There have been no major studies to assess the effectiveness of ayahuasca as an addiction treatment, although numerous anecdotal reports point to the Amazonian brew’s ability to help people overcome substance abuse. According to these accounts, recovery from addiction occurs as ayahuasca drinkers are able to connect to a feeling of oneness with the universe, resulting in improved self-esteem and a greater sense of purpose and meaning in life.
In one small study conducted in Canada, 12 subjects suffering from substance abuse disorders participated in two ayahuasca ceremonies over a four-day period, while also receiving counselling. This led to a reduction in alcohol, tobacco and cocaine use, but had no effect on cannabis or opioid use. According to the study authors, this decrease in substance abuse was correlated with an increase in attributes such as “hopefulness”, “empowerment”, “mindfulness” and overall quality of life.
It is likely that these positive changes were at least partially caused by ayahuasca’s effect on the serotonin system, which helps to regulate mood and often generates an “after-glow” that lasts for some time after drinking ayahuasca. In addition, ayahuasca tends to induce highly emotional visionary experiences that often help people come to terms with difficult aspects of their life history and reframe their sense of self.
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