Rapid Antidepressant Effects of the Psychedelic Ayahuasca in Treatment-Resistant Depression: A Randomised Placebo-Controlled Trial
Draulio Barros de Araujo, Ph.D.
Major Depressive Disorder affects about 350 million people worldwide, and about one-third of the patients are considered treatment-resistant. Furthermore, available antidepressants take usually two weeks for the onset of their antidepressant effect. Recent open label trials show that psychedelics, such as ayahuasca and psilocybin, hold promise as fast-onset antidepressants. Although promising, these studies were not controlled for the placebo effect. We will report the first randomised placebo-controlled trial designed to investigate the antidepressant potential of a psychedelic substance in patients with treatment-resistant depression. We observed robust evidence of rapid antidepressant effects of a single dosing session with ayahuasca when compared to placebo. The results were remarkable, with a significant reduction in depression severity already at one day after dosing, which remained significant for 7 days. Overall, this study brings important additional evidence supporting the safety and therapeutic value of psychedelics, dosed within an appropriate setting, to be used as a tool to help treating different human mental conditions.
Draulio Barros de Araujo, Ph.D., is a professor of neuroimaging at the Brain Institute (UFRN), Natal, Brazil. In recent years, his research has focused on using functional neuroimaging methods (EEG and fMRI) to investigate the acute and lasting effects of ayahuasca. His research group has also been studying the antidepressant potential of ayahuasca.