OPEN Foundation

L. Maia

The ritual use of ayahuasca during treatment of severe physical illnesses: a qualitative study

Abstract

Diseases that threaten life raise existential questions that can be a source of psychological distress. Studies with psychedelics demonstrate therapeutic effects for anxiety and depression associated with life-threatening illnesses. Ayahuasca has been proposed as a possible therapeutic agent in the treatment of psychiatric disorders. Preliminary studies suggest that ayahuasca could promote therapeutic effects for people with physical illnesses. The aim of this study was to explore how the ritual use of ayahuasca during the treatment of severe physical illnesses (SPI) may influence the way people understand and relate to their illness, using qualitative methods to assess the participants’ perspectives. Participants who consumed ayahuasca ritualistically during the period of treatment for SPI were purposely chosen. Data were obtained through semi-structured interviews. A thematic analysis was performed with 14 individuals. The ritual experience with ayahuasca acted on the participants’ illness understanding through multiple psychological mechanisms, including introspection, self-analysis, emotional processing and catharsis, recall of autobiographical memories subjectively related to illness origin, illness resignification, and perspective changes. This study suggests that the experience with ayahuasca may facilitate illness acceptance through an influence on the meanings of the illness, life, and death. These changes may favor a more balanced relationship with illness and treatment.

Maia, L. O., Daldegan-Bueno, D., & Tófoli, L. F. (2021). The ritual use of ayahuasca during treatment of severe physical illnesses: a qualitative study. Journal of psychoactive drugs, 53(3), 272–282. https://doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2020.1854399

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Plant and Fungal Hallucinogens as Toxic and Therapeutic Agents

Abstract

This chapter aimed to provide an overview of the large number of hallucinogens of natural origin. Following a literature review, the following hallucinogens were selected for a detailed description that considered their essential chemical groups: indoleamines (N,N-dimethyltryptamine, 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine, bufotenine, psilocybin, and ibogaine), phenylethylamines (mescaline), tropane alkaloids (atropine and scopolamine), cannabinoids (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol), and a neoclerodane diterpenoid (salvinorin A). The following species were included as representative of each drug class: Mimosa tenuiflora, Psychotria viridis, Banisteriopsis caapi, Virola spp., Psilocybe spp., Tabernanthe iboga, Tabernaemontana spp., Lophophora spp., Trichocereus spp., Atropa belladonna, Brugmansia spp., Cannabis sativa, and Salvia divinorum, among others. In addition to psychopharmacological effects, this chapter aims to address the sociocultural and historical use of these hallucinogenic plants and mushrooms, along with the importance of both the set and the setting factors that affect the profound consciousness-altering effects of these compounds. Moreover, the use of animal models to predict the hallucinogenic properties of psychoactive plants and compounds and to investigate the mechanisms of action of psychodysleptic drugs is discussed. This chapter also attempts to establish a parallel between hallucinogens and endogenous neurotransmitters in humans, to compare the pharmacological and psychic action of these compounds, to evaluate hallucinogens’ ability to produce symptoms typical of certain mental disorders during their use, and to investigate the role of these compounds as therapeutic agents in several psychopathological conditions.

Carlini, E. A., & Maia, L. O. (2015). Plant and Fungal Hallucinogens as Toxic and Therapeutic Agents.

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