Evaluation of healing potential of ayahuasca on psychopathology and general well being

Researchers of Rabbit hole institute are currently conducting a study on evaluation of healing potential of ayahuasca. In the study we are trying to evaluate the influence of ayahuasca use on psychopathology and general well being of the participants. In is the first study of this kind in Slovenija.

It is a qualitative research in which we are conducting in depth interviews with people, who had experienced ayahuasca. We are not giving ayahuasca to the participants.

What is ayahuasca, its effects  and how it is used?

Ayahuasca is the name for a brew that has been used for centuries by the indigenous populations of the Amazon. Its main ingredients are Banisteriopsis Caapi and Psychotria Viridis, but other plants can also be added to the brew. Chemical basis for the effects of ayahuasca is the combination of DMT, present in P. Viridis and MAO inhibitor, present in B. Caapi. MAO inhibitor inhibits the enzyme monoamine oxidases, which degrades DMT if used orally. If this two compounds are taken together, DMT can have a full effect in the body and mind, therefore enabling the visions that often, but not always accompany the ayahuasca experience.

The plants such as ayahuasca were used for centuries among indigenous people of the Amazon, but after the colonisation of the region their use diminished and almost disappeared. Fortunately in  some regions the use of ayahuasca continued, enabling the ancient knowledge about healing with the plants to be conserved.

Why the research?

The “official” treatment modalities such as medicine and psychotherapy are not considering ayahuasca to be of healing value, but as of lately there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that ayahuasca may be useful to treat substance use disorders, anxiety and depression, PTSD and other issues (Doinguez-Clave et. al., 2016). As clinical research suggests, ayahuasca promotes the ability of so called de-centering, which means obtaining the state of an observer and not identifying with other states and emotions (Soler et. al, 2016). The ability to promote this loving, emphatic observer is crucial in depression and suicidal tendencies (Bieling et al., 2012, Hargus et al., 2010).

Therefore we have decided to conduct a following study, focusing mainly on the influence of ayahuasca use in psychopathology and general well being of the participants. With the study we are trying to outline the similarities between ayahuasca experience and psychotherapeutic process, since both processes share a lot of similarities.

Preliminary findings of our study show that introspective state induced by ayahuasca promotes reflection on personal issues. The experience usually consists of thoughts, memories, emotions and bodily sensations, which enables the users to relive and integrate this experience on all levels. The experience usually comes in “waves”, enabling the participants to be aware that the state is aya-induced, so that the participants can simultaneously be in a state of an observer and relive the traumatic experience. That is exactly the perspective, necessary for the therapeutic process to take place and to integrate the traumatic experience into here and now.

The ritual way of using of ayahuasca with the intent to the healing, the ceremony, led by a skilful ayahuascero offers the participants a safe environment, that is crucial for the healing to take place. That is also true in psychotherapy, where the therapeutic relationship provides the client with necessary safety for the inner healing process to happen.

The research

We have started the research in september 2015 and will finish it in december 2016. There will be 40 participants included in the study. In the study we are using semi structured interviews and CORE outcome questionnaires to evaluate the effects of ayahuasca on psychopathology and general well being of the participants.

We are observing two groups of participants:

Pripomočki, ki jih v ceremonijah z ayahuasco uporabljajo vodje obredov.The first group are the people undergoing the ayahuasca experience for the first time. The participants in this group fill out the CORE outcome measure questionnaire (the questionnaire used for measuring the effectiveness of psychotherapy) before the first experience with ayahuasca, with the follow up of 1 month, 3 months, 6 months and 12 months. In the period between 6 and 12 months we also conduct the interview with the participants.The data about frequency and ways of additional treatment strategies in this period of 12 months is also collected (psychotherapy, additional ayahuasca experiences or experiences with other methods of altered states of consciousness, complementary and western medicine treatment modalities…) and included in the data analysis.

The second group of participants consists of people that had at least one ayahuasca experience in their lifetime. With this group we are making semi structured interviews, focusing on  the benefits and difficulties the people experience in the process of working with ayahuasca and the comparison on the psychotherapeutic process and work with ayahuasca.

The control group will consist of the people undergoing integrative psychotherapy treatment. A CORE-OM questionnaire will be given to participants at the beginning of the psychotherapy process, with the follow up of 1 month, 3 months, 6 months and 1 year after the first psychotherapy session.

Why donate?

This is an independent study, and we are dependent solely on external contributors. We are hoping that our study will contribute in making the healing with ayahuasca a part of legitimate treatment modalities and we will only be able to do this with your support. Thank you!

Rabbit hole- institute for psychotherapy and research of healing potential of altered states of consciousness
Zolgerjeva 8
1000 Ljubljana
IBAN SI56 0510 0801 4190 025

You can also donate using a credit card or through PayPal by going to our Indiegogo.com crowdfunding page.


Dominguez-Clave, E., Soler, J., Elices, M., Pascual, J., C., Alvarez, E., De la Fuente Revenga, M., Friedlander, P.,  Fielding, A., Riba, J. (2016). Ayahuasca: pharmacology, neuroscience and therapeutic potential. Brain research bulletin.

Bieling, P. J., Hawley, L. L., Bloch, R. T., Corcoran, K. M., Levitan, R. D., Young, L. T., MacQueen, G. M ., and Segal, Z. V. (2012). Treatment-specific changes in decentering following mindfulness- based cognitive therapy versus antidepressant medication or placebo for prevention of depressive relapse. J Consult Clin Psychol., 80(3), 365-372. doi:10.1037/a0027483

Hargus, E., Crane, C., Barnhofer, T., and Williams, J. M. G. (2010). Effects of mindfulness on meta- awareness and specificity of describing prodromal symptoms in suicidal depression. Emotion, 10(1), 34-42. doi:10.1037/a0016825

Soler, J., Elices, M., Franquesa, A., Barker, S., Friedlander, P., Feilding, A., Pascual, J. M., and Riba, J. (2016). Exploring the therapeutic potential of Ayahausca: Acute intake increases mindfulness- related capacities. Psychopharmacology. doi: 10.1007/s00213-015-4162-0