New research highlights the benefits of Ayahuasca

A new study into Ayahuasca claims that the drug does indeed have powerful medicinal properties. Principal investigator of the international team conducting the research Dr Grob – who is a professor of psychiatry and paediatrics at the UCLA School of Medicine – has conducted a chemical analysis of the Ayahuasca brew that is usually used in shamanic rituals. The concoction has been traditionally used by Amerindians in the Andean and Amazonian regions of South America for centuries however research suggests that it might have success treating drug and alcohol addiction. The mixture that has is used by Amerindians to heal ailments such as cancer as well as in a religious context is actually a sophisticated mixture of plants including the Ayuhuasca vine, which is brewed for up to eight hours before being consumed. According to Grob “Ayahuasca is generally a decoction of two plants. Each plant if taken separately has no effects on the human central nervous system, but when taken together there's a very powerful synergy."

Although the mixture is still not universally accepted as a form of addiction treatment, there are many testimonials published on the internet of people claiming to have cured their dependencies by use of Ayahuasca treatment. The benefit of using Ayahuasca as a treatment for drug addiction is that it is non addictive, users do not build up a tolerance and do not experience withdrawals. The alternative treatment has also been supported by public health officials and in 2006 Vancouver’s top drug policy official Donald Macpherson released a groundbreaking report recommending that the city pioneer research in using psychedelics to treat addiction.

Peru has embraced this new form of treatment and has officially recognised the Takiwasi Center for the Rehabilitation of Drug Addicts and For Research on Traditional Medicines. Describing the treatment process the founder of Takiwasi explains how “the patient participating in this therapeutic process experiences rebirth of an inner universe, which manifests through dreams, visions, flashbacks during ordinary consciousness, sudden intuitions. A return from chaos gradually takes place, where the subject recovers his identity and is encouraged to eject anything which doesn't belong to him not only the poisons coming from the consumption of toxins, but also psychic or emotional “infestations” contaminating the Self.”

The psychedelic properties are one of the reasons for the increase in Ayahuasca tourism as many people travel to countries such as Peru and Ecuador not only to cure addictions but also to have a spiritual experience.

The church of Santo Daime - a syncretic religion based on a mixture of Christianity, Shamanism and African animism - is becoming popular internationally and has chapters in the US, Canada, the Far East and Europe. Believers of the 80 year-old faith use Ayahuasca to increase spiritual enlightenment and get closer to God.
However the legality of Ayahuasca is ambiguous in many countries and this has driven some of the Church’s activities underground. In Britain an a number of other European countries, DMT - the alkaloid that gives Ayahuasca its psychedelic properties - is a class A drug. However although arrest is uncommon and the lack of knowledge regarding the plants used to make the concoction make it hard to police, practitioners are wary about making their rituals to public.

People are becoming aware of alternative ways of treating drug addiction. Ibogaine - derived from an African plant - is also widely used to treat alcohol and drug dependency and many people travel to clinics where in order to free themselves of their addiction. Since the 1950s experts have been writing about the use of peyote to cure alcoholism. A lot of this research is based around low alcohol use amongst members of the Native American Church (NAC) who can legally consume peyote in the US. Much of the research suggests that there does not seem to be any deficit in memory, IQ, reading ability, and other cognitive skills of long term peyote users. There is no doubt that these psychedelic drugs are very powerful and if taken in the wrong amount or environment can be harmful. However many members of the scientific community are advocating the potential benefits and it is important that research continues.