Scientific Studies on Ayahuasca and Addiction: Findings and Insights
There is an opinion that ayahuasca is a drug, since this traditional drink made of plants containing the chemical DMT, which is included in the list of narcotic substances.
On the other hand, ayahuasca is widely used to cure narcotic and alcoholic addictions, as well as smaller everyday habits. In this article we provide a brief overview of the results of scientific research to clarify the effects of ayahuasca related to addictions.
Studies with healthy volunteers (dos Santos et al., 2012) on the subject of addiction to ayahuasca have shown that ayahuasca does not cause addiction, and there is no need to increase the dose to achieve the desired effects. Ayahuasca has its own regulate system, which protect her follower from overdose by the emetic effects.
Studies of addiction to Ayahuasca with healthy volunteers using neuroimaging on MRI doesn’t show activation of brain regions associated with “reward systems” – areas that are usually activated by drugs with a high probability of addiction and further abuse, as well as alcohol.
Ayahuasca as a Treatment for Drug Addiction: Evidence and Clinical Applications
The available evidence suggests that ayahuasca can be used as a treatment for drug addiction (Bouso & Riba, 2014). Indeed, there are several clinics in South America specializing in the treatment of drug addiction using Ayahuasca. The most famous of them is Takiwasi, in Peru (Mabit, 2007, cited in Bouso et al., 2017).
One of the first studies on the use of ayahuasca to treat humans showed that those people who interact with ayahuasca stop using alcohol and other drugs such as cocaine (Grob et al., 1996 cited in Bouso et al., 2017). These results were also found in a later research in the USA (Halpern et al. 2008, cited in Bouso et al., 2017).
Another study with a large number of participants, which compared 127 ayahuasca users with 115 people from the control group, could not find evidence of drug addiction according to the biopsychosocial criteria of the ASI scale (the severity index of addiction, the standard scale for assessing drug addiction) or evidence that the constant use of ayahuasca was associated with harmful psychosocial consequences, which are usually cause various drugs.
In addition, the use of alcohol and other drugs gradually disappeared in the Ayahuasca group compared to the control group. All the results were reproduced in a survey of subjects a year after the study, which confirms the reliability and durability of the results obtained (Fabregas et al. 2010, cited in Bouso et al., 2017).
A study with teenagers (Doering-Silveira et al., 2005, cited in Bouso et al., 2017) showed that the Ayahuasca group started drinking less alcohol than the control group.
Scientists conclude that instead of causing drug addiction, Ayahuasca acts as a protective factor against alcohol and drug consumption.
Bouso, J. C., Santos, R. G. D., Grob, C., & Labate, B. C. (2017). Ayahuasca Technical Report 2017. ResearchGate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319155936_Ayahuasca_Technical_Report_2017
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