Is ayahuasca safe? Ask the researcher

Recently, researchers from the University of Melbourne got involved study Analyzed adverse effects reported by users of the hallucinogenic tea, ayahuasca. search, Posted in PLOS Global Public Health It is probably the largest source of data on adverse effects of ayahuasca to date. It found that ayahuasca had noticeable—but rarely severe—side effects on the mental and physical health of users; Data that have important implications for global public health considering the uptick in ayahuasca users.

Dr. Daniel Perkins, director of the Global Ayahuasca Project, is one of the study’s co-authors. His research looks to advance our understanding of why people drink ayahuasca, its reported effects on health and well-being and any associated risks. In this interview, Dr. Perkins spoke with technology networks To provide context for the latest research study and next steps for the research group.

Molly Campbell (MC): What inspired you to do this study?

Daniel Perkins (DP): This is the fourth paper to be published from the global Ayahuasca data set. The first three, listed below, identified significant benefits related to reducing alcohol and drug use, improvements in the diagnosis of depression and anxiety disorders and enhanced well-being and mental health among people with undiagnosed disorders. In this study, we wanted to examine in more detail potential side effects that may also be associated with consumption.

Previous research on ayahuasca consumption

MC: For readers who may be unfamiliar, why is ayahuasca being explored for purposes of mental health and personal/spiritual growth?

DP: Ayahuasca has seen a rapid growth in popularity over the past 15 years as a therapeutic tool for treating mental health conditions, as well as for personal growth and spiritual purposes. A large number of Western tourists travel to South America to take part in the ceremonies, and others participate via underground ceremonies in alternative healing and spiritual settings in Western countries. At the same time, there has been an increasing number of research studies reporting encouraging results related to ayahuasca consumption, mental health outcomes, and addiction.

MC: Why do you think so few studies have analyzed the potential harmful effects of ayahuasca?

DP: Most studies have sought to understand the overall effects on mental health and well-being, both positive and negative, and have found these to be very positive. However, this does not mean that the therapeutic process is easy or without side effects. We gathered unique data that enabled us to better understand this question and noted that of the approximately 90% of respondents who identified mental health side effects, they felt these were part of a positive process of growth.

MC: Can you talk about the factors that seem to predispose people to negative physical events?

DP: Adverse effects on physical health were more likely to occur in individuals who were older at initial ayahuasca use, subjects with a physical health condition, subjects with higher lifetime use of ayahuasca or ayahuasca use in the previous year, a prior disorder of Drug use and in an unsupervised context (where there is less likelihood of expert support and safety).

MC: Are there any work restrictions to consider?

DP: Strengths of our study lie in the very large sample of drinkers across multiple contexts of consumption. However, limitations to note include self-report measures, many of which were analyzed retrospectively, and potential self-selection bias.

MC: Do you have any other plans to advance your work in this field?

DP: Further understanding of the potential medical applications of ayahuasca-inspired medicines requires well-controlled clinical studies. Our research group, including myself and lead collaborator Professor Jerome Sarris, has received $2 million in funding from the Australian Government (NHMRC-MRFF Program) for a phase II randomized controlled trial investigating the use of an ayahuasca-inspired product for treatment-resistant depression and alcohol use disorder. This will start next year. We also continue research on the mental health and well-being effects that participants had in traditional environments

Professor Sarris and I are also co-directors of the not-for-profit research organization Psychae Institute, which aims to develop plant-based psychedelics as registered medical treatments.

Dr. Daniel Perkins was talking to Molly Campbell, a senior science writer for technology networks.

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