Ayahuasca — a psychedelic drug traditionally used in South America — may help treat depression and alcoholism, new research suggests.
The survey of over 96,000 people around the world found that ayahuasca users reported higher well-being and lower problems with alcohol abuse.
Ayahuasca contains dimethyltryptamine (DMT), which is a powerful psychedelic that acts over a short period.
In the 60s it was known as the ‘businessman’s trip’ because its effects last between 5 and 15 minutes, instead of the hours resulting from LSD or magic mushrooms.
Dr Will Lawn, the study’s first author, said:
“These findings lend some support to the notion that ayahuasca could be an important and powerful tool in treating depression and alcohol use disorders.
Recent research has demonstrated ayahuasca’s potential as a psychiatric medicine, and our current study provides further evidence that it may be a safe and promising treatment.
It is important to note that these data are purely observational and do not demonstrate causality.
Moreover, ayahuasca users in this survey still had an average drinking level which would be considered hazardous.
Therefore, randomised controlled trials must be carried out to fully examine ayahuasca’s ability to help treat mood and addiction disorders.
However, this study is notable because it is, to the best of our knowledge, the largest survey of ayahuasca users completed to date.”
Of over 96,000 people who answered the online survey, 527 people said they used ayahuasca, while 18,138 used magic mushrooms or LSD.
Most users of ayahuasca took it with a healer or shaman.
Professor Celia Morgan, who co-authored the study, said:
“Several observational studies have examined the long-term effects of regular ayahuasca use in the religious context.
In this work, long-term ayahuasca use has not been found to impact on cognitive ability, produce addiction or worsen mental health problems.
In fact, some of these observational studies suggest that ayahuasca use is associated with less problematic alcohol and drug use, and better mental health and cognitive functioning.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports (Lawn et al., 2017).