OPEN Foundation

R. Santos

Well-being, problematic alcohol consumption and acute subjective drug effects in past-year ayahuasca users: a large, international, self-selecting online survey

Abstract

Ayahuasca is a natural psychedelic brew, which contains dimethyltryptamine (DMT). Its potential as a psychiatric medicine has recently been demonstrated and its non-medical use around the world appears to be growing. We aimed to investigate well-being and problematic alcohol use in ayahuasca users, and ayahuasca’s subjective effects. An online, self-selecting, global survey examining patterns of drug use was conducted in 2015 and 2016 (n = 96,901). Questions were asked about: use of ayahuasca, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and magic mushrooms; demographics, current well-being and past-year problematic alcohol use of past-year ayahuasca users and comparison drug users; and subjective effects of ayahuasca and comparison drugs. Ayahuasca users (n = 527) reported greater well-being than both classic psychedelic users (n = 18,138) and non-psychedelic drug-using respondents (n = 78,236). Ayahuasca users reported less problematic drinking than classic psychedelic users, although both groups reported greater problematic drinking than the other respondents. Ayahuasca’s acute subjective effects usually lasted for six hours and were most strongly felt one hour after consumption. Within our online, self-selecting survey, ayahuasca users reported better well-being than comparison groups and less problematic drinking than classic psychedelic users. Future longitudinal studies of international samples and randomised controlled trials are needed to dissect the effects of ayahuasca on these outcomes.
Lawn, W., Hallak, J. E., Crippa, J. A., Santos, R., Porffy, L., Barratt, M. J., … & Morgan, C. J. (2017). Well-being, problematic alcohol consumption and acute subjective drug effects in past-year ayahuasca users: a large, international, self-selecting online survey. Scientific reports7(1), 15201. 10.1038/s41598-017-14700-6
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Ayahuasca: what mental health professionals need to know

Abstract

Background

Ayahuasca is a psychoactive ethnobotanical concoction that has been used for decades by indigenous groups of the Northwestern Amazon and by syncretic religious organizations for ritual and therapeutic purposes. In the last two decades, it is being used worldwide in evolving practices. Ayahuasca seem to therapeutic effects, but controlled studies are lacking. Moreover, its safety and toxicity are not completely understood.

Objectives

To present an overview of the effects of ayahuasca based on the most recent human studies.

Methods

Narrative review.

Results

Ayahuasca administration in controlled settings appears to be safe from a subjective and physiological perspective, with few adverse reactions being reported. More frequent adverse reactions occur in non-controlled settings. Prolonged psychotic reactions are rare and seem to occur especially in susceptible individuals. Ayahuasca showed antidepressive, anxiolytic, and antiaddictive effects in animal models, observational studies, and in open-label and controlled studies.

Discussion

Ayahuasca administration in controlled settings appear to be safe. Moreover, ayahuasca seem to have therapeutic effects for treatment-resistant psychiatric disorders that should be further investigated in randomized controlled clinical trials. However, medical complications and cases of prolonged psychotic reactions have been reported, and people with personal or family history of psychotic disorders should avoid ayahuasca intake.

Santos, R. G. D., Bouso, J. C., & Hallak, J. E. C. (2017). Ayahuasca: what mental health professionals need to know. Archives of Clinical Psychiatry (São Paulo)44(4), 103-109. 10.1590/0101-60830000000130
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Effects of ayahuasca on psychometric measures of anxiety, panic-like and hopelessness in Santo Daime members

Abstract

The use of the hallucinogenic brew ayahuasca, obtained from infusing the shredded stalk of the malpighiaceous plant Banisteriopsis caapi with the leaves of other plants such as Psychotria viridis, is growing in urban centers of Europe, South and North America in the last several decades. Despite this diffusion, little is known about its effects on emotional states. The present study investigated the effects of ayahuasca on psychometric measures of anxiety, panic-like and hopelessness in members of the Santo Daime, an ayahuasca-using religion. Standard questionnaires were used to evaluate state-anxiety (STAI-state), trait-anxiety (STAI-trait), panic-like (ASI-R) and hopelessness (BHS) in participants that ingested ayahuasca for at least 10 consecutive years. The study was done in the Santo Daime church, where the questionnaires were administered 1 h after the ingestion of the brew, in a double-blind, placebo-controlled procedure. While under the acute effects of ayahuasca, participants scored lower on the scales for panic and hopelessness related states. Ayahuasca ingestion did not modify state- or trait-anxiety. The results are discussed in terms of the possible use of ayahuasca in alleviating signs of hopelessness and panic-like related symptoms.

Santos, R. G., Landeira-Fernandez, J., Strassman, R. J., Motta, V., & Cruz, A. P. M. (2007). Effects of ayahuasca on psychometric measures of anxiety, panic-like and hopelessness in Santo Daime members. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 112(3), 507-513. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2007.04.012
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