Ayahuasca's Benefits Outweigh Risks, A New Australian Study Finds

In Australia, a new study conducted by the University of Melbourne analyzed data from an Online Global Ayahuasca Survey conducted between 2017 and 2019 that showed 10,836 people over the age of 18 had used ayahuasca at least once.

“With the expansion of ayahuasca ceremonies from their traditional contexts to countries around the world, there is an important public health question regarding the risk/benefit balance of its use,” reads the study.

A Plant With Psychoactive-hallucinogenic Properties

Ayahuasca's contemporary use, a decoction based on plants native to the Amazon used in traditional medicine, has been expanding throughout the world for mental health purposes, and for spiritual and personal growth.

Ayahuasca is a combination of two plants, Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria Viridis, commonly known as DMT. The effects of DMT can be felt within 20-60 minutes and may last up to 8 hours.

What Does The Study Say?

The study showed that the benefits and positive experiences of ayahuasca use outweighed any adverse effects.

Results: Researchers found that acute physical adverse effects, primarily vomiting, were reported by 69.9% of respondents. “Acute physical health adverse effects (primarily vomiting) were reported by 69.9% of the sample, with 2.3% reporting the need for subsequent medical attention,” according to the study.

Moreover, 55.9% reported adverse mental health effects in the weeks or months following consumption. However, “around 88% considered such mental health effects as part of a positive process of growth or integration. Around 12% sought professional support for these effects,” reads the study published in Plos Global Public Health.

In addition, researchers noted that physical adverse effects were related to older age at initial ayahuasca use, having a physical health condition, higher lifetime and past year ayahuasca use, having a prior diagnosis of a substance use disorder, and taking ayahuasca in an unsupervised context. Also, adverse mental health effects were positively associated with anxiety disorders; physical health conditions; and the strength of acute spiritual experience, according to the study.
Conclusions: According to the researchers, although there is a high rate of adverse but not serious physical and psychological effects due to its use, they perceive that the benefits outweigh any adverse effects.

"An improved understanding of the ayahuasca risk/benefit balance can also assist policymakers in decisions regarding potential regulation and public health responses," the study concluded.

West's Ayahuasca Retreats

“Recently we’ve seen a booming underground retreat culture in the Western hemisphere in which people pay hundreds of dollars to go to these retreats,” said Dr. Daniel Perkins, the study’s co-author.

“It is a spiritual experience, but it is not something you get up and dance to. There is no real recreational use other than for alternative healing. Overall, it is not widely consumed,” continued Perkins, who is a Ph.D. and a senior research fellow at the University of Melbourne.

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Photo: Courtesy Of Stéfano Girardelli On Unsplash

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