Assessment of the Psychotherapeutic Effects of Ritual Ayahuasca Use on Drug Dependency: A Pilot Study
Using personality, psychopathology, and neuropsychological assessment instruments, our team assessed the therapeutic effects of an ayahuasca ritual treatment. Data was collected at the Institute of Applied Amazonian Ethnopsychology (IDEAA), in the Brazilian Amazon Basin. Psychological assessments were obtained both before and at the end of the treatment. The ayahuasca treatment lasted between 3 and 9 months and included biweekly ayahuasca consumption. The sample consisted of 13 patients (8 men, 5 women) with a mean age of 35 years. Nine had a diagnosis of drug abuse and/or dependence; one of borderline personality disorder, and 3 were at IDEAA for personal growth. Results showed that the “Impulsiveness,” “Disorderliness,” “Anticipatory Worry,” and “Shyness with Strangers” subscales of the Temperament and Character Inventory presented statistically significant reductions after treatment, while the “Self-Directedness,” “Responsibility,” “Purposefulness,” and “Congruent Second Nature” subscales presented significant increases. The psychopathology subscales “Positive Symptoms,” “Obsessive–Compulsive,” and “Anxiety” of the Symptom Check-List-90-Revised, were significantly diminished after treatment, as well as all subscales of the Frontal Systems Behavior Scale: “Total,” “Apathy,” “Disinhibition,” and “Executive Dysfunction.” In addition, the “Resistance to Interference” measure of the Stroop Color and Word Test, the Purpose in Life Test, and the “Transcendent Dimension,” “Meaning and Purpose in Life,” “Mission in Life,” and “Material Values” subscales of the Spiritual Orientation Inventory presented statistically significant increases after treatment. Despite important limitations, such as the small sample size and the lack of a control group, the present pilot study provides preliminary evidence suggesting psychotherapeutic effects of ritual ayahuasca treatment in drug-related disorders.
KeywordsAyahuasca Hallucinogens Ritual Spirituality Drug dependence Personality Psychopathology Cognition Psychosocial well being Psychotherapy Therapeutic assessment
- Bouso, J. C., & Riba, J. Ayahuasca and the treatment of drug addiction. In this volume. Google Scholar
- Bouso, J. C., González, D., Fondevila, S., Cutchet, M., Fernández, X., Barbosa, P. C. R., Riba, J. (2012). Personality, psychopathology, life attitudes and neuropsychological performance among ritual users of ayahuasca: A longitudinal study. PLoS ONE, 7(8), e42421.Google Scholar
- Bouso, J. C., Fábregas, J. M., González, D., Fondevila, S., Fernández, X., Cutchet, M., et al. (2011). Long-term effects of ritual use of ayahuasca on mental health. In B. C. Labate & H. Jungaberle (Eds.), The internationalization of ayahuasca (pp. 167–184). Zurich: LIT Verlag.Google Scholar
- Crumbaugh, J. C., & Maholick, L. T. (1976). The purpose in life test. Murfreesboro, TN: Psychometric Affiliates.Google Scholar
- Derogatis, L. R. (1994). Symptom Checklist-90-R: Administration, scoring and procedures manual. Minneapolis: National Computer System.Google Scholar
- Fábregas, J. M., González, D., Fondevila, S., Cutchet, M., Fernández, X., Barbosa, P. C., Bouso, J. C. (2010). Assessment of addiction severity among ritual users of ayahuasca. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 111(3), 257-261.Google Scholar
- Fernández, X., & Fábregas, J. M. “Experience of treatment with ayahuasca for drug addiction in the Brazilian Amazon.” In this volume.Google Scholar
- Golden, C. J. (1994). Stroop: Test de colores y palabras. Madrid: TEA.Google Scholar
- Goulart, S. L. (2011). The notion of cure in the Brazilian ayahuasca religions. In R. G. dos Santos (Ed.), The ethnopharmacology of ayahuasca (pp. 23-53). Trivandrum, India: Transworld Research Network. Retrieved June 9, 2013 from http://www.trnres.com/ebook/uploads/rafael/T_12998350262%20Rafael.pdf.
- Grace, J., & Malloy, P. F. (2001). Frontal Systems Behavior Scale: Professional Manual. Lutz, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc.Google Scholar
- Grob, C. S., McKenna, D. J., Callaway, J. C., Brito, G. S., Neves, E. S., Oberlaender, G., Boone, K. B. (1996). Human psychopharmacology of hoasca, a plant hallucinogen used in ritual context in Brazil. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 184(2), 86-94.Google Scholar
- Grof, S. (2001). LSD psychotherapy. Santa Cruz, CA: Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.Google Scholar
- Gutiérrez-Zotes, J. A., Bayón, C., Montserrat, C., Valero, J., Labad, A., Cloninger, C. R., & Fernández-Aranda, F. (2004). Inventario del Temperamento y el Carácter-Revisado (TCI-R). Baremación y datos normativos en una muestra de población general. Actas Españolas de Psiquiatría, 32(1), 8-15.Google Scholar
- Halpern, J. H., Sherwood, A. R., Passie, T., Blackwell, K. C., & Ruttenber, A. J. (2008). Evidence of health and safety in American members of a religion who use a hallucinogenic sacrament. Medical Science Monitor, 14(8), SR15-22.Google Scholar
- Herrero, M. J., Domingo-Salvany, A., Torrens, M., Brugal, M. T., Gutiérrez, F., ITINERE Investigators. (2008). Personality profile in young current regular users of cocaine. Substance Use and Misuse, 43(10), 1378-94.Google Scholar
- Labate, B. C., Rose, I., & dos Santos, R. G. (2009). Ayahuasca religions: A comprehensive bibliography and critical essays. Santa Cruz, CA: Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.Google Scholar
- Loizaga-Velder, A., & Loizaga Pazzi, A. Therapist and patient perspectives on ayahuasca-assisted treatment for substance dependence. In this volume.Google Scholar
- Osório, F. L., de Macedo, L. R. H., de Sousa, J. P. M., Pinto, J. P., Quevedo, J., Crippa, J. A. S., & Hallak, J. E. C. (2011). The therapeutic potential of harmine and ayahuasca in depression: Evidence from exploratory animal and human studies. In R. G. dos Santos (Ed.), The ethnopharmacology of ayahuasca (pp. 75-85). Trivandrum, India: Transworld Research Network. Retrieved June 9, 2013 from: http://www.trnres.com/ebook/uploads/rafael/T_12998352185%20Rafael.pdf.
- Palhano-Fontes, F. P., Oliveira, J. P. M., Alchieri, J. C., Soares, B. L., Coelho, N. G., & de Araujo, D. B. The therapeutic potentials of ayahuasca in the treatment of depression. In this volume.Google Scholar
- Verdejo-García, A., Lawrence, A. J., & Clark, L. (2008). Impulsivity as a vulnerability marker for substance-use disorders: Review of findings from high-risk research, problem gamblers and genetic association studies. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 32(4), 777–810.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Wechsler, D. (1997). Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (3rd ed.). San Antonio, TX: The Psychological Corporation.Google Scholar