The Use of Peyote as Treatment for Alcoholism within the NAC Community: Reflections on a Study

An Interview with John Halpern, M.D.



What are the ethical obligations of a researcher who wishes to study another culture's ceremonial practices, in particular those of the Native American Church (NAC)? What promise do peyote and the NAC peyote ceremony show for the treatment of alcoholism amongst NAC members? How does one approach the philosophical issues regarding “consciousness” within the context of such a study? In this interview, Dr. John Halpern, M.D., discusses how the fields of medicine and anthropology converged and informed one another over the course of his study into the effects of the NAC peyote ceremony on alcohol addiction. He tells the story of how he, as an outsider to the Church, was eventually accepted as a member of the NAC community. He also reflects upon how one's philosophical stance on what consciousness “is” informs such a study.