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Health status of ayahuasca users.

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Abstract

Ayahuasca is a psychedelic brew originally used for magico-religious purposes by Amerindian populations of the western Amazon Basin. Throughout the last four decades, the use of ayahuasca spread towards major cities in all regions of Brazil and abroad. This trend has raised concerns that regular use of this N,N-dimethyltryptamine- and harmala-alkaloid-containing tea may lead to mental and physical health problems associated typically with drug abuse. To further elucidate the mental and physical health of ayahuasca users, we conducted a literature search in the international medical PubMed database. Inclusion criteria were evaluation of any related effect of ayahuasca use that occurred after the resolution of acute effects of the brew. Fifteen publications were related to emotional, cognitive, and physical health of ayahuasca users. The accumulated data suggest that ayahuasca use is safe and may even be, under certain conditions, beneficial. However, methodological bias of the reviewed studies might have contributed to the preponderance of beneficial effects and to the few adverse effects reported. The data up to now do not appear to allow for definitive conclusions to be drawn on the effects of ayahuasca use on mental and physical health, but some studies point in the direction of beneficial effects. Additional studies are suggested to provide further clarification.

Barbosa, P. C. R., Mizumoto, S., Bogenschutz, M. P., & Strassman, R. J. (2012). Health status of ayahuasca users. Drug testing and analysis, 4(7-8), 601-609. https://dx.doi.org/10.1002/dta.1383
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