Psychopharmacology

, Volume 233, Issue 5, pp 823–829

Exploring the therapeutic potential of Ayahuasca: acute intake increases mindfulness-related capacities

  • Joaquim Soler
  • Matilde Elices
  • Alba Franquesa
  • Steven Barker
  • Pablo Friedlander
  • Amanda Feilding
  • Juan C. Pascual
  • Jordi Riba
Original Investigation

DOI: 10.1007/s00213-015-4162-0

Cite this article as:
Soler, J., Elices, M., Franquesa, A. et al. Psychopharmacology (2016) 233: 823. doi:10.1007/s00213-015-4162-0

Abstract

Background

Ayahuasca is a psychotropic plant tea used for ritual purposes by the indigenous populations of the Amazon. In the last two decades, its use has expanded worldwide. The tea contains the psychedelic 5-HT2A receptor agonist N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), plus β-carboline alkaloids with monoamine-oxidase-inhibiting properties. Acute administration induces an introspective dream-like experience characterized by visions and autobiographic and emotional memories. Studies of long-term users have suggested its therapeutic potential, reporting that its use has helped individuals abandon the consumption of addictive drugs. Furthermore, recent open-label studies in patients with treatment-resistant depression found that a single ayahuasca dose induced a rapid antidepressant effect that was maintained weeks after administration. Here, we conducted an exploratory study of the psychological mechanisms that could underlie the beneficial effects of ayahuasca.

Methods

We assessed a group of 25 individuals before and 24 h after an ayahuasca session using two instruments designed to measure mindfulness capacities: The Five Facets Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) and the Experiences Questionnaire (EQ).

Results

Ayahuasca intake led to significant increases in two facets of the FFMQ indicating a reduction in judgmental processing of experiences and in inner reactivity. It also led to a significant increase in decentering ability as measured by the EQ. These changes are classic goals of conventional mindfulness training, and the scores obtained are in the range of those observed after extensive mindfulness practice.

Conclusions

The present findings support the claim that ayahuasca has therapeutic potential and suggest that this potential is due to an increase in mindfulness capacities.

Keywords

Ayahuasca Therapeutic potential Mindfulness Decentering Human 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joaquim Soler
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Matilde Elices
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  • Alba Franquesa
    • 4
    • 6
  • Steven Barker
    • 7
  • Pablo Friedlander
    • 8
  • Amanda Feilding
    • 8
  • Juan C. Pascual
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
  • Jordi Riba
    • 3
    • 9
    • 10
    • 11
  1. 1.Servei de Psiquiatria, Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau (Barcelona)Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB)BarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Departamento de Psicologia Clínica i de la SalutUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Salud MentalCIBERSAMMadridSpain
  4. 4.Departamento de Psiquiatria i Medicina LegalUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  5. 5.Programa de Cognición, Instituto de Fundamentos y Métodos, Facultad de PsicologíaUniversidad de la RepúblicaMontevideoUruguay
  6. 6.Les Corts Centre d’Higiene MentalBarcelonaSpain
  7. 7.Department of Comparative Biomedical Sciences, School of Veterinary MedicineLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  8. 8.The Beckley FoundationOxfordUK
  9. 9.Centre d’Investigació de Medicaments, Servei de Farmacologia ClínicaHospital de la Santa Creu i Sant PauBarcelonaSpain
  10. 10.Department of Pharmacology and TherapeuticsUniversitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB)BarcelonaSpain
  11. 11.Human Neuropsychopharmacology GroupSant Pau Institute of Biomedical Research (IIB-Sant Pau)BarcelonaSpain