OPEN Foundation

R. Sanches

Rapid and sustained decreases in suicidality following a single dose of ayahuasca among individuals with recurrent major depressive disorder: results from an open-label trial

Abstract

Rationale: Suicidality is a major public health concern with limited treatment options. Accordingly, there is a need for innovative interventions for suicidality. Preliminary evidence indicates that treatment with the psychedelic ayahuasca may lead to decreases in depressive symptoms among individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD). However, there remains limited understanding of whether ayahuasca also leads to reductions in suicidality.

Objective: To examine the acute and post-acute effect of ayahuasca on suicidality among individuals with MDD.

Methods: We conducted a secondary analysis of an open-label trial in which individuals with recurrent MDD received a single dose of ayahuasca (N = 17). Suicidality was assessed at baseline; during the intervention; and 1, 7, 14, and 21 days after the intervention.

Results: Among individuals with suicidality at baseline (n = 15), there were significant acute (i.e., 40, 80, 140, and 180 min after administration) and post-acute (1, 7, 14, and 21 days after administration) decreases in suicidality following administration of ayahuasca. Post-acute effect sizes for decreases in suicidality were large (Hedges’ g = 1.31-1.75), with the largest effect size 21 days after the intervention (g = 1.75).

Conclusions: When administered in the appropriate context, ayahuasca may lead to rapid and sustained reductions in suicidality among individuals with MDD. Randomized, double-blind studies with larger sample sizes are needed to confirm this early finding.

Zeifman, R. J., Singhal, N., Dos Santos, R. G., Sanches, R. F., de Lima Osório, F., Hallak, J., & Weissman, C. R. (2021). Rapid and sustained decreases in suicidality following a single dose of ayahuasca among individuals with recurrent major depressive disorder: results from an open-label trial. Psychopharmacology, 238(2), 453–459. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-020-05692-9

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Effects of Ayahuasca and its Alkaloids on Drug Dependence: A Systematic Literature Review of Quantitative Studies in Animals and Humans

Abstract

Recently, the anti-addictive potential of ayahuasca, a dimethyltryptamine(DMT)- and β-carboline-rich hallucinogenic beverage traditionally used by indigenous groups of the Northwest Amazon and currently by syncretic churches worldwide, has received increased attention. To better evaluate this topic, we performed a systematic literature review using the PubMed database to find quantitative studies (using statistical analysis) that assessed the effects of ayahuasca or its components in drug-related symptoms or disorders. We found five animal studies (using harmaline, harmine, or ayahuasca) and five observational studies of regular ayahuasca consumers. All animal studies showed improvement of biochemical or behavioral parameters related to drug-induced disorders. Of the five human studies, four reported significant reductions of dependence symptoms or substance use, while one did not report significant results. The mechanisms responsible for the anti-addictive properties of ayahuasca and its alkaloids are not clarified, apparently involving both peripheral MAO-A inhibition by the β-carbolines and central agonism of DMT at 5-HT2A receptors expressed in brain regions related to the regulation of mood and emotions. Although results are promising, controlled studies are needed to replicate these preliminary findings.

Nunes, A. A., dos Santos, R. G., Osório, F. L., Sanches, R. F., Crippa, J. A. S., & Hallak, J. E. (2016). Effects of Ayahuasca and its Alkaloids on Drug Dependence: A Systematic Literature Review of Quantitative Studies in Animals and Humans. Journal of psychoactive drugs, 1-11. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2016.1188225

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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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Long-term use of psychedelic drugs is associated with differences in brain structure and personality in humans

Abstract

Psychedelic agents have a long history of use by humans for their capacity to induce profound modifications in perception, emotion and cognitive processes. Despite increasing knowledge of the neural mechanisms involved in the acute effects of these drugs, the impact of sustained psychedelic use on the human brain remains largely unknown. Molecular pharmacology studies have shown that psychedelic 5-hydroxytryptamine (5HT)2A agonists stimulate neurotrophic and transcription factors associated with synaptic plasticity. These data suggest that psychedelics could potentially induce structural changes in brain tissue. Here we looked for differences in cortical thickness (CT) in regular users of psychedelics. We obtained magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) images of the brains of 22 regular users of ayahuasca (a preparation whose active principle is the psychedelic 5HT2A agonist N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT)) and 22 controls matched for age, sex, years of education, verbal IQ and fluid IQ. Ayahuasca users showed significant CT differences in midline structures of the brain, with thinning in the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), a key node of the default mode network. CT values in the PCC were inversely correlated with the intensity and duration of prior use of ayahuasca and with scores on self-transcendence, a personality trait measuring religiousness, transpersonal feelings and spirituality. Although direct causation cannot be established, these data suggest that regular use of psychedelic drugs could potentially lead to structural changes in brain areas supporting attentional processes, self-referential thought, and internal mentation. These changes could underlie the previously reported personality changes in long-term users and highlight the involvement of the PCC in the effects of psychedelics.

Bouso, J. C., Palhano-Fontes, F., Rodríguez-Fornells, A., Ribeiro, S., Sanches, R., Crippa, J. A. S., … & Riba, J. (2015). Long-term use of psychedelic drugs Is associated with differences in brain structure and personality in humans. European Neuropsychopharmacology. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.euroneuro.2015.01.008
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27 June - Spiritual & Existential Dimensions in Psychedelic Care: Challenges & Insights

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