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    ayahuasca drug dependency ICEERS study

    Ritual Ayahuasca Use on Drug Dependency


    Assessment of the psychotherapeutic effects of ritual ayahuasca use on drug dependency: a pilot study

    Xavier Fernández, Rafael Guimarães dos Santos, Marta Cutchet, Sabela Fondevila, Débora González, Miguel Ángel Alcázar, Jordi Riba, José Carlos Bouso, and Josep María Fábregas.

    The Therapeutic Use of Ayahuasca



    About the study

    This study, entitled “Assessment of the Psychotherapeutic Effects of Ritual Ayahuasca Use on Drug Dependency: A Pilot Study,” constitutes the chapter number 11 in the book The Therapeutic Use of Ayahuasca (pp. 183-196), published by Springer in November 2014 as part of a project called Psychoactive Plants and Public Health. Beatriz Caiuby Labate and Clancy Cavnar were the editors of this volume.

    This chapter presents preliminary data obtained at the Instituto de Etnopsicología Amazónica Aplicada (IDEAA), placed at the Brazilian Amazon basin. The aim was to describe an observational study on the variations on personality, psychopathology, and neuropsychological measures in individuals treated with ayahuasca in this setting.

    The results suggest that the ritual use of ayahuasca in a therapeutic context may have beneficial psychotherapeutic effects in several mental health dimensions. In fact, clinical changes suggesting therapeutic effects were observed in several psychological areas, giving support for continuous investigations on the possible therapeutic use of ayahuasca.



    Using personality, psychopathology, and neuropsychological assessment instruments, our team assessed the therapeutic effects of an ayahuasca ritual treatment. Data was collected at the Institute of Applied Amazonian Ethnopsychology (IDEAA), in the Brazilian Amazon Basin. Psychological assessments were obtained both before and at the end of the treatment. The ayahuasca treatment lasted between three and nine months and included biweekly ayahuasca consumption. The sample consisted of 13 patients (eight men, five women) with a mean age of 35 years. Nine had a diagnosis of drug abuse and/or dependence; one of borderline personality disorder, and 3 were at IDEAA for personal growth.

    Results showed that the “Impulsiveness,” “Disorderliness,” “Anticipatory Worry,” and “Shyness with Strangers” subscales of the Temperament and Character Inventory presented statistically significant reductions after treatment, while the “Self-Directedness,” “Responsibility,” “Purposefulness,” and “Congruent Second Nature” subscales presented significant increases. The psychopathology subscales “Positive Symptoms,” “Obsessive-Compulsive,” and “Anxiety” of the Symptom Check-List-90-Revised, were significantly diminished after treatment, as well as all subscales of the Frontal Systems Behavior Scale: “Total,” “Apathy,” “Disinhibition,” and “Executive Dysfunction.” In addition, the “Resistance to Interference” measure of the Stroop Color and Word Test, the Purpose in Life Test, and the “Transcendent Dimension,” “Meaning and Purpose in Life,” “Mission in Life,” and “Material Values” subscales of the Spiritual Orientation Inventory presented statistically significant increases after treatment.

    Despite important limitations, such as the small sample size and the lack of a control group, the present pilot study provides preliminary evidence suggesting psychotherapeutic effects of ritual ayahuasca treatment in drug-related disorders.

    Link to the article


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    Photo by Ihor Malytskyi on Unsplash.

    Categories: Studies & papers , Ayahuasca
    Tags: psychoactive , spirituality , psychedelics , hallucinogens , drug dependence , addiction treatment , personality , neuropsychology , ritual , cognition , well-being , psychotherapy , ayahuasca , book chapter , scientific research , study , psychopathology