Ayahuasca and the Treatment of Drug Addiction: A Review of the Evidence and Proposals for the Future

José Carlos Bouso, PhD

Abstract: Although ayahuasca has become popular among the psychedelic community as a medicine to treat drug abuse and addiction (there are nearly 150,000 entries in Google for “ayahuasca drug addiction”) evidence is weak, fragmented, and disperse. Its fame as a potential anti-addiction treatment is supported mainly by claims from former drug users who recovered after joining an ayahuasca religion and also by reports from clinics treating drug addicts in South America. In this presentation we will review all the fragmentary evidence regarding the effectiveness of ayahuasca in the treatment of drug addiction. Although there is some promise in the therapeutic potential of ayahuasca based on the evidence examined, the lack of systematic studies precludes reaching definite conclusions. A clinical protocol for assessing outcomes will be presented.

José Carlos Bouso is conducting research to collect preliminary data on the safety and efficacy of varying doses of MDMA administered in a psychotherapeutic setting to women with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of a sexual assault. He also has been conducting neuropsychological research into the long-term effects of drugs such as cocaine and cannabis. He has done transcultural research, extensively studying the long-term effects of ayahuasca use in different cultures and ecosystems, both in Spanish and in Brazilian communities. José Carlos Bouso is co-author of several scientific papers and book chapters. He currently combines his activity as a clinical researcher at the IMIM (Institut Hospital del Mar d'Investigacions Mèdiques) with his work as Scientific Projects Manager at the International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research, and Service (ICEERS; iceers.org).

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