather their number one priority is to protect life, yours and mine. There’s a reason for everything, and the reason Art conducts a “history interrogation” is because he’s looking for that one piece of information that can stabilize the patient’s condition until said patient arrives at the hospital.

Let’s reflect on the role of paramedicine. The most ideal situation would be having a teleportation device that instantaneously beams patients from the scene to the hospital bed. Unfortunately, that’s not feasible yet, perhaps never. What I notice about the paramedic’s job in treating patients is that they must move the patient, sometimes on a stretcher, from the scene to the ambulance, drive from scene to hospital, deliver patient from ambulance to emergency room (ER) entrance, then doctors and nurses move patient from ER entrance to their bed. So much handling and transport and stabilizing all while on the move in addition to psychological comfort to the patient.

After listening to Art and I’s conversation again, I would like listeners and consumers of any drug to seriously consider the following. (1) Do as much research as you can about the drug you’re going to put in your body to avoid a 9-1-1 call. Know everything about it, from toxicity and duration to its neuroscience and cultural background. Know everything, not necessarily its depth but definitely its breadth. (Shameless plug: attention iboga experiencers: start with Iboganautics podcast and go from there.) (2) Especially when it comes to the more dangerous drugs like iboga, do as much research as possible about your own body. Your body might not be able to handle specific drugs, but the only way you’re going to know is by researching the drug, asking family members what genetic conditions run in your family, and getting professionally tested. Yes, medical tests cost money, sometimes a lot, but is some drug experience worth risking your life over? You could literally save yourself from dying by knowing what preexisting conditions you have. For example, my guest from episode 1.9, psychedelic integration coach Greg Lawrence, wanted to take iboga, did the heart tests and found out that he physically couldn’t take it. He had a heart condition and the iboga retreat he contacted refused to accept him. This is what I’m talking about, leading to my next point: (3) Adopt forward-thinking and cautious optimism; in other words, prepare for the worst, expect the best. One way to do that is to think, hmm, substance X is known to induce said health conditions, so what can I do, what should I do, to mitigate these risks?

Regarding the third point above, one thing you can do is prepare for a 9-1-1 call. That is not to say you should dwell on that thought nor give negative thoughts too much attention, resulting in that event actually manifesting in your life (think law of attraction). But what you can do is realize there’s a chance—a very small chance considering you did your homework on your substance and body—that a paramedic might have to be called for an unanticipated reason. In this case, my friend’s “cheat sheet” for others (as I called it) is an excellent way to cover your bases, avoid wasting paramedics’ time in collecting details about the scene and patient, all of which produce positive outcomes and could literally save your life. This is of utmost importance. I hope you begin to understand this and apply methods to address this. (Art and I discussed this cheat sheet on the podcast; below you’ll find a link to download the PDF.)

For this reason, I adapted my friend’s document for first responders, yet specifically tailored it for iboga experiencers. Once filled out by iboga participants, this sheet is designed to simply hand over to paramedics in case of an emergency that gives them information very quickly and directly. Further, it’s under free use so you can download it, distribute it, do whatever you want with it. You’re welcome to even modify it to accommodate your drug of choice. Doing simple preemptive things like this is so critical, I can’t stress this enough.

Thanks again Art for sharing your expertise, your wisdom, and your perspective regarding making that dreaded 9-1-1 call in general and in relation to iboga.




You can find Art Hsieh at the links below . . .

Twitter: Art Hsieh

LinkedIn: Art Hsieh

References in preparation for and mentioned in this episode

Gomella, P. T. (2010). EMS Pocket Drug Guide. McGraw-Hill.

Hsieh, A. (2014). EMT Exam For Dummies. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Hsieh, A. (2017, March 15). How a diverse EMS workforce bridges cultural divides: Awareness of the cultural differences and working to reduce barriers to entering the EMS workforce will help us perform our jobs more effectively. EMS1. Retrieved, December 13, 2020, from https://www.ems1.com/diversity/articles/how-a-diverse-ems-workforce-bridges-cultural-divides-Y0g9F4dFarvKFmAh/

Hsieh, A., & Boone, K. (2009). The Paramedic Companion: A Case-Based Worktext. McGraw-Hill.

Kail, T. M. (2008). Magico-Religious Groups and Ritualistic Activities: A Guide for First Responders. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press.

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