Psychedelic Amazonian Drug Might Ease Symptoms of Depression, Alcoholism

From - November 14, 2017

Psychedelic Amazonian Drug Might Ease Symptoms of Depression, Alcoholism

TUESDAY, Nov. 14, 2017 -- A powerful psychedelic drug out of South America might help battle both depression and alcoholism, a new British survey suggests.

Ayahuasca is a brew made from a combination of Amazonian plants, including the Psychotria viridis bush and the Banisteriopsis caapi vine, said study author Will Lawn. "It is thought to have been used for several hundred years by indigenous people in the Amazon," he said.

Lawn is a research associate with the clinical psychopharmacology unit at University College London.

Ayahuasca is also becoming more widely used recreationally in the United States by people seeking a cathartic "trip."

But after researchers questioned ayahuasca users, what was the bottom line on its effects?

"People who had used ayahuasca in the last year reported better well-being than comparison survey respondents," Lawn said. "Ayahuasca users also had lower problematic drinking than comparison drug users who had used LSD or magic mushrooms in the last year."

That said, psychiatrists and Lawn stressed the results did not come from a controlled trial, so the results should be viewed with caution.

"Our survey does not demonstrate a causal link between ayahuasca use and better well-being or more controlled alcohol consumption," Lawn noted. So "this data should not be used as evidence that ayahuasca can treat depression and problematic alcohol consumption."

Of the nearly 97,000 people polled in the study, only about 18,000 said they had experimented with either LSD or so-called "magic mushrooms," and a little more than 500 said they had tried ayahuasca.

"Bad trips" while on ayahuasca were relatively common, the study found. Among those who had tried both ayahuasca and LSD or magic mushrooms, more said that ayahuasca prompted these less pleasurable experiences. They also said they were less inclined to repeat the ayahuasca experience going forward.

But on the upside, in the year leading up to the survey, feelings of well-being were higher among ayahuasca users than among nonusers.

Compared with those who had tried either LSD or magic mushrooms, ayahuasca users were less likely to struggle with alcohol-related addiction problems, the study found.

The findings were published Nov. 9 in the journal Scientific Reports.

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