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    ayahuasca context set setting contexto study ICEERS

    Influence of Context on the Health of Ayahuasca Drinkers


    Influence of context and setting on the mental health and well-being outcomes of ayahuasca drinkers: results of a large international survey

    Daniel Perkins, Violeta Schubert, Hana Simonov谩, Lu铆s Fernando T贸foli, Jos茅 Carlos Bouso, Miroslav Hor谩k, Nicole Leite Galv茫o-Coelho, and Jerome Sarris.

    Frontiers in Pharmacology



    About the study

    This study explores the extent to which one or other specific context, set, and/or setting may be more or less beneficial to the mental health and well-being of ayahuasca drinkers.

    The research uses a subset of data from the largest dataset ever collected relating to ayahuasca drinking (n = 10,836), which includes individuals from diverse settings in over 50 countries. 

    The data used were collected between 2017 and 2019 via an online survey that included translations into five languages other than English: Portuguese, Spanish, German, Italian, and Czech. The authors identified that aspects of set & setting appear to have significant effects on drinkers鈥 acute experiences, likelihood of experiencing difficulties, and longer term well-being and mental health outcomes. 



    Background: Ayahuasca is a traditional plant decoction containing N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and various 尾-carbolines including harmine, harmaline, and tetrahydroharmine, which has been used ceremonially by Amazonian Indigenous groups for healing and spiritual purposes. Use of the brew has now spread far beyond its original context of consumption to North America, Europe, and Australia in neo-shamanic settings as well as Christian syncretic churches. While these groups have established their own rituals and protocols to guide use, it remains unknown the extent to which the use of traditional or non-traditional practices may affect drinkers鈥 acute experiences, and longer term wellbeing and mental health outcomes. 

    Methods: Hence, this study aimed to provide the first detailed assessment of associations between ceremony/ritual characteristics, additional support practices, motivations for drinking, and mental health and well-being outcomes. The paper uses data from a large cross-sectional study of ayahuasca drinkers in more than 40 countries who had used ayahuasca in various contexts (n = 6,877). It captured detailed information about participant demographics, patterns and history of ayahuasca drinking, the setting of consumption, and ritualistic practices employed. Current mental health status was captured via the Kessler 10 psychological distress scale and the mental health component score of the SF-12 Health Questionnaire, while reported change in prior clinically diagnosed anxiety or depression (n = 1276) was evaluated using a (PGIC) Patient Global Impression of Change tool. Various intermediate outcomes were also assessed including perceived change in psychological well-being, number of personal self-insights attained, and subjective spiritual experience measured via the spirituality dimension of the Persisting Effects Questionnaire (PEQ) and Short Index of Mystical Orientation. 

    Results: Regression models identified a range of significant associations between set and setting variables, and intermediate and final mental health and wellbeing outcomes. A generalized structural equation model (GSEM) was then used to verify relationships and associations between endogenous, mediating and final outcome variables concurrently.

    Conclusions: The present study sheds new light on the influence of ceremonial practices, additional supports and motivations on the therapeutic effects of ayahuasca for mental health and well-being, and ways in which such factors can be optimized in naturalistic settings and clinical studies.


    Link to the article


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    Photo by Patrick Schneider on Unsplash.

    Categories: Studies & papers , Ayahuasca
    Tags: ayahuasca , scientific research , study , adverse effects , psychedelics , hallucinogens , mental health , well-being , psychedelic therapy , set & setting