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MAPS BULLETIN
MAPS Bulletin Winter 2013: 2013 Annual Report
 
Media > Recent and Archival
July 29, 2013

Ayahuasca-Assisted Therapy May Have Benefits for People with Substance Use Disorders

MAPS

People suffering from substance use disorders may experience significant benefits from ayahuasca-assisted therapy, according to a recently completed observational study published in the June 2013 edition of Current Drug Abuse Reviews. The first-of-its-kind study reported significant improvements in measures of mental and behavioral health related to substance use disorders, as well as significant reductions in harmful cocaine use following treatment. MAPS was a co-sponsor of this study.

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PRESS RELEASE
MONDAY, JULY 29, 2013

AYAHUASCA-ASSISTED THERAPY MAY HAVE BENEFITS FOR PEOPLE WITH SUBSTANCE USE DISORDERS, CANADIAN STUDY FINDS

CONTACT:
Brad Burge, MAPS
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
831-429-6362 x103

Gerald Thomas, Ph.D., Principal Investigator
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
250-494-8188

Santa Cruz, Calif.—People suffering from substance use disorders may experience significant benefits from ayahuasca-assisted therapy, according to a recently completed observational study published in the June 2013 edition of Current Drug Abuse Reviews.

The first-of-its-kind study reported significant improvements in measures of mental and behavioral health related to substance use disorders, as well as significant reductions in harmful cocaine use following treatment. Published studies and case reports from ayahuasca-drinking communities in the Amazon have already suggested ayahuasca may help treat harmful drug use.

These results are promising both for those who struggle with substance use disorders and for those working to help them.

“While this study was limited by its small size and its observational nature, our preliminary results indicate the need for proper clinical studies to assess the efficacy and safety of ayahuasca-assisted treatment for substance use disorders,” said the study’s lead investigator, Gerald Thomas, Ph.D.

Subjects included 12 members of a rural First Nations community, several of whom had been through numerous unsuccessful treatments.

The treatment consisted of a four-day retreat in British Columbia, Canada, facilitated by Gabor Maté, M.D., which combined four days of group counseling with two expert-led ayahuasca ceremonies. Group counseling sessions consisted of various psychosomatic techniques coupled with group sharing and dialogue.

“I struggled with my addiction—crack cocaine—for many years,” reported one subject. “[The retreat] helped me release the hurt and pain that I was carrying around…ever since I’ve been clean and sober. My family is back in my life, my daughter is back at home, and we’re getting closer and closer every day.”

Statistically significant reductions in harmful cocaine use were documented among study participants, as well as improvements in measures of hopefulness, empowerment, mindfulness, and two measures of quality of life. These results suggest that participants may have experienced positive psychological and behavioral changes as a result of this therapeutic approach. Additional clinical studies with proper controls are recommended to more thoroughly test the efficacy of ayahuasca-assisted treatment for harmful substance use.
The study found no evidence of harm associated with the administration of ayahuasca in a controlled ceremonial context.

The research was sponsored in part by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a non-profit research and educational organization, along with Dr. Bronner’s Soaps, the Riverstyx Foundation, and TIDES Canada. MAPS currently sponsors research projects involving the therapeutic applications of psychedelics around the world.


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