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An exploratory study of experiences with conventional eating disorder treatment and ceremonial ayahuasca for the healing of eating disorders

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Abstract

Purpose

Ayahuasca is a traditional Amazonian medicine that is currently being researched for its potential in treating a variety of mental disorders. This article reports on exploratory qualitative research relating to participant experiences with ceremonial ayahuasca drinking and conventional treatment for eating disorders (EDs). It also explores the potential for ayahuasca as an adjunctive ED treatment.

Methods

Thirteen individuals previously diagnosed with an ED participated in a semi-structured interview contrasting their experiences with conventional ED treatment with experiences from ceremonial ayahuasca. The interviews were analyzed using thematic analysis.

Results

Participant reports were organized with key themes including that ayahuasca: led to rapid reductions in ED thoughts and symptoms; allowed for the healing of the perceived root of the ED; helped to process painful feelings and memories; supported the internalization of greater self-love and self-acceptance; and catalyzed spiritual elements of healing.

Conclusions

The results suggest that ayahuasca may have potential as a valuable therapeutic tool, and further research—including carefully controlled clinical trials—is warranted.

Renelli, M., Fletcher, J., Tupper, K. W., Files, N., Loizaga-Velder, A., & Lafrance, A. (2018). An exploratory study of experiences with conventional eating disorder treatment and ceremonial ayahuasca for the healing of eating disorders. Eating and Weight Disorders-Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity, 1-8., 10.1007/s40519-018-0619-6
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