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    ayahuasca hallucinogens psychedelics social anxiety

    Therapeutic Potential of Ayahuasca for Social Anxiety


    The therapeutic potential of ayahuasca and other serotonergic hallucinogens in the treatment of social anxiety

    Rafael G. dos Santos, Fl谩via L. Os贸rio, Jose A. Crippa, Jos茅 Carlos Bouso, and Jaime E. C. Hallak.

    Social Anxiety Disorder: Recognition, Diagnosis and Management



    About the study

    Animal studies, observational assessments of ayahuasca users, and experimental and clinical studies suggest that ayahuasca and other serotonergic hallucinogens have anxiolytic and antidepressive effects.

    Considering the effects of serotonergic hallucinogens on emotion recognition, these compounds could be used to reverse the deficits in emotion processing observed in social anxiety.

    These drugs may have therapeutic potentials that seem to have their neural basis located at brain regions related to emotion processing, introspection, and self-awareness.



    Anxiety disorders are among the most prevalent psychiatric disorders, having a lifetime prevalence of around 17%. Social anxiety disorder (SAD), or social phobia, is the most common type of anxiety disorder, being the third most frequent psychiatric disorder, with a lifetime prevalence that can reach 15%. Pharmacological treatments have limited efficacy and are associated with significant adverse reactions. Thus, new treatments should be investigated.

    Preclinical and clinical evidence suggest that ayahuasca, a botanical hallucinogen rich in the 尾-carboline harmine and in the tryptamine dimethyltryptamine (DMT), has anxiolytic properties. Moreover, there is also clinical evidence that other hallucinogens that share a similar mechanism of action with ayahuasca/DMT (agonism at cortical serotonin 5-HT1A/2A/2C receptors), such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and psilocybin (from 鈥渕agic mushrooms鈥), also have anxiolytic properties.

    In the present article, we review basic and clinical evidence supporting the possible beneficial effects of ayahuasca (and other serotonergic or classical hallucinogens) in the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders in general, with a focus on social anxiety.

    We also review neuroimaging studies showing that these compounds modulate brain areas involved in emotion processing, and describe the fast and sustained anxiolytic and antidepressive effects of ayahuasca in patients with treatment-resistant major depressive disorder recently reported by our group.

    Finally, we integrate the preclinical and clinical evidence (translational approach) concluding that there is significant evidence to explore the potential anxiolytic effects of ayahuasca in patients with SAD, and briefly comment on our ongoing double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study of ayahuasca in socially anxious individuals.

    Link to the article


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    Photo by K眉lli Kittus on Unsplash.

    Categories: Studies & papers , Ayahuasca
    Tags: ayahuasca , scientific research , study , DMT , psychedelics , hallucinogens , public health , harmine , social anxiety , social cognition , mood disorders , book chapter