Addiction Treatment: Ayahuasca May Help Addicts Stop Abusing Alcohol and Drugs

Ayahuasca a drink, made from the psychedelic Amazonian Banisteriopsis caapi vines, is said to help addicts quit abusing alcohol and other drugs. Researchers can’t rule out a strong placebo effect as more studies are needed.


Ayahuasca. Image Courtesy of Terpsichore

Ayahuasca is a popular drink with psychedelic effects used by indigenous people in countries of the Amazon basin. It is made from Banisteriopsis caapi vines and is known to cause altered consciousness and mystical experiences. In a new study published July 25 in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review, researchers from Australia and Brazil suggest that those who regularly consume this drink are less likely to use alcohol or other drugs.

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Ayahuasca, a deeply mystical experience

In the study, researchers surveyed 8,629 ayahuasca users from 40 different countries. Among them, those who consumed the psychedelic infusion more regularly were less likely to use alcohol or drugs. “The number of times ayahuasca was consumed was strongly associated with a higher likelihood of never or rarely drinking alcohol, never or rarely engaging in ‘risky drinking,’ and not having used a range of drugs in the previous month,” said the study authors.

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The strongest “anti-drinking effects” were observed in people with a history of substance abuse or a substance use disorder. The profound mystical experiences generated by ayahuasca will allow “participants to identify negative thought patterns related to their addiction, understand the origins and dynamics of their addiction, and contribute to trauma healing,” the researchers claim.

A possible placebo effect

The study authors do not rule out a placebo effect due to the consumption of the psychedelic drink and people consuming it wanting to get rid of their addiction in the long run. They say more work is needed to establish ayahuasca’s effectiveness for addicts.

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Associations between ayahuasca consumption in naturalistic settings and current alcohol and drug use: Results of a large international cross-sectional survey



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