ICEERS Ayahuasca Research Study
Despite the remarkable technological, social and medical advances of the last 100 years, millions of people continue to struggle with a range of diseases and pathologies that arise out of family dysfunction and social disintegration:
- The World Health Organization has estimated that 450 million people worldwide suffer from some form of mental disorder or brain condition, and that by 2030 depression will be the most important health problem in first world countries.
- In the last 20 years, the rate of anti-depressant use in the U.S. among people 12 years of age and older has increased by almost 400%.
- From 1999 to 2010, the suicide rate among Americans aged 35 to 64 increased nearly 30%. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for those aged 15 to 24.
Beyond these statistics are the millions of people who suffer from unresolved emotional issues from childhood traumas, unhealthy relationships, social anxiety, chronic depression, disconnection and general imbalance. Conventional approaches for treating these conditions have shown limited efficacy. Over-medicalization focused principally on symptoms and often plagued by side effects masks the complexity behind them and often provides little long-term relief or healing. Traditional psychotherapy is helpful but limited and can take many years. New strategies of intervention are required to get to the root cause of these recurring psycho-social problems.
Motivation for the Study
For thousands of years, indigenous and pre-industrial societies have applied their masterful knowledge of special plant species to emotional, psychological, and spiritual development and to issues critical to social harmony and cultural survival.
Ethnobotanicals such as ayahuasca have considerable potential for treating a wide range of conditions, from depression to stress disorders to substance abuse. Clinical research is also shedding light on the complex neuropsychological effects of these plants and the implications for improved cognitive function and integrative thinking that can help people deal with daily life issues in more effective and creative ways.
Scientific evidence available in the published literature about ayahuasca’s psychological and physiological effects indicates an acceptable risk profile with no abuse potential and potential benefits in treating, for example, depression and addiction. However, national and international drug control bodies, such as the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), advocate increasingly for repressive measures to ayahuasca drinking practices. The INCB recommended in 2010 and again in 2012 that governments ‘take action’ against these ayahuasca drinking practices where needed.
In this socio-political environment it is crucial to advance scientific knowledge about ayahuasca drinking practices and the increased use in our globalized world, as well as a better understanding on the health implications of ayahuasca, to make sure that political decisions can be taken based on evidence.
What Can Science Do For Ayahuasca?
Science is a powerful tool to break through moralistic propaganda and stigmatization of practices that are labeled as ‘irresponsible drug use’ while having been an integral part of the well-being and survival of many indigenous communities of the Amazon basin for centuries. Science serves balanced educational outreach about both potential risks and benefits of such practices and helps shed light on how we can further reduce those risks and maximize those benefits.
Recent scientific breakthroughs have broadened our understanding of medicinal plants, such as ayahuasca, and their psychological and neurological effects on the human psyche. This research has complemented the vast ethnobotanical knowledge of the indigenous communities that have been working with these plants since antiquity, and has provided validation for the practices these communities have developed around these plant species.
Longitudinal Scientific Ayahuasca Study
While important clinical trials in laboratory settings and observational studies in natural settings have been conducted since the 1990s, scientific evidence for ayahuasca’s therapeutic potential is still very limited. Small sample sizes, high numbers of variables, and lack of control groups are the most common limitations of ayahuasca research to date. Scientific research requires prolonged periods of observation and data collection with a large sample of participants in order to reliably evaluate and monitor its subject.
Unique Research Opportunity
Due to the high volume of guests each year who attend our retreats, and with an estimated 75% of visitors being first-time ayahuasca users, the Temple provides a remarkable research context from which to overcome the scientific limitations of past research.
- The risks related to ayahuasca in Western users: potential abuse and general health. Determining the motivations for ayahuasca’s use outside its traditional socio-economic context in a large sample of Western users; degree of substance abuse; the frequency of consumption-related disorders; consumption patterns of other drugs; and physical and mental health in relation to their quality of life.
- The long-term effects of ayahuasca on personal and spiritual well-being of Western users, as well as potential therapeutic efﬁcacy in emotional disorders such as depression, anxiety, grief and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A longitudinal study conducted with participants of retreats at the Temple of the Way of Light, in which assessments are conducted before and after the workshop, with a follow up at 3, 6, and 12 months. All participants respond to an online set of internationally validated questionnaires measuring quality of life and well-being, and a subgroup with emotional issues (depression, PTSD, grief, and anxiety) also to specific questionnaires that measure these aspects. The results will be compared with a waiting-list control group.
All data is gathered in compliance with the Law for the Protection of Private Data (Ley Orgánica 15/1999 de 13 de Diciembre de Protección de Datos de Carácter Personal, (LOPD), and anonymity is guaranteed and gathered data protected.
Publication and Dissemination
- Two articles in scientific journals
- Presentation of results at conferences, events, etc.
- Dissemination of articles in magazines, blogs, social networks, and other forms of media to announce the findings of the study to the general public
Expected Benefits of the Study
- The advancement of scientific knowledge on the effects, risks and benefits of ayahuasca
- Generate a solid response towards the claims from the INCB regarding the ayahuasca phenomenon
- Exploring the potential of the classification of ayahuasca as traditional medicine by the World Health Organization