Effects of ayahuasca on the endocannabinoid system of healthy volunteers and in volunteers with social anxiety disorder: Results from two pilot, proof-of-concept, randomized, placebo-controlled trials

Hum Psychopharmacol. 2022 Jul;37(4):e2834. doi: 10.1002/hup.2834. Epub 2022 Feb 2.

Abstract

Objective: To assess endocannabinoid (anandamide, AEA; 2-arachidonoylglycerol, 2-AG) plasma levels in healthy volunteers and in volunteers with social anxiety disorder (SAD) after a single oral dose of ayahuasca or placebo.

Methods: Post hoc analysis of endocannabinoid plasma levels (baseline, 90 and 240 min after drug intake) from two parallel-group, randomized, placebo-controlled trials. In Study 1, 20 healthy volunteers ingested ayahuasca (average 1.58 mg/ml dimethyltryptamine (DMT)) or placebo, and in Study 2, 17 volunteers with SAD received ayahuasca (average 0.680 mg/ml DMT) or placebo.

Results: A significant difference was observed in AEA concentrations in Study 2 after ayahuasca intake (Χ2 (2) = 6.5, p = 0.03, Friedman test), and near significant differences (increases) were observed between baseline and 90 (Z = 0, p = 0.06, Wilcoxon test) and 240 (Z = 10, p = 0.06) minutes after ayahuasca intake.

Conclusions: Although our findings suggest that ayahuasca could modulate AEA levels in SAD patients, the high interindividual variability in both trials and the small samples preclude definitive conclusions. More research with larger samples is needed to better understand the effects of ayahuasca and other hallucinogens in the endocannabinoid system.

Keywords: ayahuasca; endocannabinoids; hallucinogens; psychedelic.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Banisteriopsis*
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Hallucinogens*
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • N,N-Dimethyltryptamine / pharmacology
  • Phobia, Social* / drug therapy

Substances

  • Endocannabinoids
  • Hallucinogens
  • N,N-Dimethyltryptamine