OPEN Foundation


Posttraumatic Stress Disorder After a Psychedelic Experience, a Case Report


In the last 2 decades, there is a renaissance in the scientific investigation of the therapeutic potential of psychedelic compounds. It is studied for the treatment of many psychiatric disorders, including posttraumatic stress disorder. The treatment is always done in the setting of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. A little is known about the potential effects, outside of the setting of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, on people diagnosed with a mental disorder or have a significant trauma history. In this case report, we present a young man who developed posttraumatic stress disorder after a psychedelic experience, induced by both Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) and N, N Dimethyltryptamine (DMT). In the psychedelic experience, a repressed memory of childhood sexual abuse was recovered. To our knowledge, this is the first report on posttraumatic stress disorder onset after a psychedelic experience. We believe that this case report is important since the history of trauma is prevalent among individuals with substance use disorder. Medical staff that treat people with either substance use disorder or trauma should be familiar with irregular presentations, such as the one described in this case.

Rubin-Kahana, D. S., Hassan, A. N., & Le Foll, B. (2021). Posttraumatic Stress Disorder After a Psychedelic Experience, a Case Report. Journal of addiction medicine, 15(3), 248–251.

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A placebo-controlled study of the effects of ayahuasca, set and setting on mental health of participants in ayahuasca group retreats


Ayahuasca is a plant concoction containing N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and certain β-carboline alkaloids from South America. Previous research in naturalistic settings has suggested that ingestion of ayahuasca can improve mental health and well-being; however, these studies were not placebo controlled and did not control for the possibility of expectation bias. This naturalistic observational study was designed to assess whether mental health changes were produced by ayahuasca or by set and setting. Assessments were made pre- and post-ayahuasca sessions in 30 experienced participants of ayahuasca retreats hosted in the Netherlands, Spain, and Germany. Participants consumed ayahuasca (N = 14) or placebo (N = 16). Analysis revealed a main effect of time on symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. Compared to baseline, symptoms reduced in both groups after the ceremony, independent of treatment. There was a main treatment × time interaction on implicit emotional empathy, indicating that ayahuasca increased emotional empathy to negative stimuli. The current findings suggest that improvements in mental health of participants of ayahuasca ceremonies can be driven by non-pharmacological factors that constitute a placebo response but also by pharmacological factors that are related to the use of ayahuasca. These findings stress the importance of placebo-controlled designs in psychedelic research and the need to further explore the contribution of non-pharmacological factors to the psychedelic experience.

Uthaug, M. V., Mason, N. L., Toennes, S. W., Reckweg, J. T., de Sousa Fernandes Perna, E. B., Kuypers, K., van Oorsouw, K., Riba, J., & Ramaekers, J. G. (2021). A placebo-controlled study of the effects of ayahuasca, set and setting on mental health of participants in ayahuasca group retreats. Psychopharmacology, 238(7), 1899–1910.

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Neural and subjective effects of inhaled N,N-dimethyltryptamine in natural settings


Background: N,N-dimethyltryptamine is a short-acting psychedelic tryptamine found naturally in many plants and animals. Few studies to date have addressed the neural and psychological effects of N,N-dimethyltryptamine alone, either administered intravenously or inhaled in freebase form, and none have been conducted in natural settings.

Aims: Our primary aim was to study the acute effects of inhaled N,N-dimethyltryptamine in natural settings, focusing on questions tuned to the advantages of conducting field research, including the effects of contextual factors (i.e. “set” and “setting”), the possibility of studying a comparatively large number of subjects, and the relaxed mental state of participants consuming N,N-dimethyltryptamine in familiar and comfortable settings.

Methods: We combined state-of-the-art wireless electroencephalography with psychometric questionnaires to study the neural and subjective effects of naturalistic N,N-dimethyltryptamine use in 35 healthy and experienced participants.

Results: We observed that N,N-dimethyltryptamine significantly decreased the power of alpha (8-12 Hz) oscillations throughout all scalp locations, while simultaneously increasing power of delta (1-4 Hz) and gamma (30-40 Hz) oscillations. Gamma power increases correlated with subjective reports indicative of some features of mystical-type experiences. N,N-dimethyltryptamine also increased global synchrony and metastability in the gamma band while decreasing those measures in the alpha band.

Conclusions: Our results are consistent with previous studies of psychedelic action in the human brain, while at the same time the results suggest potential electroencephalography markers of mystical-type experiences in natural settings, thus highlighting the importance of investigating these compounds in the contexts where they are naturally consumed.

Pallavicini, C., Cavanna, F., Zamberlan, F., de la Fuente, L. A., Ilksoy, Y., Perl, Y. S., Arias, M., Romero, C., Carhart-Harris, R., Timmermann, C., & Tagliazucchi, E. (2021). Neural and subjective effects of inhaled N,N-dimethyltryptamine in natural settings. Journal of psychopharmacology (Oxford, England), 35(4), 406–420.

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Neural network models for DMT-induced visual hallucinations


The regulatory role of the serotonergic system on conscious perception can be investigated perturbatorily with psychedelic drugs such as N,N-Dimethyltryptamine. There is increasing evidence that the serotonergic system gates prior (endogenous) and sensory (exogenous) information in the construction of a conscious experience. Using two generative deep neural networks as examples, we discuss how such models have the potential to be, firstly, an important medium to illustrate phenomenological visual effects of psychedelics-besides paintings, verbal reports and psychometric testing-and, secondly, their utility to conceptualize biological mechanisms of gating the influence of exogenous and endogenous information on visual perception.

Schartner, M. M., & Timmermann, C. (2020). Neural network models for DMT-induced visual hallucinations. Neuroscience of consciousness, 2020(1), niaa024.

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Therapeutic effects of classic serotonergic psychedelics: A systematic review of modern-era clinical studies


Objective: To conduct a systematic review of modern-era (post-millennium) clinical studies assessing the therapeutic effects of serotonergic psychedelics drugs for mental health conditions. Although the main focus was on efficacy and safety, study characteristics, duration of antidepressants effects across studies, and the role of the subjective drug experiences were also reviewed and presented.

Method: A systematic literature search (1 Jan 2000 to 1 May 2020) was conducted in PubMed and PsychINFO for studies of patients undergoing treatment with a serotonergic psychedelic.

Results: Data from 16 papers, representing 10 independent psychedelic-assisted therapy trials (psilocybin = 7, ayahuasca = 2, LSD = 1), were extracted, presented in figures and tables, and narratively synthesized and discussed. Across these studies, a total of 188 patients suffering either cancer- or illness-related anxiety and depression disorders (C/I-RADD), major depressive disorder (MDD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or substance use disorder (SUD) were included. The reviewed studies established feasibility and evidence of safety, alongside promising early data of efficacy in the treatment of depression, anxiety, OCD, and tobacco and alcohol use disorders. For a majority of patients, the therapeutic effects appeared to be long-lasting (weeks-months) after only 1 to 3 treatment session(s). All studies were conducted in line with guidelines for the safe conduct of psychedelic therapy, and no severe adverse events were reported.

Conclusion: The resurrection of clinical psychedelic research provides early evidence for treatment efficacy and safety for a range of psychiatric conditions, and constitutes an exciting new treatment avenue in a health area with major unmet needs.

Andersen, K., Carhart-Harris, R., Nutt, D. J., & Erritzoe, D. (2021). Therapeutic effects of classic serotonergic psychedelics: A systematic review of modern-era clinical studies. Acta psychiatrica Scandinavica, 143(2), 101–118.

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Quantum chemical (QM:MM) investigation of the mechanism of enzymatic reaction of tryptamine and N,N-dimethyltryptamine with monoamine oxidase A


The endogenous psychedelic (mind-altering) N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) molecule has an important role in tissue protection, regeneration, and immunity via sigma-1 receptor activation as its natural ligand. The immunologic properties of DMT suggest this biogenic compound should be investigated thoroughly in other aspects as well. In our in silico project, we examined the metabolism of DMT and its primary analogue, the tryptamine (T), by the monoamine oxidase (MAO) flavoenzyme. MAO has two isoforms, MAO-A and MAO-B. MAOs perform the oxidation of various monoamines by their flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) cofactor. Two-layer QM:MM calculations at the ONIOM(M06-2X/6-31++G(d,p):UFF=QEq) level were performed including the whole enzyme to explore the potential energy surface (PES) of the reactions. Our findings reinforced that a hybrid mechanism, a mixture of pure H+ and H transfer pathways, describes precisely the rate-determining step of amine oxidation as suggested by earlier works. Additionally, our results show that the oxidation of tertiary amine DMT requires a lower activation barrier than the primary amine T. This may reflect a general rule, thus we recommend further investigations. Furthermore, we demonstrated that at pH 7.4 the protonated form of these substrates enter the enzyme. As the deprotonation of substrates is crucial, we presumed protonated cofactor, FADH+, may form. Surprisingly, the activation barriers are much lower compared to FAD with both substrates. Therefore, we suggest further investigations in this direction.

Kubicskó, K., , & Farkas, Ö., (2020). Quantum chemical (QM:MM) investigation of the mechanism of enzymatic reaction of tryptamine and N,N-dimethyltryptamine with monoamine oxidase A. Organic & biomolecular chemistry, 18(47), 9660–9674.

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Anti-inflammatory activity of ayahuasca: therapeutical implications in neurological and psychiatric diseases


Ayahuasca is a decoction with psychoactive properties, used for millennia for therapeutic and religious purposes by indigenous groups and the population of amazonian countries. As described in this narrative review, it is essentially constituted by β-carbolines and tryptamines, and it has therapeutic effects on behavioral disorders due to the inhibition of the monoamine oxidase enzyme and the activation of 5-hydroxytryptamine receptors, demonstrated through preclinical and clinical studies. It was recently observed that the pharmacological response presented by ayahuasca is linked to its anti-inflammatory action, attributed mainly to dimethyltryptamines (N, N-dimethyltryptamine and 5-methoxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine), which act as endogenous systemic regulators of inflammation and immune homeostasis, also through sigma-1 receptors. Therefore, since neuroinflammation is among the main pathophysiological mechanisms related to the development of neurological and psychiatric diseases, we suggest, based on the available evidence, that ayahuasca is a promising and very safe therapeutic strategy since extremely high doses are required to reach toxicity. However, even so, additional studies are needed to confirm such evidence, as well as the complete elucidation of the mechanisms involved.

da Silva, M. G., Daros, G. C., & de Bitencourt, R. M. (2021). Anti-inflammatory activity of ayahuasca: therapeutical implications in neurological and psychiatric diseases. Behavioural brain research, 400, 113003.

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Kinetic profile of N,N-dimethyltryptamine and β-carbolines in saliva and serum after oral administration of ayahuasca in a religious context

Ayahuasca is a beverage obtained from Banisteriopsis caapi plus Psychotria viridis. B. caapi contains the β-carbolines harmine, harmaline, and tetrahydroharmine that are monoamine oxidase inhibitors and P. viridis contains N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) that is responsible for the visionary effects of the beverage. Ayahuasca use is becoming a global phenomenon, and the recreational use of DMT and similar alkaloids has also increased in recent years; such uncontrolled use can lead to severe intoxications. In this investigation, liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) was used to study the kinetics of alkaloids over a 24 h period in saliva and serum of 14 volunteers who consumed ayahuasca twice a month in a religious context. We compared the area under the curve (AUC), maximum concentration (Cmax ), time to reach Cmax (Tmax ), mean residence time (MRT), and half-life (t1/2 ), as well as the serum/saliva ratios of these parameters. DMT and β-carboline concentrations (Cmax ) and AUC were higher in saliva than in serum and the MRT was 1.5-3.0 times higher in serum. A generalized estimation equations (GEEs) model suggested that serum concentrations could be predicted by saliva concentrations, despite large individual variability in the saliva and serum alkaloid concentrations. The possibility of using saliva as a biological matrix to detect DMT, β-carbolines, and their derivatives is very interesting because it allows fast noninvasive sample collection and could be useful for detecting similar alkaloids used recreationally that have considerable potential for intoxication.

Lanaro, R., Mello, S. M., da Cunha, K. F., Silveira, G., Corrêa-Neto, N. F., Hyslop, S., Cabrices, O. G., Costa, J. L., & Linardi, A. (2021). Kinetic profile of N,N-dimethyltryptamine and β-carbolines in saliva and serum after oral administration of ayahuasca in a religious context. Drug testing and analysis, 13(3), 664–678.

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Rapid and sustained decreases in suicidality following a single dose of ayahuasca among individuals with recurrent major depressive disorder: results from an open-label trial


Rationale: Suicidality is a major public health concern with limited treatment options. Accordingly, there is a need for innovative interventions for suicidality. Preliminary evidence indicates that treatment with the psychedelic ayahuasca may lead to decreases in depressive symptoms among individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD). However, there remains limited understanding of whether ayahuasca also leads to reductions in suicidality.

Objective: To examine the acute and post-acute effect of ayahuasca on suicidality among individuals with MDD.

Methods: We conducted a secondary analysis of an open-label trial in which individuals with recurrent MDD received a single dose of ayahuasca (N = 17). Suicidality was assessed at baseline; during the intervention; and 1, 7, 14, and 21 days after the intervention.

Results: Among individuals with suicidality at baseline (n = 15), there were significant acute (i.e., 40, 80, 140, and 180 min after administration) and post-acute (1, 7, 14, and 21 days after administration) decreases in suicidality following administration of ayahuasca. Post-acute effect sizes for decreases in suicidality were large (Hedges’ g = 1.31-1.75), with the largest effect size 21 days after the intervention (g = 1.75).

Conclusions: When administered in the appropriate context, ayahuasca may lead to rapid and sustained reductions in suicidality among individuals with MDD. Randomized, double-blind studies with larger sample sizes are needed to confirm this early finding.

Zeifman, R. J., Singhal, N., Dos Santos, R. G., Sanches, R. F., de Lima Osório, F., Hallak, J., & Weissman, C. R. (2021). Rapid and sustained decreases in suicidality following a single dose of ayahuasca among individuals with recurrent major depressive disorder: results from an open-label trial. Psychopharmacology, 238(2), 453–459.

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Toxicokinetics and Toxicodynamics of Ayahuasca Alkaloids N, N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), Harmine, Harmaline and Tetrahydroharmine: Clinical and Forensic Impact


Ayahuasca is a hallucinogenic botanical beverage originally used by indigenous Amazonian tribes in religious ceremonies and therapeutic practices. While ethnobotanical surveys still indicate its spiritual and medicinal uses, consumption of ayahuasca has been progressively related with a recreational purpose, particularly in Western societies. The ayahuasca aqueous concoction is typically prepared from the leaves of the N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT)-containing Psychotria viridis, and the stem and bark of Banisteriopsis caapi, the plant source of harmala alkaloids. Herein, the toxicokinetics and toxicodynamics of the psychoactive DMT and harmala alkaloids harmine, harmaline and tetrahydroharmine, are comprehensively covered, particularly emphasizing the psychological, physiological, and toxic effects deriving from their concomitant intake. Potential therapeutic utility, particularly in mental and psychiatric disorders, and forensic aspects of DMT and ayahuasca are also reviewed and discussed. Following administration of ayahuasca, DMT is rapidly absorbed and distributed. Harmala alkaloids act as potent inhibitors of monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A), preventing extensive first-pass degradation of DMT into 3-indole-acetic acid (3-IAA), and enabling sufficient amounts of DMT to reach the brain. DMT has affinity for a variety of serotonergic and non-serotonergic receptors, though its psychotropic effects are mainly related with the activation of serotonin receptors type 2A (5-HT2A). Mildly to rarely severe psychedelic adverse effects are reported for ayahuasca or its alkaloids individually, but abuse does not lead to dependence or tolerance. For a long time, the evidence has pointed to potential psychotherapeutic benefits in the treatment of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders; and although misuse of ayahuasca has been diverting attention away from such clinical potential, research onto its therapeutic effects has now strongly resurged.

Brito-da-Costa, A. M., Dias-da-Silva, D., Gomes, N., Dinis-Oliveira, R. J., & Madureira-Carvalho, Á. (2020). Toxicokinetics and Toxicodynamics of Ayahuasca Alkaloids N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), Harmine, Harmaline and Tetrahydroharmine: Clinical and Forensic Impact. Pharmaceuticals (Basel, Switzerland), 13(11), 334.

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Live Event on 1 June: Bill Richards & Janis Phelps - Intentions, Interpersonal Grounding and Integration in Psychedelic Therapy