OPEN Foundation

H. Onias

Rapid antidepressant effects of the psychedelic ayahuasca in treatment-resistant depression: a randomized placebo-controlled trial

Abstract

BACKGROUND:
Recent open-label trials show that psychedelics, such as ayahuasca, hold promise as fast-onset antidepressants in treatment-resistant depression.
METHODS:
To test the antidepressant effects of ayahuasca, we conducted a parallel-arm, double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial in 29 patients with treatment-resistant depression. Patients received a single dose of either ayahuasca or placebo. We assessed changes in depression severity with the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) and the Hamilton Depression Rating scale at baseline, and at 1 (D1), 2 (D2), and 7 (D7) days after dosing.
RESULTS:
We observed significant antidepressant effects of ayahuasca when compared with placebo at all-time points. MADRS scores were significantly lower in the ayahuasca group compared with placebo at D1 and D2 (p = 0.04), and at D7 (p < 0.0001). Between-group effect sizes increased from D1 to D7 (D1: Cohen’s d = 0.84; D2: Cohen’s d = 0.84; D7: Cohen’s d = 1.49). Response rates were high for both groups at D1 and D2, and significantly higher in the ayahuasca group at D7 (64% v. 27%; p = 0.04). Remission rate showed a trend toward significance at D7 (36% v. 7%, p = 0.054).
CONCLUSIONS:
To our knowledge, this is the first controlled trial to test a psychedelic substance in treatment-resistant depression. Overall, this study brings new evidence supporting the safety and therapeutic value of ayahuasca, dosed within an appropriate setting, to help treat depression.

Palhano-Fontes, F., Barreto, D., Onias, H., Andrade, K. C., Novaes, M. M., Pessoa, J. A., … & Tófoli, L. F. (2018). Rapid antidepressant effects of the psychedelic ayahuasca in treatment-resistant depression: a randomized placebo-controlled trial. Psychological medicine, 1-9. 10.1017/S0033291718001356
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A Single Dose Of Ayahuasca Modulates Salivary Cortisol In Treatment-Resistant Depression

Abstract

Major depression is a highly prevalent mood disorder, affecting about 350 million people, and around 30% of the patients are resistant to currently available antidepressant medications. Recent evidence from a randomized placebo-controlled trial supports the rapid antidepressant effects of the psychedelic ayahuasca in treatment-resistant depression. The aim of this study was to explore the effect of ayahuasca on plasma cortisol and awakening salivary cortisol response, in the same group of treatment-resistant patients and in healthy volunteers. Subjects received a single dose of ayahuasca or placebo, and both plasma and awakening salivary cortisol response were measured at baseline (before dosing) and 48h after the dosing session. Baseline assessment (D0) showed blunted awakening salivary cortisol response and hypocortisolemia in patients (DM), both with respect to healthy controls group (C). Salivary cortisol also was measured during dosing session and we observed a large increased for both C and DM that ingested ayahuasca, than placebo groups. After 48h of the dosing session (D2) with ayahuasca, awakening salivary cortisol response (for both sexes) of treated patients became similar to levels detected in controls. This was not observed in patients that ingested placebo. No changes in plasma cortisol were observed after 48 hours of ayahuasca or placebo ingestion for both groups and sexes. Therefore, these findings point to new evidence of modulation of ayahuasca on salivary cortisol levels, as cortisol acts in regulation of distinct physiological pathways, emotional and cognitive processes related to etiology of depression, this modulation could be an important part of the antidepressant effects observed with ayahuasca. Moreover, this study highlights the importance of psychedelics in the treatment of human mental disorders.

Galvao, A. C. M., Almeida, R. N., dos Santos Silva, E. A., de Morais Freire, F. A., Palhano-Fontes, F., Onias, H., … & Galvao-Coelho, N. L. (2018). A Single Dose Of Ayahuasca Modulates Salivary Cortisol In Treatment-Resistant Depression. bioRxiv, 257238. 10.1101/257238
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Shannon entropy of brain functional complex networks under the influence of the psychedelic Ayahuasca

Abstract

The entropic brain hypothesis holds that the key facts concerning psychedelics are partially explained in terms of increased entropy of the brain’s functional connectivity. Ayahuasca is a psychedelic beverage of Amazonian indigenous origin with legal status in Brazil in religious and scientific settings. In this context, we use tools and concepts from the theory of complex networks to analyze resting state fMRI data of the brains of human subjects under two distinct conditions: (i) under ordinary waking state and (ii) in an altered state of consciousness induced by ingestion of Ayahuasca. We report an increase in the Shannon entropy of the degree distribution of the networks subsequent to Ayahuasca ingestion. We also find increased local and decreased global network integration. Our results are broadly consistent with the entropic brain hypothesis. Finally, we discuss our findings in the context of descriptions of “mind-expansion” frequently seen in self-reports of users of psychedelic drugs.
Viol, A., Palhano-Fontes, F., Onias, H., de Araujo, D. B., & Viswanathan, G. M. (2016). Shannon entropy of brain functional complex networks under the influence of the psychedelic Ayahuasca. arXiv preprint arXiv:1611.00358. 10.1038/s41598-017-06854-0
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Rapid antidepressant effects of the psychedelic ayahuasca in treatment-resistant depression: a randomised placebo-controlled trial

Abstract

Major Depressive Disorder affects about 350 million people worldwide, and about one-third of the patients are considered treatment-resistant. Furthermore, available antidepressants take usually two weeks for the onset of their antidepressant effect. Recent open label trials show that psychedelics, such as ayahuasca and psilocybin, hold promise as fast-onset antidepressants. Although promising, these studies were not controlled for the placebo effect. To address this issue, and to further test the antidepressant effects of ayahuasca, we conducted a parallel arm, double blind randomised placebo-controlled trial, in patients with treatment-resistant major depression. Thirty-five patients with treatment-resistant major depression received a single dose of ayahuasca or placebo. We measured as primary outcome the change in the Hamilton Depression Rating scale (HAM-D) seven days after the dosing session, and as secondary outcomes the changes in Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS), and response rates at one day (D1), two days (D2) and seven days (D7) after dosing, and remission rates at D7. This study is registered with http://clinicaltrials.gov (NCT02914769). We observed robust evidence of rapid antidepressant effects of a single dosing session with ayahuasca when compared to placebo. HAM-D scores at D7 were significantly lower in patients treated with ayahuasca than in those treated with placebo (p=0.019; Cohen’s d=0.98). MADRS scores were significantly reduced in the ayahuasca group compared to the placebo group at all endpoints (at D1 and D2, p=0.04; at D7, p<0.0001). Between-group effect sizes increased from D1 to D7 (D1: Cohen’s d=0.84; D2: Cohen’s d=0.84; D7: Cohen’s d=1.49). Response rates were high for both groups at D1 and D2, and were significantly higher in the ayahuasca group only at D7 (64% vs. 27%; OR = 4.95; p = 0.04; NNT = 2.66). Remission rate was not significantly different between groups. Our study provides new evidence of rapid antidepressant effects of ayahuasca for treatment-resistant major depression.

Palhano-Fontes, F., Barreto, D., Onias, H., Andrade, K. C., Novaes, M., Pessoa, J., … & Tofoli, L. (2017). Rapid antidepressant effects of the psychedelic ayahuasca in treatment-resistant depression: a randomised placebo-controlled trial. bioRxiv, 103531. 10.1101/103531
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