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New Study Suggests Childhood Trauma Doesn’t Cause Challenging Ayahuasca Trips

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A new study has disputed the common belief that experiencing trauma in one’s childhood may affect a user’s experience with ayahuasca.

Ayahuasca is a psychoactive brew that has been used by Indigenous cultures in the Amazon and Orinoco basins for millennia for divination, spiritual ceremonies and healing. The brew is comprised of the Psychotria viridis shrub, which contains DMT, and the Banisteriopsis caapi vine.

When ingested, this brew causes altered states of consciousness, which include vivid visions that can last for hours. Traditionally, these psychoactive experiences are sought for spiritual growth and healing and can be guided by experienced shamans.

Ayahuasca’s popularity in the west has increased interest in its possible therapeutic benefits, with some users reporting that the brew relieved symptoms of mental-health conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.

For their study, the researchers recruited 160 individuals from different platforms, including sites such as X, Facebook, Reddit and LinkedIn, as well as sites centered on psychedelic research and community networks. Participants were all required to have had at least one experience with ayahuasca and be 18 years of age and older. All participants were also required to complete a questionnaire that collected data on race, age, gender identity, ethnicity, education level, sexual orientation, psychiatric diagnoses, current annual income, history of psychotherapy, use of psychiatric drugs, number of experiences with ayahuasca and lifetime substance use.

In addition, participants completed the Childhood Traumatic Events Scale, which measures exposure to trauma before age 17. Here, they were asked to rate the effect of traumatic events they experienced.

The researchers analyzed the results from both questionnaires and found no link between previous childhood trauma and the intensity of what one experiences while under the influence of ayahuasca. They also observed no connection between these experiences and psychological growth following a psychedelic trip, which suggests that the benefits may not be assured for every individual.

The study had some limitations, including reliance on self-reported information from participants, which may include possible biases in memory recall. Additionally, the researchers didn’t look into the long-term risks and outcomes of using ayahuasca, nor did they evaluate the role of therapeutic integration after a psychedelic experience.

Future studies may benefit from a deeper assessment of the different types of trauma and their impacts on the psychedelic experience, as well as a more diverse sample.

The study reported its findings in the “Drug Science, Policy and Law” journal. The researchers involved included Ksenia Cassidy, Wendy D’Andrea, Eva Henje and C.J. Healy.

Many other entities, including Mind Medicine Inc. (NASDAQ: MNMD) (NEO: MMED) (DE: MMQ), are conducting studies aimed at understanding how a number of psychedelic compounds can be leveraged for therapeutic purposes. More information could become available about those hallucinogenic substances and the factors that can influence their effects on humans.

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