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Ayahuasca may be effective treatment for alcoholism, depression

Researchers have found that a psychedelic drug called Ayahuasca that is often used in the Amazon region gives people an improved sense of wellbeing, and may be an effective treatment for alcoholism and depression.

Ayahuasca is a potent brew used in healing ceremonies as a spiritual medicine that contains dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a psychedelic drug. DMT is classified as a Schedule 1 drug in the United States and is illegal in almost every country.

A growing collection of research suggests that psychedelic drugs such as magic mushrooms and LSD can help treat alcoholism and depression. Researchers from the University of Exeter and University College London analyzed Global Drug Survey data from more than 96,000 people worldwide to examine the potential therapeutic benefits of ayahuasca.

The study revealed that ayahuasca users reported significantly lower alcohol issues than people who took LSD or magic mushrooms. In addition, those who took ayahuasca reported higher overall well-being in the year leading up to the survey.

“These findings lend some support to the notion that ayahuasca could be an important and powerful tool in treating depression and alcohol use disorders,” said lead author Dr. Will Lawn. “Recent research has demonstrated ayahuasca’s potential as a psychiatric medicine, and our current study provides further evidence that it may be a safe and promising treatment.”

Dr. Lawn pointed out that ayahuasca users still reported high drinking levels, and that further research is needed “to fully examine ayahuasca’s ability to help treat mood and addiction disorders.” He added that, this study is still important because it is most likely “the largest survey of ayahuasca users completed to date.”

The acute effects of ayahuasca last around six hours, and are felt most intensely one hour after ingestion. Most people surveyed reported taking the drug with a healer or a shaman.

“If ayahuasca is to represent an important treatment, it is critical that its short and long-term effects are investigated, and safety established,” said senior author Celia Morgan.

Of the survey participants, 527 were ayahuasca users, 18,138 used LSD or magic mushrooms, and 78,236 did not take psychedelic drugs.

“In this work, long-term ayahuasca use has not been found to impact on cognitive ability, produce addiction or worsen mental health problems,” said Morgan. “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.”

The study is published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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