Communalistic use of psychoactive plants as a bridge between traditional healing practices and Western medicine: A new path for the Global Mental Health movement

In light of the increasing need to address mental illness in low- and middle-income countries, the present paper (2021) proposes that we should not solely rely on biomedical interventions. Instead, the ritualistic use of psychoactive plants in various cultures should be seen as valuable tools with regards to mental health care at the community level and therefore, should be respected and maintained.

Abstract

“The Global Mental Health (GMH) movement aims to provide urgently needed treatment to those with mental illness, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Due to the complexity of providing mental health services to people from various cultures, there is much debate among GMH advocates regarding the best way to proceed. While biomedical interventions offer some degree of help, complementary approaches should focus on the social/community aspects. Many cultures conduct traditional rituals involving the communal use of psychoactive plants. We propose that these practices should be respected, protected, and promoted as valuable tools with regard to mental health care at the community level. The traditional use of psychoactive plants promotes community engagement and participation, and they are relatively affordable. Furthermore, the worldviews and meaning-making systems of local population are respected. The medical systems surrounding the use of psychoactive plants can be explained in biomedical terms, and many recently published clinical trials have demonstrated their therapeutic potential. Psychoactive plants and associated rituals offer potential benefits as complementary aspects of mental health services. They should be considered as such by international practitioners and advocates of the GMH movement.”

Authors: Genis Ona, Ali Berrada & José Carlos Bouso

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