OPEN Foundation

M. Uthaug

Naturalistic Use of Mescaline Is Associated with Self-Reported Psychiatric Improvements and Enduring Positive Life Changes

Abstract

Mescaline is a naturally occurring psychoactive alkaloid that has been used as a sacrament by Indigenous populations in spiritual ritual and healing ceremonies for millennia. Despite promising early preliminary research and favorable anecdotal reports, there is limited research investigating mescaline’s psychotherapeutic potential. We administered an anonymous online questionnaire to adults (N = 452) reporting use of mescaline in naturalistic settings about mental health benefits attributed to mescaline. We assessed respondents’ self-reported improvements in depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and alcohol and drug use disorders (AUD and DUD). Of the respondents reporting histories of these clinical conditions, most (68-86%) reported subjective improvement following their most memorable mescaline experience. Respondents who reported an improvement in their psychiatric conditions reported significantly higher ratings of acute psychological factors including mystical-type, psychological insight, and ego dissolution effects compared to those who did not report improvements (Cohen’s d range 0.7 – 1.5). Many respondents (35-50%) rated the mescaline experience as the single or top five most spiritually significant or meaningful experience(s) of their lives. Acute experiences of psychological insight during their mescaline experience were associated with increased odds of reporting improvement in depression, anxiety, AUD and DUD. Additional research is needed to corroborate these preliminary findings and to rigorously examine the efficacy of mescaline for psychiatric treatment in controlled, longitudinal clinical trials.

Agin-Liebes, G., Haas, T. F., Lancelotta, R., Uthaug, M. V., Ramaekers, J. G., & Davis, A. K. (2021). Naturalistic Use of Mescaline Is Associated with Self-Reported Psychiatric Improvements and Enduring Positive Life Changes. ACS pharmacology & translational science, 4(2), 543–552. https://doi.org/10.1021/acsptsci.1c00018

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A placebo-controlled study of the effects of ayahuasca, set and setting on mental health of participants in ayahuasca group retreats

Abstract

Ayahuasca is a plant concoction containing N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and certain β-carboline alkaloids from South America. Previous research in naturalistic settings has suggested that ingestion of ayahuasca can improve mental health and well-being; however, these studies were not placebo controlled and did not control for the possibility of expectation bias. This naturalistic observational study was designed to assess whether mental health changes were produced by ayahuasca or by set and setting. Assessments were made pre- and post-ayahuasca sessions in 30 experienced participants of ayahuasca retreats hosted in the Netherlands, Spain, and Germany. Participants consumed ayahuasca (N = 14) or placebo (N = 16). Analysis revealed a main effect of time on symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. Compared to baseline, symptoms reduced in both groups after the ceremony, independent of treatment. There was a main treatment × time interaction on implicit emotional empathy, indicating that ayahuasca increased emotional empathy to negative stimuli. The current findings suggest that improvements in mental health of participants of ayahuasca ceremonies can be driven by non-pharmacological factors that constitute a placebo response but also by pharmacological factors that are related to the use of ayahuasca. These findings stress the importance of placebo-controlled designs in psychedelic research and the need to further explore the contribution of non-pharmacological factors to the psychedelic experience.

Uthaug, M. V., Mason, N. L., Toennes, S. W., Reckweg, J. T., de Sousa Fernandes Perna, E. B., Kuypers, K., van Oorsouw, K., Riba, J., & Ramaekers, J. G. (2021). A placebo-controlled study of the effects of ayahuasca, set and setting on mental health of participants in ayahuasca group retreats. Psychopharmacology, 238(7), 1899–1910. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-021-05817-8

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Prospective examination of synthetic 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine inhalation: effects on salivary IL-6, cortisol levels, affect, and non-judgment

Abstract

Rationale

5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine is a psychotropic substance found in various plant and animal species and is synthetically produced. 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine is used in naturalistic settings for spiritual exploration, recreation, or to address negative affect and mood problems. However, scientific knowledge on the effects of 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine in humans is scarce.

Objectives

The first objective was to assess the effects of inhalation of vaporized synthetic 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine on neuroendocrine markers. The second objective was to assess effects of the substance on affect and mindfulness. In addition, we assessed whether ratings of subjective measures were associated with changes in stress biomarkers (i.e., cortisol) and immune response (i.e., IL-6, CRP, IL-1β), as well as the acute psychedelic experience.

Methods

Assessments (baseline, immediately post-session, and 7-day follow-up) were made in 11 participants. Salivary samples were collected at baseline and post-session and analyzed by high-sensitivity enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).

Results

5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine significantly increased cortisol levels and decreased IL-6 concentrations in saliva immediately post-session. These changes were not correlated to ratings of mental health or the psychedelic experience. Relative to baseline, ratings of non-judgment significantly increased, and ratings of depression decreased immediately post-session and at follow-up. Ratings of anxiety and stress decreased from baseline to 7-day follow-up. Participant ratings of the psychedelic experience correlated negatively with ratings of affect and positively with ratings of non-judgment.

Conclusion

Inhalation of vaporized synthetic 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine produced significant changes in inflammatory markers, improved affect, and non-judgment in volunteers. Future research should examine the effect of 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamineamine with healthy volunteers in a controlled laboratory setting.

Uthaug, M. V., Lancelotta, R., Szabo, A., Davis, A. K., Riba, J., & Ramaekers, J. G. (2019). Prospective examination of synthetic 5-methoxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine inhalation: effects on salivary IL-6, cortisol levels, affect, and non-judgment. Psychopharmacology, 1-13., 10.1007/s00213-019-05414-w
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A single inhalation of vapor from dried toad secretion containing 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) in a naturalistic setting is related to sustained enhancement of satisfaction with life, mindfulness-related capacities, and a decrement of psychopathological symptoms

Abstract

BACKGROUND: 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (hereinafter referred to as 5-MeO-DMT) is a psychedelic substance found in the secretion from the parotoid glands of the Bufo alvarius toad. Inhalation of vapor from toad secretion containing 5-MeO-DMT has become popular in naturalistic settings as a treatment of mental health problems or as a means for spiritual exploration. However, knowledge of the effects of 5-MeO-DMT in humans is limited.
AIMS: The first objective of this study was to assess sub-acute and long-term effects of inhaling vapor from dried toad secretion containing 5-MeO-DMT on affect and cognition. The second objective was to assess whether any changes were associated with the psychedelic experience.
METHODS: Assessments at baseline, within 24 h and 4 weeks following intake, were made in 42 individuals who inhaled vapor from dried toad secretion at several European locations.
RESULTS: Relative to baseline, ratings of satisfaction with life and convergent thinking significantly increased right after intake and were maintained at follow-up 4 weeks later. Ratings of mindfulness also increased over time and reached statistical significance at 4 weeks. Ratings of depression, anxiety, and stress decreased after the session, and reached significance at 4 weeks. Participants that experienced high levels of ego dissolution or oceanic boundlessness during the session displayed higher ratings of satisfaction with life and lower ratings of depression and stress.
CONCLUSION: A single inhalation of vapor from dried toad secretion containing 5-MeO-DMT produces sub-acute and long-term changes in affect and cognition in volunteers. These results warrant exploratory research into therapeutic applications of 5-MeO-DMT.
Uthaug, M. V., Lancelotta, R., van Oorsouw, K., Kuypers, K. P. C., Mason, N., Rak, J., … & Ramaekers, J. G. (2019). A single inhalation of vapor from dried toad secretion containing 5-methoxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) in a naturalistic setting is related to sustained enhancement of satisfaction with life, mindfulness-related capacities, and a decrement of psychopathological symptoms. Psychopharmacology236(9), 2653-2666., https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-019-05236-w
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A single inhalation of vapor from dried toad secretion containing 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) in a naturalistic setting is related to sustained enhancement of satisfaction with life, mindfulness-related capacities, and a decrement of psychopathological symptoms.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:
5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (hereinafter referred to as 5-MeO-DMT) is a psychedelic substance found in the secretion from the parotoid glands of the Bufo alvarius toad. Inhalation of vapor from toad secretion containing 5-MeO-DMT has become popular in naturalistic settings as a treatment of mental health problems or as a means for spiritual exploration. However, knowledge of the effects of 5-MeO-DMT in humans is limited.
AIMS:
The first objective of this study was to assess sub-acute and long-term effects of inhaling vapor from dried toad secretion containing 5-MeO-DMT on affect and cognition. The second objective was to assess whether any changes were associated with the psychedelic experience.
METHODS:
Assessments at baseline, within 24 h and 4 weeks following intake, were made in 42 individuals who inhaled vapor from dried toad secretion at several European locations.
RESULTS:
Relative to baseline, ratings of satisfaction with life and convergent thinking significantly increased right after intake and were maintained at follow-up 4 weeks later. Ratings of mindfulness also increased over time and reached statistical significance at 4 weeks. Ratings of depression, anxiety, and stress decreased after the session, and reached significance at 4 weeks. Participants that experienced high levels of ego dissolution or oceanic boundlessness during the session displayed higher ratings of satisfaction with life and lower ratings of depression and stress.
CONCLUSION:
A single inhalation of vapor from dried toad secretion containing 5-MeO-DMT produces sub-acute and long-term changes in affect and cognition in volunteers. These results warrant exploratory research into therapeutic applications of 5-MeO-DMT.

 
Uthaug, M. V., Lancelotta, R., van Oorsouw, K., Kuypers, K. P. C., Mason, N., Rak, J., … & Páleníček, T. (2019). A single inhalation of vapor from dried toad secretion containing 5-methoxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) in a naturalistic setting is related to sustained enhancement of satisfaction with life, mindfulness-related capacities, and a decrement of psychopathological symptoms. Psychopharmacology, 1-14., https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-019-05236-w
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Sub-Acute Effects of Psilocybin on Empathy, Creative Thinking, and Subjective Well-Being

Abstract

Creative thinking and empathy are crucial for everyday interactions and subjective well-being. This is emphasized by studies showing a reduction in these skills in populations where social interaction and subjective well-being are significantly compromised (e.g., depression). Anecdotal reports and recent studies suggest that a single administration of psilocybin can enhance such processes and could therefore be a potential treatment. However, it has yet to be assessed whether effects outlast acute intoxication. The present study aimed to assess the sub-acute effects of psilocybin on creative thinking, empathy, and well-being. Participants attending a psilocybin retreat completed tests of creative (convergent and divergent) thinking and empathy, and the satisfaction with life scale on three occasions: before ingesting psilocybin (N = 55), the morning after (N = 50), and seven days after (N = 22). Results indicated that psilocybin enhanced divergent thinking and emotional empathy the morning after use. Enhancements in convergent thinking, valence-specific emotional empathy, and well-being persisted seven days after use. Sub-acute changes in empathy correlated with changes in well-being. The study demonstrates that a single administration of psilocybin in a social setting may be associated with sub-acute enhancement of creative thinking, empathy, and subjective well-being. Future research should test whether these effects contribute to the therapeutic effects in clinical populations.

Mason, N. L., Mischler, E., Uthaug, M. V., & Kuypers, K. P. (2019). Sub-Acute Effects of Psilocybin on Empathy, Creative Thinking, and Subjective Well-Being. Journal of psychoactive drugs, 1-12., 10.1080/02791072.2019.1580804
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Sub-acute and long-term effects of ayahuasca on affect and cognitive thinking style and their association with ego dissolution

Abstract

Rationale

Ayahuasca is a psychotropic plant tea from South America used for religious purposes by indigenous people of the Amazon. Increasing evidence indicates that ayahuasca may have therapeutic potential in the treatment of mental health disorders and can enhance mindfulness-related capacities. Most research so far has focused on acute and sub-acute effects of ayahuasca on mental health-related parameters and less on long-term effects.

Objectives

The present study aimed to assess sub-acute and long-term effects of ayahuasca on well-being and cognitive thinking style. The second objective was to assess whether sub-acute and long-term effects of ayahuasca depend on the degree of ego dissolution that was experienced after consumption of ayahuasca.

Results

Ayahuasca ceremony attendants (N = 57) in the Netherlands and Colombia were assessed before, the day after, and 4 weeks following the ritual. Relative to baseline, ratings of depression and stress significantly decreased after the ayahuasca ceremony and these changes persisted for 4 weeks. Likewise, convergent thinking improved post-ayahuasca ceremony up until the 4 weeks follow-up. Satisfaction with life and several aspects of mindfulness increased the day after the ceremony, but these changes failed to reach significance 4 weeks after. Changes in affect, satisfaction with life, and mindfulness were significantly correlated to the level of ego dissolution experienced during the ayahuasca ceremony and were unrelated to previous experience with ayahuasca.

Conclusion

It is concluded that ayahuasca produces sub-acute and long-term improvements in affect and cognitive thinking style in non-pathological users. These data highlight the therapeutic potential of ayahuasca in the treatment of mental health disorders, such as depression.

Uthaug, M. V., van Oorsouw, K., Kuypers, K. P. C., van Boxtel, M., Broers, N. J., Mason, N. L., … & Ramaekers, J. G. (2018). Sub-acute and long-term effects of ayahuasca on affect and cognitive thinking style and their association with ego dissolution. Psychopharmacology235(10), 2979-2989., 10.1007/s00213-018-4988-3
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21 March - Ketamine Discussion with Celia Morgan, Filip Tylš & Will Barone

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