Ayahuasca, Psychiatric Distress, and the Meaning of Life: Results from a Pilot Study in Peru
Brad Adams, Ph.D.
Co-authors: Charles Grob, M.D., and Dennis McKenna, Ph.D.
Rigorous scientific investigation into the potential healing powers of plant medicines is steadily gaining momentum. Dr. Adams, along with Drs. Charles Grob and Dennis McKenna, collected data from three separate groups of participants who attended a 10-day retreat in the Sacred Valley of Peru. Each retreat included 3 Ayahuasca ceremonies. Nine areas of psychiatric symptoms of distress (e.g., depression, anxiety, et al) and 6 measures of existential meaning and purpose in life were assessed before and after the retreat, as well as 3 and 6 months later. In general, all 9 distress dimensions showed increasing improvements at each successive time point (i.e., post, 3- and 6-month follow-up), with the most dramatic results being a 43% drop in depression scores from baseline by the 6-month mark. Remarkably, the overall/global measure of psychiatric distress decreased over 42%, while all existential measures showed improving trends in the expected directions. Participants were asked to describe their intentions for the ceremonies (including physical and psychological issues they wished improve), along with their experiences over the 3 ceremonies, and what they felt they gained from them (after the last ceremony, and at the 3- and 6-month follow-up marks.) These coded results, as well as possible mechanisms for the other results, will be discussed, along with a few individual cases.
Brad Adams received his Ph.D. in counseling psychology at USC and is currently working in cancer research at the UCLA Medical Center as a Project Manager for lung and breast cancer studies. He is also completing final analysis of the above study with Drs. Charles Grob and Dennis McKenna.