Antidepressant Effects of a Single Dose of Ayahuasca in Patients With Recurrent Depression: A Preliminary Report

Braz J Psychiatry. Jan-Mar 2015;37(1):13-20. doi: 10.1590/1516-4446-2014-1496.

Abstract

Objectives: Ayahuasca (AYA), a natural psychedelic brew prepared from Amazonian plants and rich in dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and harmine, causes effects of subjective well-being and may therefore have antidepressant actions. This study sought to evaluate the effects of a single dose of AYA in six volunteers with a current depressive episode.

Methods: Open-label trial conducted in an inpatient psychiatric unit.

Results: Statistically significant reductions of up to 82% in depressive scores were observed between baseline and 1, 7, and 21 days after AYA administration, as measured on the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D), the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS), and the Anxious-Depression subscale of the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS). AYA administration resulted in nonsignificant changes in Young Mania Rating Scale (YMRS) scores and in the thinking disorder subscale of the BPRS, suggesting that AYA does not induce episodes of mania and/or hypomania in patients with mood disorders and that modifications in thought content, which could indicate psychedelic effects, are not essential for mood improvement.

Conclusions: These results suggest that AYA has fast-acting anxiolytic and antidepressant effects in patients with a depressive disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Banisteriopsis / chemistry*
  • Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale
  • Depressive Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Hallucinogens / therapeutic use*
  • Harmine / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • N,N-Dimethyltryptamine / therapeutic use
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome

Substances

  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Hallucinogens
  • Harmine
  • N,N-Dimethyltryptamine