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Report on psychoactive drug use among adolescents using ayahuasca within a religious context

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Ritual use of ayahuasca within the context of the Brazilian ayahuasca churches often starts during late childhood or early adolescence. Premature access to psychoactive drugs may represent a risk factor for drug misuse. Conversely, religious affiliation seems to play a protective role in terms of substance abuse. The objective of this study was to describe patterns of drug use in a sample of adolescents using ayahuasca within a religious setting. Forty-one adolescents from a Brazilian ayahuasca sect were compared with 43 adolescents who never drank ayahuasca. No significant differences were identified in terms of lifetime substance consumption. Throughout the previous year period, ayahuasca adolescents used less alcohol (46.31%) than the comparison group (74.4%). Recent use of alcohol was also more frequent among the latter group (65.1%) than among ayahuasca drinkers (32.5%). Although not statistically significant, slight differences in terms of patterns of drug use were definitely observed among groups. Despite their early exposure to a hallucinogenic substance, adolescents using ayahuasca in a controlled setting were mostly comparable to controls except for a considerably smaller proportion of alcohol users. Religious affiliation may have played a central role as a possible protective factor for alcohol use. Thus, ayahuasca seems to be a relatively safe substance as far as drug misuse is concerned.

Doering-Silveira, E., Grob, C. S., de Rios, M. D., Lopez, E., Alonso, L. K., Tacla, C., & Da Silveira, D. X. (2005). Report on psychoactive drug use among adolescents using ayahuasca within a religious context. Journal of psychoactive drugs, 37(2), 141-144. 10.1080/02791072.2005.10399794
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