OPEN Foundation

J. Maia-de-Oliveira

The Impact of Ayahuasca on Suicidality: Results From a Randomized Controlled Trial.

Abstract

Suicide is a major public health problem. Given increasing suicide rates and limitations surrounding current interventions, there is an urgent need for innovative interventions for suicidality. Although ayahuasca has been shown to target mental health concerns associated with suicidality (i.e., depression and hopelessness), research has not yet explored the impact of ayahuasca on suicidality. Therefore, we conducted secondary analyses of a randomized placebo-controlled trial in which individuals with treatment-resistant depression were administered one dose of ayahuasca (n = 14) or placebo (n = 15). Suicidality was assessed by a trained psychiatrist at baseline, as well as 1 day, 2 days, and 7 days after the intervention. A fixed-effects linear mixed model, as well as between and within-groups Cohen’s d effect sizes were used to examine changes in suicidality. Controlling for baseline suicidality, we found a significant effect for time (p < .05). The effect of the intervention (i.e., ayahuasca vs. placebo) trended toward significance (p = .088). At all time points, we found medium between-group effect sizes (i.e., ayahuasca vs. placebo; day 1 Cohen’s d = 0.58; day 2 d = 0.56; day 7 d = 0.67), as well as large within-group (ayahuasca; day 1 Cohen’s d = 1.33; day 2 d = 1.42; day 7 d = 1.19) effect sizes, for decreases in suicidality. Conclusions: This research is the first to explore the impact of ayahuasca on suicidality. The findings suggest that ayahuasca may show potential as an intervention for suicidality. We highlight important limitations of the study, potential mechanisms, and future directions for research on ayahuasca as an intervention for suicidality. Clinical Trial Registration: www.ClinicalTrials.gov, identifier NCT02914769.

Zeifman, R., Palhano-Fontes, F., Hallak, J., Nunes, E. A., Maia-de-Oliveira, J. P., & de Araujo, D. B. (2019). The Impact of Ayahuasca on Suicidality: Results From a Randomized Controlled Trial. Frontiers in Pharmacology10, 1325.
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Modulation of Serum Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor by a Single Dose of Ayahuasca: Observation From a Randomized Controlled Trial.

Abstract

Serotonergic psychedelics are emerging as potential antidepressant therapeutic tools, as suggested in a recent randomized controlled trial with ayahuasca for treatment-resistant depression. Preclinical and clinical studies have suggested that serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels increase after treatment with serotoninergic antidepressants, but the exact role of BDNF as a biomarker for diagnostic and treatment of major depression is still poorly understood. Here we investigated serum BDNF levels in healthy controls (N = 45) and patients with treatment-resistant depression (N = 28) before (baseline) and 48 h after (D2) a single dose of ayahuasca or placebo. In our sample, baseline serum BDNF levels did not predict major depression and the clinical characteristics of the patients did not predict their BDNF levels. However, at baseline, serum cortisol was a predictor of serum BDNF levels, where lower levels of serum BDNF were detected in a subgroup of subjects with hypocortisolemia. Moreover, at baseline we found a negative correlation between BDNF and serum cortisol in volunteers with eucortisolemia. After treatment (D2) we observed higher BDNF levels in both patients and controls that ingested ayahuasca (N = 35) when compared to placebo (N = 34). Furthermore, at D2 just patients treated with ayahuasca (N = 14), and not with placebo (N = 14), presented a significant negative correlation between serum BDNF levels and depressive symptoms. This is the first double-blind randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial that explored the modulation of BDNF in response to a psychedelic in patients with depression. The results suggest a potential link between the observed antidepressant effects of ayahuasca and changes in serum BDNF, which contributes to the emerging view of using psychedelics as an antidepressant. This trial is registered at http://clinicaltrials.gov (NCT02914769).

Almeida, R. N., Galvão, A. C. D. M., Da Silva, F. S., Silva, E. A. D. S., Palhano-Fontes, F., Maia-de-Oliveira, J. P., … & Galvão-Coelho, N. (2019). Modulation of serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor by a single dose of ayahuasca: observation from a randomized controlled trial. Frontiers in psychology10, 1234., https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01234
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Acute effects of ayahuasca in a juvenile non-human primate model of depression

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:
The incidence rate of major depression in adolescents reaches approximately 14%. This disorder is usually recurrent, without remission of symptoms even after pharmacological treatment, and persists throughout adult life. Since the effects of antidepressants take approximately 2 weeks to begin, new pharmacological therapies are under continuous exploration. Recent evidence suggests that psychedelics could produce rapid antidepressant effects. In this study, we evaluated the potential antidepressant effects of ayahuasca in a juvenile non-human primate model of depression.
METHODS:
While living with their families, juvenile marmosets (8 males; 7 females) were observed on alternate days for four weeks during a baseline phase. This was followed by 8 weeks of an induced depressive state protocol, the social isolated context (IC), in which the animals were monitored in the first and last weeks. Subsequently, five males and four females were randomly selected for treatment, first with a single administration of saline vehicle (1.67 mL/300 g of body weight, via gavage), followed by a single dose of ayahuasca (1.67 mL/300 g of body weight, via gavage). Both phases lasted 1 week and the animals were monitored daily. A third week of sampling was called the tardive-pharmacological effects phase. In all phases the marmosets were assessed for behavior, fecal cortisol levels, and body weight.
RESULTS:
After IC, the animals presented typical hypocortisolemia, but cortisol recovered to baseline levels 24 h after an acute dose of ayahuasca; this recovery was not observed in vehicle-treated animals. Additionally, in males, ayahuasca, but not the vehicle, reduced scratching, a stereotypic behavior, and increased feeding. Ayahuasca treatment also improved body weight to baseline levels in both sexes. The ayahuasca-induced behavioral response had long-term effects (14 days). Thus, in this translational juvenile animal model of depression, ayahuasca presented beneficial effects.
CONCLUSIONS:
These results can contribute to the validation of ayahuasca as an antidepressant drug and encourage new studies on psychedelic drugs as a tool for treating mood disorders, including for adolescents with early-onset depression.
da Silva, F. S., Silva, E. A., Sousa Jr, G. M. D., Maia-de-Oliveira, J. P., Soares-Rachetti, V. D. P., de Araujo, D. B., … & Galvão-Coelho, N. L. (2018). Acute effects of ayahuasca in a juvenile non-human primate model of depression. Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry, (AHEAD), 0-0. 10.1590/1516-4446-2018-0140
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Acute antidepressant effect of ayahuasca in juvenile non-human primate model of depression

Abstract

The incidence of major depression in adolescents, aged between 15 to 18 years, reaches approximately 14%. Usually, this disorder presents a recurrent way, without remission of symptoms even after several pharmacological treatments, persisting through adult life. Due to the relatively low efficacy of commercially available antidepressant, new pharmacological therapies are under continuous exploration. Recent evidence suggests that classic psychedelics, such as ayahuasca, produce rapid and robust antidepressant effects in treatment-resistant depression patients. In this study, we evaluated the potential of antidepressant effects of ayahuasca in a juvenile model of depression in a non-human primate, common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus). The model induces depressive-like symptoms by chronic social isolation (60 days) and antidepressant effects monitoring included fecal cortisol, body weight, and behavioral parameters. The animals presented hypocortisolemia and the recovery of cortisol to baseline levels started already at 24h after the ingestion of ayahuasca, but not the vehicle. Moreover, in males, ayahuasca, and not the vehicle, reduced the scratching, a stereotypic behavior, and increased the feeding. Ayahuasca also improving body weight to baseline levels in male and female common marmosets. The behavioral response induced by ayahuasca shows long effect, lasting 14 days. Therefore, for this translational animal model of juvenile depression, it could be proposed that ayahuasca treatment presented more notable antidepressant effects than tricyclic antidepressant nortriptyline, investigated by our group, using this same protocol in an anterior study. Ayahuasca produced faster and more durable effect on reversion of physiological changes and depressive-like symptoms. Therefore, the results found for ayahuasca treatment corroborates in the validation of this substance as an effective antidepressant drug and encourages the return of studies with psychedelic drugs in the treatment of humor disorders, including adolescents with early-age depression.

da Silva, F. S., dos Santos Silva, E. A., de Sousa Junior, G. M., Maia-de-Oliveira, J. P., Rachetti, V. D. P. S., de Araujo, D. B., … & Galvao-Coelho, N. L. (2018). Acute antidepressant effect of ayahuasca in juvenile non-human primate model of depression. bioRxiv, 254268. 10.1101/254268
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Antidepressant Effects of a Single Dose of Ayahuasca in Patients With Recurrent Depression: A SPECT Study

Abstract

Ayahuasca is an Amazonian botanical hallucinogenic brew which contains dimethyltryptamine, a 5-HT2A receptor agonist, and harmine, a monoamine-oxidase A inhibitor. Our group recently reported that ayahuasca administration was associated with fast-acting antidepressive effects in 6 depressive patients. The objective of the present work was to assess the antidepressive potentials of ayahuasca in a bigger sample and to investigate its effects on regional cerebral blood flow. In an open-label trial conducted in an inpatient psychiatric unit, 17 patients with recurrent depression received an oral dose of ayahuasca (2.2 mL/kg) and were evaluated with the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale, the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale, the Young Mania Rating Scale, and the Clinician Administered Dissociative States Scale during acute ayahuasca effects and 1, 7, 14, and 21 days after drug intake. Blood perfusion was assessed eight hours after drug administration by means of single photon emission tomography. Ayahuasca administration was associated with increased psychoactivity (Clinician Administered Dissociative States Scale) and significant score decreases in depression-related scales (Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale, Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale) from 80 minutes to day 21. Increased blood perfusion in the left nucleus accumbens, right insula and left subgenual area, brain regions implicated in the regulation of mood and emotions, were observed after ayahuasca intake. Ayahuasca was well tolerated. Vomiting was the only adverse effect recorded, being reported by 47% of the volunteers. Our results suggest that ayahuasca may have fast-acting and sustained antidepressive properties. These results should be replicated in randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials.
Sanches, R. F., de Lima, O. F., Dos Santos, R. G., Macedo, L. R., Maia-de-Oliveira, J. P., Wichert-Ana, L., … & Hallak, J. E. (2015). Antidepressant Effects of a Single Dose of Ayahuasca in Patients With Recurrent Depression: A SPECT Study. Journal of clinical psychopharmacology. http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/JCP.0000000000000436
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Antidepressant effects of a single dose of ayahuasca in patients with recurrent depression: a preliminary report

Abstract

Objectives

Ayahuasca (AYA), a natural psychedelic brew prepared from Amazonian plants and rich in dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and harmine, causes effects of subjective well-being and may therefore have antidepressant actions. This study sought to evaluate the effects of a single dose of AYA in six volunteers with a current depressive episode.

Methods:

Open-label trial conducted in an inpatient psychiatric unit.

Results:

Statistically significant reductions of up to 82% in depressive scores were observed between baseline and 1, 7, and 21 days after AYA administration, as measured on the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D), the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS), and the Anxious-Depression subscale of the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS). AYA administration resulted in nonsignificant changes in Young Mania Rating Scale (YMRS) scores and in the thinking disorder subscale of the BPRS, suggesting that AYA does not induce episodes of mania and/or hypomania in patients with mood disorders and that modifications in thought content, which could indicate psychedelic effects, are not essential for mood improvement.<

Conclusions:

These results suggest that AYA has fast-acting anxiolytic and antidepressant effects in patients with a depressive disorder.

Osório, F. D. L., Sanches, R. F., Macedo, L. R., Dos Santos, R. G., Maia-de-Oliveira, J. P., Wichert-Ana, L., … & Hallak, J. E. (2015). Antidepressant effects of a single dose of ayahuasca in patients with recurrent depression: a preliminary report. Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria, 37(1), 13-20. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/1516-4446-2014-1496
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