Ayahuasca improves emotion dysregulation in a community sample and in individuals with borderline-like traits
Research suggests that mindfulness-based interventions may improve mindfulness-related capacities (e.g., decentering, non-judging, and non-reacting) and emotion regulation. Previously, our group reported that ayahuasca could be a potential analogue of mindfulness practice. The main aim of the current study was to examine the effects of ayahuasca on emotional regulation and mindfulness-related capacities. Secondarily, we sought to explore the effects of ayahuasca on individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD) traits.
This is an observational study of 45 volunteers who participated in an ayahuasca session. The volunteers completed various self-report instruments designed to measure emotional dysregulation (Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS)) and mindfulness traits (Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ)–Short Form and Experiences Questionnaire (EQ)) prior to and 24 h after the ayahuasca session. The volunteers were divided into two subgroups based on their score on the McLean Screening Instrument for BPD (MSI-BPD). Twelve participants were grouped into the BPD-like traits subgroup while the rest of them were included in the non-BPD-like subgroup. We performed within-subjects and between-group analyses.
Overall, the participants showed significant improvements on the FFMQ subscales observing, acting with awareness, non-judging, and non-reacting and also significantly improved on decentering (EQ scale) and on the DERS subscales emotional non-acceptance, emotional interference, and lack of control. The BPD-like subgroup also showed significant improvements on the DERS subscales emotional interference and lack of control but not in mindfulness capacities.
These findings suggest a potential therapeutic effect for ayahuasca in emotion regulation and mindfulness capacities (including decentering, acceptance, awareness, and sensitivity to meditation practice). Based on these results, we believe that ayahuasca therapy could be of value in clinical populations, such as individuals with BPD, affected by emotion dysregulation.
KeywordsAyahuasca Emotional dysregulation Mindfulness Borderline personality disorder
The authors would like to thank the individuals from Santo Daime, La Encantada, and La Maloka who voluntarily participated in the study. We thank Bradley Londres for editing the manuscript.
This study was funded by a FIS grant from the Spanish Ministry of Economics and Competitivity - Instituto de Salud Carlos III, under contract PI16/00078 (IP: Enric Alvarez and Jordi Riba), in collaboration with Institut de Recerca de l’Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, Barcelona. Elisabet Domínguez is supported by a PFIS grant linked to the aforementioned project.
Compliance with ethical standards
Participation was voluntary and written informed consent was obtained from all participants prior to enrollment. The study was conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki and was approved by the Sant Pau Hospital Ethics Committee.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
- Barbosa PC, Giglio JS, Dalgalarrondo P (2005) Altered states of consciousness and short-term psychological after-effects induced by the first time ritual use of ayahuasca in an urban context in Brazil. J Psychoactive Drugs 37(2):193–201. https://doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2005.10399801 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Barkley RA (2010) Deficient emotional self-regulation is a core component of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. J ADHD Relat Disord 1:5–37Google Scholar
- Domínguez-Clavé E, Soler J, Elices M, Pascual JC, Álvarez E, de la Fuente-Revenga M, Friedlander P, Feilding A, Riba J (2016) Ayahuasca: pharmacology, neuroscience and therapeutic potential. Brain Res Bull 126:89–101. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brainresbull.2016.03.002 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Fabregas JM, Gonzalez D, Fondevila S, Cutchet M, Fernandez X, Barbosa PCR, Alcazar-Corcoles MA, Barbanoj MJ, Riba J, Bouso JC (2010) Assessment ofaddiction severity among ritual users of ayahuasca. Drug Alcohol Depend 111(3):257–261. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2010.03.024 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Feliu-Soler A, Pascual JC, Borràs X, Portella MJ, Martín-Blanco A, Armario A, Alvarez E, Pérez V, Soler J (2014) Effects of dialectical behaviour therapy-mindfulness training on emotional reactivity in borderline personality disorder: preliminary results. Clin Psychol Psychother 21(4):363–370. https://doi.org/10.1002/cpp.1837 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Frecska E, Bokor P, Winkelman M (2016) The therapeutic potentials of ayahuasca: possible effects against various diseases of civilization. Front Pharmacol 7(35). https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2016.00035
- Frood A (2015) Ayahuasca psychedelic tested for depression. Nature:391. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature.2015.17252
- Fruzzetti AE (2002) Dialectical behavior therapy for borderline personality and related disorders. In: Kaslow FW & Patterson T (eds) Comprehensive handbook of psychotherapy: cognitive-behavioral approaches, Vol. 2, John Wiley & Sons Inc, Hoboken, NJ, pp 215–240Google Scholar
- Gratz KL, Roemer L (2004) Multidimensional assessment of emotion regulation and dysregulation: development, factor structure, and initial validation of the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale. J Psychopathol Behav Assess 26:41–54. https://doi.org/10.1023/B:JOBA.0000007455.08539.94 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Grob CS, McKenna DJ, Callaway JC, Brito GS, Neves ES, Oberlaender G, Saide OL, Labigalini E, Tacla C, Miranda CT, Strassman RJ, Boone KB (1996) Human psychopharmacology of hoasca, a plant hallucinogen used in ritual context in Brazil. J Nerv Ment Dis 184(2):86–94. https://doi.org/10.1097/00005053-199602000-00004 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Gross JJ, Thompson RA (2007) Emotion regulation: conceptual foundations. In: Gross JJ (ed) Handbook of emotion regulation. Guilford Press, New York, pp 3–25Google Scholar
- Halpern JH, Sherwood AR, Passie T, Blackwell KC, Ruttenber AJ (2008) Evidence of health and safety in american members of a religion who use a hallucinogenic sacrament. Med Sci Monit 14(8):SR15–SR22Google Scholar
- Hervás G, Jódar R (2008) Adaptación al castellano de la Escala de Dificultades en la Regulación Emocional. Clínica y Salud. http://scielo.isciii.es/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1130-52742008000200001&lng=es
- Linehan M (1993) Cognitive-behavioral treatment of borderline personality disorder. Guilford press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Loizaga-Velder A (2013) A psychotherapeutic view on the therapeutic effects of ritual ayahuasca use in the treatment of addiction. MAPS Bull Spec Ed 23(1):36–40 Retrieved from http://www.maps.org/news/bulletin/articles/3549-special-edition-psychedelicspsychology Google Scholar
- Osorio Fde L, Sanches RF, Macedo LR, Santos RG, Maia-de-Oliveira JP, Wichert-Ana L, Araujo DB, Riba J, Crippa JA, Hallak JE (2015) Antidepressant effects of a single dose of ayahuasca in patients with recurrent depression: a preliminary report. Rev Bras Psiquiatr (Sao Paulo Brazil) 37(1):13–20. https://doi.org/10.1590/1516-4446-2014-1496 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Renna ME, Quintero JM, Fresco DM, Mennin DS (2017) Emotion regulation therapy: a mechanism-targeted treatment for disorders of distress. Front Psychol 8(98). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00098
- Riba J, Rodríguez-Fornells A, Urbano G, Morte A, Antonijoan R, Montero M, Callaway J, Barbanoj MJ (2001) Subjective effects and tolerability of the South American psychoactive beverage ayahuasca in healthy volunteers. Psychopharmacology 154:85–95. https://doi.org/10.1007/s002130000606 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Sampedro F, de la Fuente Revenga M, Valle M, Roberto N, Domínguez-Clavé E, Elices M, Luna LE, Crippa JAS, Hallak JEC, de Araujo DB, Friedlander P, Barker SA, Álvarez E, Soler J, Pascual JC, Feilding A, Riba J (2017) Assessing the psychedelic “after-glow” in ayahuasca users: post-acute neurometabolic and functional connectivity changes are associated with enhanced mindfulness capacities. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol 20(9):698–711. https://doi.org/10.1093/ijnp/pyx036 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Sanches RF, de Lima Osório F, Dos Santos RG, Macedo LR, Maia-de-Oliveira JP, Wichert-Ana L, de Araujo DB, Riba J, Crippa JA, Hallak JE (2016) Antidepressant effects of a single dose of ayahuasca in patients with recurrent depression: a SPECT study. J Clin Psychopharmacol 36:77–81. https://doi.org/10.1097/JCP.0000000000000436 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Soler J, Franquesa A, Feliu-Soler A, Cebolla A, García-Campayo J, Tejedor R, Demarzo M, Baños R, Pascual JC, Portella MJ (2014b) Assessing decentering: validation, psychometric properties, and clinical usefulness of the Experiences Questionnaire in a Spanish sample. Behav Ther 45(6):863–871. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.beth.2014.05.004 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Soler J, Elices M, Dominguez-Clave E, Pascual JC, Feilding A, Navarro-Gil M, García-Campayo J, Riba J (2018) Four weekly ayahuasca sessions lead to increases in “acceptance” capacities: a comparison study with a standard 8-week mindfulness training program. Front Pharmacol 9(224). https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2018.00224
- Soler J, Domínguez-Clavé E, García-Rizo C, Vega D, Elices M, Martín-Blanco A, Feliu-Soler A, Carmona C, Pascual JC (2016a) Validation of the Spanish version of the McLean Screening Instrument for Borderline Personality Disorder. Rev Psiquiatr Salud Ment (Barc.) 9(4):195–202. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rpsm.2016.03.002 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Soler J, Pascual JC, Tiana T, Cebrià A, Barrachina J, Campins MJ, Gich I, Alvarez E, Pérez V (2009) Dialectical behaviour therapy skills training compared to standard group therapy in borderline personality disorder: a 3-month randomised controlled clinical trial. Behav Res Ther 47(5):353–358. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2009.01.013 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Tsai SY, Hayashi T, Harvey BK, Wang Y, Wu WW, Shen RF, Zhang Y, Becker KG, Hoffer BJ, Su TP (2009) Sigma-1 receptors regulate hippocampal dendritic spine formation via a free radical-sensitive mechanism involving Rac1xGTP pathway. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 106:22468–22473. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0909089106 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Vega D, Torrubia R, Soto À, Ribas J, Soler J, Pascual JC, Rodríguez-Fornells A, Marco-Pallarés J (2017) Exploring the relationship between non suicidal self-injury and borderline personality traits in young adults. Psychiatry Res 256:403–411. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2017.07.008 CrossRefGoogle Scholar