New Study Documents Ayahuasca’s Common Psychological, Physical Side Effects

Ayahuasca is a psychedelic brew that is usually made from the Psychotria viridis and  Banisteriopsis caapi plants. The psychedelic has an incredibly long history in South America, with ancient Amazonian tribes using it for religious and spiritual purposes centuries ago. Even though ayahuasca is still used for religious and spiritual reasons by certain communities in Brazil and North America, recent research into psychedelics has also revealed that it has medical applications.

Studies have found that ayahuasca may be able to aid in the treatment of certain psychiatric disorders and addictions, but most researchers agree that more analysis is needed to increase knowledge of the psychedelic’s potential health benefits as well as its side effects.

With the world in the midst of a “psychedelic renaissance,” a period that has been characterized by significant investment in psychedelic research, more and more researchers are carrying out such studies.

A recent study on the psychoactive South American drink sought to determine if consuming the drink can result in any side effects, a facet of the psychedelic that has received relatively little attention. The study, whose findings were reported in the “PLOS Global Public Healthjournal, ran from 2017 to 2019 and involved more than 10,000 participants across some 50 countries.

A reported 47% of the respondents were Brazilian while Europe and North America accounted for 24% and 15% of the participant pool. Respondents filled out an online questionnaire and detailed the side effects they experienced after consuming ayahuasca.  Nausea and vomiting were by far the most common side effects at 62% followed by headaches at 17% and abdominal pain at 13%. At least 2% of the respondents had to receive medical attention due to these physical side effects.

On the mental side of things, 42% reported emotional-cognitive side effects such as disturbed thoughts and nightmares while 38% said that they experienced altered perception after their ayahuasca session.

Older people, individuals with more experience using the psychedelic brew, those with existing health conditions or a past alcohol-use disorder were more likely to report physical symptoms. Respondents who used ayahuasca unsupervised also reported experiencing physical side effects in higher numbers.

On the other hand, the mental or cognitive side effects were more likely to impact individuals with lower lifetime use of ayahuasca and those with previous anxiety issues. Traditionally, such side effects are seen as part of the psychedelic experience, with the cognitive effects being central to spiritual growth and physical symptoms such as vomiting seen as a form of purging.

However, many psychedelics startups such as Compass Pathways PLC (NASDAQ: CMPS) are looking to come up with psychedelics-based formulations that minimize the side effects of these drugs while maximizing the benefits.

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