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Psychedelic Drink Used By Shamans May Help Treat Mental Illness

10 November 2017, 8:17 am EST By Athena Chan Tech Times
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Ayahuasca is a traditional psychedelic brew used by shamans in South America. New research finds that the concoction has merits in improving general sense of well-being, and in treating alcoholism and depression.

'The Vine Of The Soul'

Ayahuasca or "the vine of the soul" is a psychedelic brew that has been used by indigenous groups in the Amazon region for several hundreds of years. It is often prepared by combining and boiling stems from the Banisteriopsis caapi vine which contains harmaline, harmine, and tetrahydroharmine, and leaves from the Psychotria viridis bush which contains dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a class A illegal drug in the UK.

Though traditionally used by indigenous groups in South America, use of the brew has been growing in popularity in Europe and the United States. Ayahuasca induces a psychedelic state which evidently leads its users to reflect on personal concerns. In fact, its users have described the experience as being similar to a psychotherapeutic intervention.

New research finds that the brew may actually have merits in improving mental health and even in treating depression and alcoholism. This is supportive of the growing research on the use of psychedelic drugs and even magic mushrooms in mental health treatments.

Ayahuasca In Psychiatry

Researchers from the University College London and University of Exeter conducted an online survey of more than 96,000 people worldwide in the largest study of ayahuasca users to date. Among the respondents, 18,138 were LSD or magic mushroom users, 527 were ayahuasca users, and 78,236 were not users of psychedelic drugs.

What they found was that ayahuasca users had better general well-being in the 12 months prior to the survey compared to the other respondents, and less problematic alcohol usage compared to magic mushroom or LSD users.

Results of the study support the growing literature on the merits of psychedelic drug use, particularly ayahuasca, in psychiatric treatments. However, it's worth noting that the data researchers gathered were purely observational. What's more, ayahuasca use was rated as less pleasant and less likely to produce an urge to use more of the brew compared to LSD and magic mushrooms.

"In this work, long-term ayahuasca use has not been found to impact on cognitive ability, produce addiction or worsen mental health problems. In fact, some of these observational studies suggest that ayahuasca use is associated with less problematic alcohol and drug use, and better mental health and cognitive functioning," said Professor Celia Morgan of University of Exeter, senior author of the study. As such, both short-and long-term effects of ayahuasca use must be investigated in further studies.

The study was published in Scientific Reports.

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