2018 – Ayahuasca Shows Strong and Rapid Antidepressant Effects in Small Study
Brazilian researcher Draulio Araújo and colleagues examined the potential of ayahuasca as an antidepressant for treatment-resistant depression. In this serious scientific study (parallel-arm, double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial), 29 patients diagnosed with depression were given ayahuasca or a placebo, and the change in the level of their depression was measured over a week.
Results showed strong and rapid antidepressant effects of ayahuasca. Moreover, these reductions persisted for a week after treatment. The effects were significant with participants who were “treatment-resistant,” having attempted and failed to adequately treat depressive symptoms previously. A single dose of ayahuasca seemed to create such a shift in their consciousness that they were rapidly able to assume a healthier outlook on life, and maintain these positive changes throughout the course of one week.
The results of the study appear promising and timely. Depression is, without a doubt, one of the most severe global epidemics of the modern age. The World Health Organization’s Depression and Other Common Disorders (2017) report provides an estimate that over 300 million people worldwide suffer from it, and, according to a paper published by the Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, this number is on the rise, at least in the U.S.
Depression can be more or less severe. With varying degrees of success, many cases of clinical depression can be treated with regular psychotherapy, antidepressants, and lifestyle changes, such as physical activity, regulation of sleep and nutrition, stress reduction, and social support. A combination of all of the above is often effective, but not everyone has access, time, or energy to dedicate to a full-on treatment regime. And few depressed patients are in any shape to achieve such a regime.
And then, there are cases of depression so severe that pharmaceutical and psychological therapy are powerless to help. In this stage, the disorder is referred to as treatment-resistant depression, and it is alarmingly frequent—it’s estimated that around 30% of patients with Major Depressive Disorder fall in this category.
Psychedelics such as ayahuasca are becoming increasingly recognized as tools for combating many different mental health disorders. Psychedelic therapists suggest ayahuasca can help the individual access and change deep, unconscious patterns of thought and behaviour. “Depression, obsession, eating disorders—all are exacerbated by the tyranny of an ego and the fixed narratives it constructs about our relationship to the world”, writes author Michael Pollan in his book How to Change Your Mind. He continues:
“By temporarily overturning that tyranny and throwing our minds into an unusually plastic state… psychedelics, with the help of a good therapist, give us an opportunity to propose some new, more constructive stories about the self and its relationship to the world, stories that just might stick.”
Research into the anti-depressant effects of ayahuasca ceremonies are proving monumental in the fight for breaking the stigma that surrounds psychedelics. See more about this study on ayahuasca helping against severe depression.
The scientific study represents one of the most pioneering scientific projects on ayahuasca. Others on such a list would have to include when ethnopharmacologist indicated how the MAIO molecules in the ayahuasca vine allow DMT access to the blood stream through the gut; on the safety of ayahuasca; on positive long-term health effects of ayahuasca; and how the brain on ayahuasca and meditation behave similar to each other.
Palhano-Fontes, F., Barreto, D., Onias, H., Andrade, K. C., Novaes, M. M., Pessoa, J. A., Mota-Rolim, S.A., Osório, F.L., Sanches, R., Dos Santos, R.G., Tófoli, L.F., de Oliveira Silveira, G., Yonamine, M., Riba, J., Santos, F.R., Silva-Junior, A.A., Alchieri, J.C., Galvão-Coelho, N.L., Lobão-Soares, B., Hallak, J.E.C., Arcoverde, E., Maia-de-Oliveira, J.P., de Araújo, D.B. (2019). Rapid antidepressant effects of the psychedelic ayahuasca in treatment-resistant depression: a randomized placebo-controlled trial. Psychological Medicine, 49(4), 655-663.