Effects of ayahuasca on mental health and quality of life in naïve users: A longitudinal and cross-sectional study combination

This longitudinal study (n=40 naïve, n=23 experienced) showed that 80% of a naïve population with mental health disorders (45%) showed clinical improvements (up to 6 months later). This group was also compared to those who used ayahuasca more often, whom had better mental health scores.


“Ayahuasca is a hallucinogenic decoction used as a traditional medicine in several Amazonian regions. The ritualistic use of ayahuasca has spread throughout many countries, making it necessary to study its risks and benefits. Two sub-studies were designed for this investigation. In sub-study 1, a psychiatric interview and a battery of questionnaires were administered to subjects (n = 40) before their first ayahuasca use. Two follow-ups were conducted at 1 and 6 months. In sub-study 2, the same interview and battery of questionnaires were administered to long-term ayahuasca users (n = 23) and their scores were compared with those of the ayahuasca-naïve group. In the first assessment, nearly half (45%) of the naïve users were found to meet the diagnostic criteria for a psychiatric disorder. After the ayahuasca use, more than 80% of those subjects showed clinical improvements that persisted at 6 months. The questionnaires showed significant reductions in depression and psychopathology. Regarding sub-study 2, long-term users showed lower depression scores, and higher scores for self-transcendence and quality of life, as compared to their peers in sub-study 1. Further controlled and observational naturalistic studies assessing the eventual risks and potential benefits of ayahuasca are warranted.”

Authors: Daniel F. Jiménez-Garrido, María Gómez-Sousa, Genís Ona, Rafael G. Dos Santos, Jaime E. C. Hallak, Miguel Ángel Alcázar-Córcoles & José Carlos Bouso


Further analysis of bad/challenging experiences for a subset of these participants (n=7) was done by Gómez-Sousa and colleagues (2021). The follow-up study found that even after (and possibly because of) challenging experiences, this subset of participants improved their mental health.

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