Banisteriopsis caapi
Banisteriopsis caapi

Ayahuasca Treatment for Addiction

MAPS supports research into the safety and effectiveness of ayahuasca-assisted treatment for drug addiction. We also support conferences, meetings, and publications about the scientific, therapeutic, sustainable, and spiritual uses of ayahuasca. We also serve as non-profit fiscal sponsor for organizations that support these uses.

We recently completed the first North American observational study of the safety and long-term effectiveness of ayahuasca treatment for addiction and dependence. The paper describing the results of the study was published in June 2013 in Current Drug Abuse Reviews.

Ayahuasca is a psychoactive brew or tea most commonly derived from Banisteriopsis caapi, a vine containing monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), and the leaves of Psychotria viridis or other plant containing N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), and often several other admixture plants.

Ayahuasca is legal in many countries in South America. The United States Supreme Court has unanimously ruled in favor of the legal religious use of ayahuasca by the União do Vegetal, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has affirmed the Santo Daime Church's freedom to use ayahuasca for religious purposes. However, ayahuasca's principally active ingredient—DMT—remains a Schedule I controlled substance.

In recent decades, international researchers have been exploring the effects of ayahuasca on brain function as well as the potential use of ayahuasca-assisted therapy as a treatment for substance abuse and other disorders. Although preliminary, current research suggests that when administered in therapeutic settings, ayahuasca may help reduce problematic substance use by helping promote personal or spiritual insights or self-knowledge.

The pharmacology of ayahuasca is not completely understood, and there are physiological and psychological risks associated with its use. Most contemporary ayahuasca retreats are unregulated and lack systems of accountability, though the Ethnobotanical Stewardship Council is working to develop standards. Anyone considering using ayahuasca in a religious or therapeutic context should carefully weigh the risks and benefits, and ensure that medical assistance is available.