Ayahuasca in adolescence: a preliminary psychiatric assessment

This study (n=80) evaluated the psychiatric health of adolescents who used ayahuasca in a religious context, compared to a matched control group of adolescents who did not use ayahuasca. The authors found that, compared to controls, considerable lower frequencies of positive scoring for anxiety, body dysmorphism, and attentional problems were detected among ayahuasca-using adolescents despite overall similar psychopathological profiles.

Abstract

“Ayahuasca is believed to be harmless for those (including adolescents) drinking it within a religious setting. Nevertheless controlled studies on the mental/ psychiatric status of ritual hallucinogenic ayahuasca concoction consumers are still lacking. In this study, 40 adolescents from a Brazilian ayahuasca sect were compared with 40 controls matched on sex, age, and educational background for psychiatric symptomatology. Screening scales for depression, anxiety, alcohol consumption patterns (abuse), attentional problems. and body dysmorphic disorders were used. It was found that, compared to controls, considerable lower frequencies of positive scoring for anxiety, body dismorphism, and attentional problems were detected among ayahuasca-using adolescents despite overall similar psychopathological profiles displayed by both study groups. Low frequencies of psychiatric symptoms detected among adolescents consuming ayahuasca within a religious context may reflect a protective effect due to their religious affiliation. However further studies on the possible interference of other variables in the outcome are necessary.”

Authors: Dartiu Xavier Da Silveira, Charles S. Grob, Marlene Dobkin de Rios, Enrique Lopez & Luisa K. Alonso

Notes

This paper pairs well with another study that year by Dobkin de Rios and colleagues (2011) that compared this group to non-ayahuasca using peers. Doering-Silveira and colleagues (2011) also compared the neuropsychological differences (none found) of these groups.

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