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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Ayahuasca Therapy: A Promising Approach to Treating PTSD



Research on Ayahuasca and PTSD Treatment

Recent research suggests that ayahuasca, a powerful plant medicine, may have the potential to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). While studies have already shown that ayahuasca can alleviate depression and addiction, there is growing evidence to support its effectiveness in treating PTSD as well. This aligns with the numerous positive reports from individuals who have participated in ayahuasca retreats.

Initial research conducted by Gerald Thomas, an addiction researcher at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, found that ayahuasca can reduce drug dependence. One reason for this is that ayahuasca helps individuals address the emotional distress associated with traumatic memories, which they may attempt to dull with substances like alcohol or cocaine.

The Beckley Foundation, in collaboration with the Temple of the Way of Light in Peru and the International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research & Service (ICEERS), has also been studying the long-term effects of ayahuasca on the mental health and quality of life of Western users. Dr. Débora González, who presented the findings at Psychedelic Science 2017, stated that:

The results we have observed so far are remarkable. After participating in an ayahuasca retreat, which can last from nine days to three weeks and involve multiple ayahuasca sessions, individuals experience a reduction in psychopathological symptoms that persists for three months. We have yet to analyze the six-month follow-up data, so we cannot determine if the improvements are sustained. However, the evidence indicates that the effects are long-lasting.

Interestingly, while participants experienced improvements in various forms of emotional distress, including anxiety, depression, PTSD, and grief, those with PTSD showed the most significant benefits. According to González:

When we compare the quality of life scores before and after ayahuasca treatment, we find that individuals with PTSD experience the most substantial improvement.

Psychedelics, such as ayahuasca, appear to provide access to experiences that are not easily reached through traditional therapy methods. During an ayahuasca journey, individuals may revisit the emotional content of their trauma, including fear and helplessness. This process is akin to exposure therapy, a conventional approach to treating PTSD. Many individuals who work with ayahuasca are able to transform negative emotions like fear, guilt, and shame into more positive emotions like self-love and compassion, addressing their unmet emotional needs.

Researchers have also observed an increase in “decentering” among participants, which is the ability to calmly observe one’s thoughts and feelings without judgment or attachment to one’s identity. This fosters greater acceptance and understanding of oneself.

In a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, researcher Antonio Inserra proposes a hypothesis on how ayahuasca heals traumatic memories. He suggests that the alkaloids in ayahuasca enhance synaptic plasticity, promote neurogenesis, and boost dopaminergic neurotransmission, which are all involved in memory reconsolidation and fear extinction. As a result, the fear response triggered by the traumatic memory can be reprogrammed or extinguished, leading to its storage with updated significance.

quote about ayahuasca for ptsd

Dr. Jen Chalmers
Dr. Jen Chalmers
Dr. Jen Chalmers is an accomplished writer and cannabis enthusiast. With a Ph.D. in Botany and years of experience as a researcher, she brings a scientific perspective to her captivating articles on cannabis news, recipes, and the fascinating world of psychedelics.

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