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Safety and Side Effects of Ayahuasca in Humans—An Overview Focusing on Developmental Toxicology

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Abstract

Despite being relatively well studied from a botanical, chemical, and (acute) pharmacological perspective, little is known about the possible toxic effects of ayahuasca (an hallucinogenic brew used for magico-ritual purposes) in pregnant women and in their children, and the potential toxicity of long-term ayahuasca consumption. It is the main objective of the present text to do an overview of the risks and possible toxic effects of ayahuasca in humans, reviewing studies on the acute ayahuasca administration to humans, on the possible risks associated with long-term consumption by adults and adolescents, and on the possible toxic effects on pregnant animals and in their offspring. Acute ayahuasca administration, as well as long-term consumption of this beverage, does not seem to be seriously toxic to humans. Although some nonhuman developmental studies suggested possible toxic effects of ayahuasca or of some of its alkaloids, the limited human literature on adolescents exposed to ayahuasca as early as in the uterus reports no serious toxic effects of the ritual consumption of the brew. Researchers must take caution when extrapolating nonhuman data to humans and more data are needed in basic and human research before a definite opinion can be made regarding the possible toxic effects of ayahuasca in pregnant women and in their children.

dos Santos, R. G. (2013). Safety and Side Effects of Ayahuasca in Humans— An Overview Focusing on Developmental Toxicology. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 45(1), 68-78. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2013.763564
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