OPEN Foundation

R. Hoy

Assessment of Alcohol and Tobacco Use Disorders Among Religious Users of Ayahuasca.


The aims of this study were to assess the impact of ceremonial use of ayahuasca-a psychedelic brew containing N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and β-carboline -and attendance at União do Vegetal (UDV) meetings on substance abuse; here we report the findings related to alcohol and tobacco use disorder. A total of 1,947 members of UDV 18+ years old were evaluated in terms of years of membership and ceremonial attendance during the previous 12 months. Participants were recruited from 10 states from all major regions of Brazil. Alcohol and tobacco use was evaluated through questionnaires first developed by the World Health Organization and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Analyses compared levels of alcohol and tobacco use disorder between the UDV and a national normative sample (n = 7,939). Binomial tests for proportions indicated that lifetime use of alcohol and tobacco was higher in UDV sample compared to the Brazilian norms for age ranges of 25-34 and over 34 years old, but not for the age range of 18-24 years old. However, current use disorders for alcohol and tobacco were significantly lower in the UDV sample than the Brazilian norms. Regression analyses revealed a significant impact of attendance at ayahuasca ceremonies during the previous 12 months and years of UDV membership on the reduction of alcohol and tobacco use disorder.
Ribeiro Barbosa, P. C., Tofoli, L. F., Bogenschutz, M. P., Hoy, R., Berro, L. F., Marinho, E. A., … & Winkelman, M. J. (2018). Assessment of alcohol and tobacco use disorders among religious users of ayahuasca. Frontiers in psychiatry9, 136., 10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00136
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Psychological and neuropsychological assessment of regular hoasca users


BACKGROUND: Hoasca (also called ayahuasca) is a N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) – containing psychedelic brew originally used for magico-religious purposes by Amerindian populations of the Amazon Basin. Recently, Brazilian syncretic churches have helped spread the ritual use of hoasca to Western societies. The aim of this study was to evaluate substance use, and neuropsychological and psychological functioning of regular hoasca users within a religious setting.

METHODS: Assessment of socio-economic status, mood, personality traits, impulsiveness, drug use, quality of life, extrinsic and intrinsic religiosity, and neuropsychological function was performed on 30 volunteers from a U.S. branch of União do Vegetal (UDV), a Brazilian religion which uses hoasca ritually. We also assessed 27 non-hoasca-using control subjects matched by socio-demographic profile and church attendance. Mann-Whitney U, chi-squared and Fisher tests were used to analyze differences between groups. Spearman’s association and simple logistic regression tests were used to analyze the impact of frequency of hoasca use on dependent variables.

RESULTS: Relative to the control group, the UDV group demonstrated lower scores for depression (p=0.043, r=.27) and confusion (p=0.032, r=.29) as assessed by the Profile of Mood States (POMS); higher scores on the instrument Big Five Inventory (BFI) for the personality traits agreeableness (p=0.028, r=.29) and openness (p=0.037, r=.28); higher scores on the quality life domain role limitations due to physical health as determined by the instrument Medical Outcomes Study Short Form-36 – SF-36 (p=0.035, r=.28); less recent use of alcohol (p<0.001, φc=.57), greater past use of alcohol to intoxication (p=0.007, φc=.36) and past use of cannabis (p=0.001, φc=.45) as measured by the Addiction Severity Index (ASI), 5th edition; better score on a measure of memory vulnerability to proactive interference as measured by the California Verbal Learning Test – CVLT (p=0.040, r=.27). Lifetime use of hoasca was positively correlated with role limitations due to physical health (p=0.032, rs=.39) and negatively associated with lifetime heavy alcohol use (p=0.034, OR=0.979).

CONCLUSIONS: The findings indicate that religious use of hoasca does not adversely affect neuropsychological functioning and may have positive effects on substance abuse and mood.

Barbosa, P. C. R., Strassman, R. J., da Silveira, D. X., Areco, K., Hoy, R., Pommy, J., … & Bogenschutz, M. (2016). Psychological and neuropsychological assessment of regular hoasca users. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 71, 95-105. 0.1016/j.comppsych.2016.09.003

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30 April - Q&A with Rick Strassman