Sacred Vine of the Amazon

AYAHUASCA TO BE INVESTIGATED AS ALTERNATIVE TREATMENT FOR ADDICTIONS

Ayahuasca plant medicine has been used in a healing and shamanic context for thousands of years and is well known as a sacred medicine by traditional healers (curanderos).

Ayahuasca is the name of a brew that is made by boiling or soaking two ingredients together that are native to the Amazonian jungle. One ingredient is  Ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi), a large woody vine with the same name as the brew, and the other ingredient can be one of several plants such as Psychotria viridis which work in concert with the ayahuasca vine.  Ayahuasca is used legally in Peru where it is considered an indigenous heritage plant, and also in Brazil where it is sanctified and legalized in the context of three different religions. Although the ayahuasca brew is now used in a healing, shamanic context in many other parts of the world, it is not legalized because it contains DMT, a substance which is restricted internationally because of its hallucinogenic properties.

Research Project to be Launched

A crowdfunding campaign has now been launched on Indiegogo (see below for link) to raise money to support a large-scale research project on the benefits of ayahuasca for the treatment of addiction and other mental health challenges such as depression and trauma-related disorders. Conventional treatment approaches do not help everyone with addiction problems and more options are urgently needed, especially for people with severe addiction problems which occur in combination with significant mental health and social challenges. While the benefits of ayahuasca are well known within indigenous cultures in many parts of Latin America, research is needed that meets current scientific standards in order to support its use on a larger more global scale.

Ayahuasca has attracted the attention of researchers and treatment experts because of preliminary research and strong anecdotal evidence about its beneficial effects for the treatment of alcohol and drug abuse and other addictive disorders. Research has also shown that the use of ayahuasca carries no significant risk, including no risk of addiction to the tea itself.

More scientific research is needed on the benefits of ayahuasca-assisted treatment and this research is best undertaken in experienced therapeutic centres in Latin America and conducted by an experienced and well-qualified research team. There is currently a wide range of such therapeutic centres in countries such as Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Peru, and Mexico and it is critical to better understand how ayahuasca is being used in a traditional manner and blended with modern therapeutic methods. These countries will all be involved in the research. This research is critically needed to help more people suffering from severe addiction and other mental health challenges.

An experienced international research team has been assembled and has enlisted the support of up to eight therapeutic centres in Latin America to conduct this research. The people coming for treatment to these centres will be described and followed over one to two years to objectively assess the benefits over time and to also let them tell their own story of previous treatment attempts, why they chose this approach, their experience at the therapeutic centres, and how it impacted their lives.

The research being planned is unconventional and requires careful planning and a detailed proposal that will be successful in securing the funds for the work. The immediate need is for funds to pay costs associated with a face-to-face meeting of the team of researchers, representatives of the therapeutic centres and other expert researchers in psychedelic studies and neuroscience who  are interested in participating. These people come from Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Canada, the United States and Europe. Travel costs are high and not available to the large majority of participants. It is difficult to get funding for project planning meetings especially for unconventional research on topics such as ayahuasca.

Although much has been accomplished by the research team by Skype meetings, teleconferences and email, it is critical that the project team and representatives of the therapeutic centres meet face-to-face to have a full discussion and debate of critical issues (e.g., criteria for participation of the therapeutic centres, ethical and safety guidelines, staffing and other resource requirements) in order to then prepare a full proposal for funding this large scale project. Support is needed to hold this meeting of about 30 people in October of this year in Taropoto, Peru at one of the therapeutic centres. This is the purpose of the fundraising campaign.

A project of this nature has never been attempted on this topic or across so many Latin American countries and cultural contexts. The project will achieve something that will benefit a lot of people in these countries and across the world where the health, social and economic costs of addiction and poor mental health is rapidly growing.

The research will contribute to a growing body of work on the benefits of plant medicine and other psychedelic agents for the treatment of mental and addiction related problems. This project will build upon the addiction recovery work being done by Dr. Gabor Maté and colleagues in British Columbia, which was publicized recently in Current Drug Abuse Review, March 2013. Dr. Maté was also the key person in the CBC documentary “The Jungle Prescription,” which profiled his visit to the Takiwasi Treatment Centre, the venue for the project team meeting in October.

It is expected that the results of this project will contribute to changing the laws and policies that control the importation and therapeutic use of ayahuasca and perhaps other indigenous plant medicines around the world.

The internet fundraising campaign for the Ayahuasca Treatment Outcome Project has now been launched. You can access the site and contribute via linking to http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/ayahuasca-treatment-outcome-project/x/506329  We encourage you to also share the link with itnerested family and friends.  For more information you can also contact Dr. Brian Rush at brian.rush@camh.ca

 

Source: Vitality Magazine

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