Posted by: Chris Maloney | February 22, 2013

Is Ayahuasca Safe Or Deadly?

Ayahuasca - Ritual und Konsumgesellschaft *

Ayahuasca – Ritual und Konsumgesellschaft * (Photo credit: Sterneck)

In comparison to bath salts, the use of Ayahuasca as an herbal tea is pretty safe. Here’s my rant on bath salts.
But does that make it a safe herb?

We know relatively little about Ayahuasca, and almost nothing about long term use outside of its religious use.  Within that context, we know that it doesn’t seem to cause intense addiction or long-term mental deterioration.  But many of the benefits of its use are similar to the benefits of joining a church or other close knit social group (improved mood, greater sense of well being).

It is clear that the tea of Ayahuasca contains N,N-dimethyltryptamine
(DMT), which is a schedule one controlled substance in the U.S.  So that should make the tea illegal, except that it is used by several churches as part of a religious ritual.  Welcome to freedom of religion meets the FDA.

In terms of body effects, the effect of Ayahuasca seems relatively mild.  Some elevation in blood pressure, pupil dilation, and mental status changes while the tea is active.  Long term effects (within the churches) were insignificant.  In church settings pregnant women have drunk the tea and are giving it to their children, which honestly makes me cringe.  Pregnant rat studies have shown bad effects on pregnancy, but at much higher doses than the churches drink.

We do have a case history of a death by overdose of Ayahuasca, but it is unclear how much was taken and in what form.  Taking the tea while on SSRI‘s like Prozac or Zoloft could set off a theoretical serotonin syndrome resulting in serious heart palpitations.

So, what should we think about Ayahuasca?  Again, its safety profile in terms of illegal drugs is mild.  But we know virtually nothing about its use as a recreational drug outside of church settings.  And the use of Ayahuasca tea is likely to be made illegal if it becomes widespread enough.

Since I haven’t completely condemned Ayahuasca from a drug standpoint, what of the benefits of Ayahuasca as a spiritual path?  In the context of a church service, I would think it might enhance the cultural experience.

As part of a personal, solo journey?  I would relegate it to the same place I would put all drugs.  Drugs can make you think you’ve reached a spiritual place that is only temporary.  They can take you to a spiritual awareness you aren’t psychologically ready for.  And they can generate a sense of moving forward on a spiritual journey when all you are doing is standing still.

Let’s look at the spiritual journeys of those we respect within religious circles.  They don’t typically seek enlightenment using some sort of drug shortcut.  So I trust the wisdom of those spiritual paths and would say anyone reaching spiritual states using drugs does so as a tourist passing through rather than a master with something to teach the rest of us.   Given the wide variety of religious experiences that are fully beneficial, including prayer, yoga, charitable works, and church communities, it seems ridiculous to try and place any substance on the same scale.

Have a look at the available research on Ayahuasca:

J Psychoactive Drugs. 2012 Jul-Aug;44(3):191-9.

Enhancement of creative expression and entoptic phenomena as after-effects of repeated ayahuasca ceremonies.

Frecska E, Móré CE, Vargha A, Luna LE.


Department of Psychiatry, Medical and Health Science Center, University of Debrecen, Nagyerdei krt. 98., 4012 Debrecen, Hungary.


Studying the effect of psychedelic substances on expression of creativity is a challenging problem. Our primary objective was to study the psychometric measures of creativity after a series of ayahuasca ceremonies at a time when the acute effects have subsided. The secondary objective was to investigate how entoptic phenomena emerge during expression of creativity. Forty individuals who were self-motivated participants of ayahuasca rituals in Brazil completed the visual components of the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking before and the second day after the end of a two-week long ceremony series. Twenty-one comparison subjects who did not participate in recent psychedelic use also took the Torrance tests twice, two weeks apart. Repeated ingestion of ayahuasca in the ritual setting significantly increased the number of highly original solutions and phosphenic responses. However, participants in the ayahuasca ceremonies exhibited more phosphenic solutions already at the baseline, probably due to the fact that they had more psychedelic experiences within six months prior to the study than the comparison subjects did. This naturalistic study supports the notion that some measures of visual creativity may increase after ritual use of ayahuasca, when the acute psychoactive effects are receded. It also demonstrates an increased entoptic activity after repeated ayahuasca ingestion.

PMID: 23061318

PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e42421. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0042421. Epub 2012 Aug 8.

Personality, psychopathology, life attitudes and neuropsychological performance among ritual users of Ayahuasca: a longitudinal study.

Bouso JC, González D, Fondevila S, Cutchet M, Fernández X, Ribeiro Barbosa PC, Alcázar-Córcoles MÁ, Araújo WS, Barbanoj MJ, Fábregas JM, Riba J.


Human Experimental Neuropsychopharmacology, IIB Sant Pau, Barcelona, Spain.


Ayahuasca is an Amazonian psychoactive plant beverage containing the serotonergic 5-HT(2A) agonist N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and monoamine oxidase-inhibiting alkaloids (harmine, harmaline and tetrahydroharmine) that render it orally active. Ayahuasca ingestion is a central feature in several Brazilian syncretic churches that have expanded their activities to urban Brazil, Europe and North America. Members of these groups typically ingest ayahuasca at least twice per month. Prior research has shown that acute ayahuasca increases blood flow in prefrontal and temporal brain regions and that it elicits intense modifications in thought processes, perception and emotion. However, regular ayahuasca use does not seem to induce the pattern of addiction-related problems that characterize drugs of abuse. To study the impact of repeated ayahuasca use on general psychological well-being, mental health and cognition, here we assessed personality, psychopathology, life attitudes and neuropsychological performance in regular ayahuasca users (n = 127) and controls (n = 115) at baseline and 1 year later. Controls were actively participating in non-ayahuasca religions. Users showed higher Reward Dependence and Self-Transcendence and lower Harm Avoidance and Self-Directedness. They scored significantly lower on all psychopathology measures, showed better performance on the Stroop test, the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test and the Letter-Number Sequencing task from the WAIS-III, and better scores on the Frontal Systems Behavior Scale. Analysis of life attitudes showed higher scores on the Spiritual Orientation Inventory, the Purpose in Life Test and the Psychosocial Well-Being test. Despite the lower number of participants available at follow-up, overall differences with controls were maintained one year later. In conclusion, we found no evidence of psychological maladjustment, mental health deterioration or cognitive impairment in the ayahuasca-using group.

PMID: 22905130

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2010 Oct 1;111(3):257-61. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2010.03.024. Epub 2010 Jun 15.-

Assessment of addiction severity among ritual users of ayahuasca.

Fábregas JM, González D, Fondevila S, Cutchet M, Fernández X, Barbosa PC, Alcázar-Córcoles MÁ, Barbanoj MJ, Riba J, Bouso JC.


Instituto de Etnopsicología Amazónica Aplicada (IDEAA), 08037 Barcelona, Spain.


Ayahuasca is a psychoactive beverage used for magico-religious purposes in the Amazon. Recently, Brazilian syncretic churches have helped spread the ritual use of ayahuasca abroad. This trend has raised concerns that regular use of this N,N-dimethyltryptamine-containing tea may lead to the medical and psychosocial problems typically associated with drugs of abuse. Here we assess potential drug abuse-related problems in regular ayahuasca users. Addiction severity was assessed using the Addiction Severity Index (ASI), and history of alcohol and illicit drug use was recorded. In Study 1, jungle-based ayahuasca users (n=56) were compared vs. rural controls (n=56). In Study 2, urban-based ayahuasca users (n=71) were compared vs. urban controls (n=59). Follow-up studies were conducted 1 year later. In both studies, ayahuasca users showed significantly lower scores than controls on the ASI Alcohol Use, and Psychiatric Status subscales. The jungle-based ayahuasca users showed a significantly higher frequency of previous illicit drug use but this had ceased at the time of examination, except for cannabis. At follow-up, abstinence from illicit drug use was maintained in both groups except for cannabis in Study 1. However, differences on ASI scores were still significant in the jungle-based group but not in the urban group. Despite continuing ayahuasca use, a time-dependent worsening was only observed in one subscale (Family/Social relationships) in Study 2. Overall, the ritual use of ayahuasca, as assessed with the ASI in currently active users, does not appear to be associated with the deleterious psychosocial effects typically caused by other drugs of abuse.

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

PMID: 20554400

Drug Test Anal. 2012 Jul-Aug;4(7-8):601-9. doi: 10.1002/dta.1383. Epub 2012 Jul 4.

Health status of ayahuasca users.

Barbosa PC, Mizumoto S, Bogenschutz MP, Strassman RJ.


Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz, Ilheus, Bahia, Brazil.


Ayahuasca is a psychedelic brew originally used for magico-religious purposes by Amerindian populations of the western Amazon Basin. Throughout the last four decades, the use of ayahuasca spread towards major cities in all regions of Brazil and abroad. This trend has raised concerns that regular use of this N,N-dimethyltryptamine- and harmala-alkaloid-containing tea may lead to mental and physical health problems associated typically with drug abuse. To further elucidate the mental and physical health of ayahuasca users, we conducted a literature search in the international medical PubMed database. Inclusion criteria were evaluation of any related effect of ayahuasca use that occurred after the resolution of acute effects of the brew. Fifteen publications were related to emotional, cognitive, and physical health of ayahuasca users. The accumulated data suggest that ayahuasca use is safe and may even be, under certain conditions, beneficial. However, methodological bias of the reviewed studies might have contributed to the preponderance of beneficial effects and to the few adverse effects reported. The data up to now do not appear to allow for definitive conclusions to be drawn on the effects of ayahuasca use on mental and physical health, but some studies point in the direction of beneficial effects. Additional studies are suggested to provide further clarification.

Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

PMID: 22761152

Pharmacol Ther. 2004 May;102(2):111-29.

Clinical investigations of the therapeutic potential of ayahuasca: rationale and regulatory challenges.

McKenna DJ.


Center for Spirituality and Healing, Academic Health Center, University of Minnesota, C592 Mayo Memorial Building, Mayo Mail Code 505, 420 Delaware Street Southeast, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.


Ayahuasca is a hallucinogenic beverage that is prominent in the ethnomedicine and shamanism of indigenous Amazonian tribes. Its unique pharmacology depends on the oral activity of the hallucinogen, N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), which results from inhibition of monoamine oxidase (MAO) by beta-carboline alkaloids. MAO is the enzyme that normally degrades DMT in the liver and gut. Ayahuasca has long been integrated into mestizo folk medicine in the northwest Amazon. In Brazil, it is used as a sacrament by several syncretic churches. Some of these organizations have incorporated in the United States. The recreational and religious use of ayahuasca in the United States, as well as “ayahuasca tourism” in the Amazon, is increasing. The current legal status of ayahuasca or its source plants in the United States is unclear, although DMT is a Schedule I controlled substance. One ayahuasca church has received favorable rulings in 2 federal courts in response to its petition to the Department of Justice for the right to use ayahuasca under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. A biomedical study of one of the churches, the Uñiao do Vegetal (UDV), indicated that ayahuasca may have therapeutic applications for the treatment of alcoholism, substance abuse, and possibly other disorders. Clinical studies conducted in Spain have demonstrated that ayahuasca can be used safely in normal healthy adults, but have done little to clarify its potential therapeutic uses. Because of ayahuasca’s ill-defined legal status and variable botanical and chemical composition, clinical investigations in the United States, ideally under an approved Investigational New Drug (IND) protocol, are complicated by both regulatory and methodological issues. This article provides an overview of ayahuasca and discusses some of the challenges that must be overcome before it can be clinically investigated in the United States.

PMID: 15163593

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2008 Feb;196(2):315-26. Epub 2007 Nov 21.

Daytime Ayahuasca administration modulates REM and slow-wave sleep in healthy volunteers.

Barbanoj MJ, Riba J, Clos S, Giménez S, Grasa E, Romero S.


Centre d’Investigació del Medicament, Institut de Recerca, Servei de Farmacologia Clínica, Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, Barcelona, Spain.



Ayahuasca is a traditional South American psychoactive beverage and the central sacrament of Brazilian-based religious groups, with followers in Europe and the United States. The tea contains the psychedelic indole N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and beta-carboline alkaloids with monoamine oxidase-inhibiting properties that render DMT orally active. DMT interacts with serotonergic neurotransmission acting as a partial agonist at 5-HT(1A) and 5-HT(2A/2C) receptor sites. Given the role played by serotonin in the regulation of the sleep/wake cycle, we investigated the effects of daytime ayahuasca consumption in sleep parameters.


Subjective sleep quality, polysomnography (PSG), and spectral analysis were assessed in a group of 22 healthy male volunteers after the administration of a placebo, an ayahuasca dose equivalent to 1 mg DMT kg(-1) body weight, and 20 mg d-amphetamine, a proaminergic drug, as a positive control. Results show that ayahuasca did not induce any subjectively perceived deterioration of sleep quality or PSG-measured disruptions of sleep initiation or maintenance, in contrast with d-amphetamine, which delayed sleep initiation, disrupted sleep maintenance, induced a predominance of ‘light’ vs ‘deep’ sleep and significantly impaired subjective sleep quality. PSG analysis also showed that similarly to d-amphetamine, ayahuasca inhibits rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, decreasing its duration, both in absolute values and as a percentage of total sleep time, and shows a trend increase in its onset latency. Spectral analysis showed that d-amphetamine and ayahuasca increased power in the high frequency range, mainly during stage 2. Remarkably, whereas slow-wave sleep (SWS) power in the first night cycle, an indicator of sleep pressure, was decreased by d-amphetamine, ayahuasca enhanced power in this frequency band.


Results show that daytime serotonergic psychedelic drug administration leads to measurable changes in PSG and sleep power spectrum and suggest an interaction between these drugs and brain circuits modulating REM and SWS.

PMID: 18030450

J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2011 Dec;31(6):717-26. doi: 10.1097/JCP.0b013e31823607f6.

Autonomic, neuroendocrine, and immunological effects of ayahuasca: a comparative study with d-amphetamine.

Dos Santos RG, Valle M, Bouso JC, Nomdedéu JF, Rodríguez-Espinosa J, McIlhenny EH, Barker SA, Barbanoj MJ, Riba J.


Human Experimental Neuropsychopharmacology, IIB Sant Pau, Barcelona, Spain.


Ayahuasca is an Amazonian psychotropic plant tea combining the 5-HT2A agonist N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and monoamine oxidase-inhibiting β-carboline alkaloids that render DMT orally active. The tea, obtained from Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis, has traditionally been used for religious, ritual, and medicinal purposes by the indigenous peoples of the region. More recently, the syncretistic religious use of ayahuasca has expanded to the United States and Europe. Here we conducted a double-blind randomized crossover clinical trial to investigate the physiological impact of ayahuasca in terms of autonomic, neuroendocrine, and immunomodulatory effects. An oral dose of encapsulated freeze-dried ayahuasca (1.0 mg DMT/kg body weight) was compared versus a placebo and versus a positive control (20 mg d-amphetamine) in a group of 10 healthy volunteers. Ayahuasca led to measurable DMT plasma levels and distinct subjective and neurophysiological effects that were absent after amphetamine. Both drugs increased pupillary diameter, with ayahuasca showing milder effects. Prolactin levels were significantly increased by ayahuasca but not by amphetamine, and cortisol was increased by both, with ayahuasca leading to the higher peak values. Ayahuasca and amphetamine induced similar time-dependent modifications in lymphocyte subpopulations. Percent CD4 and CD3 were decreased, whereas natural killer cells were increased. Maximum changes occurred around 2 hours, returning to baseline levels at 24 hours. In conclusion, ayahuasca displayed moderate sympathomimetic effects, significant neuroendocrine stimulation, and a time-dependent modulatory effect on cell-mediated immunity. Future studies on the health impact of long-term ayahuasca consumption should consider the assessment of immunological status in regular users.

PMID: 22005052

J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2003 Jul;306(1):73-83. Epub 2003 Mar 26.

Human pharmacology of ayahuasca: subjective and cardiovascular effects, monoamine metabolite excretion, and pharmacokinetics.

Riba J, Valle M, Urbano G, Yritia M, Morte A, Barbanoj MJ.


Area d’Investigació Farmacològica, Institut de Recerca, Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau., St. Antoni Maria Claret, 167, Barcelona 08025, Spain.


The effects of the South American psychotropic beverage ayahuasca on subjective and cardiovascular variables and urine monoamine metabolite excretion were evaluated, together with the drug’s pharmacokinetic profile, in a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. This pharmacologically complex tea, commonly obtained from Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis, combines N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), an orally labile psychedelic agent showing 5-hydroxytryptamine2A agonist activity, with monoamine oxidase (MAO)-inhibiting beta-carboline alkaloids (harmine, harmaline, and tetrahydroharmine). Eighteen volunteers with prior experience in the use of psychedelics received single oral doses of encapsulated freeze-dried ayahuasca (0.6 and 0.85 mg of DMT/kg of body weight) and placebo. Ayahuasca produced significant subjective effects, peaking between 1.5 and 2 h, involving perceptual modifications and increases in ratings of positive mood and activation. Diastolic blood pressure showed a significant increase at the high dose (9 mm Hg at 75 min), whereas systolic blood pressure and heart rate were moderately and nonsignificantly increased. Cmax values for DMT after the low and high ayahuasca doses were 12.14 ng/ml and 17.44 ng/ml, respectively. Tmax (median) was observed at 1.5 h after both doses. The Tmax for DMT coincided with the peak of subjective effects. Drug administration increased urinary normetanephrine excretion, but, contrary to the typical MAO-inhibitor effect profile, deaminated monoamine metabolite levels were not decreased. This and the negligible harmine plasma levels found suggest a predominantly peripheral (gastrointestinal and liver) site of action for harmine. MAO inhibition at this level would suffice to prevent first-pass metabolism of DMT and allow its access to systemic circulation and the central nervous system.

PMID: 12660312

J Psychoactive Drugs. 2011 Jan-Mar;43(1):27-35. doi: 10.1080/02791072.2011.566498.

Consumption of ayahuasca by children and pregnant women: medical controversies and religious perspectives.

Labate BC.


Institute of Medical Psychology at Heidelberg University.


In 2010, the Brazilian Government agency responsible for drug-related issues formulated official Resolutions that categorized the consumption of ayahuasca by pregnant women and children in the Santo Daime and União do Vegetal ayahuasca-based religions as an “exercise of parental rights.” Although ayahuasca groups do enjoy a relative degree of social legitimacy and formal legal recognition in Brazil, the participation of pregnant women and children nevertheless continues to provoke heated discussion. This article raises the main issues involved in the public debate over this subject. In the first part, a diverse group of biomedical and health specialists was consulted, and their opinions were briefly analyzed. In the second, a full interview with a follower of one branch of Santo Daime, mother of four children who took ayahuasca during all her pregnancies, and whose children all drink ayahuasca, is presented. Her interview reveals important cultural parameters of ayahuasca consumption. The article explores common themes and contradictions found between the biomedical, anthropological, and ayahuasca-users’ discourses. It raises central issues regarding the limits of freedom of religion and the state’s right to interfere in family matters. The following analysis also has implications regarding the role of science in influencing policy decisions on drug use.

PMID: 21615005

J Psychoactive Drugs. 2009 Sep;41(3):205-12.

A six-month prospective evaluation of personality traits, psychiatric symptoms and quality of life in ayahuasca-naïve subjects.

Barbosa PC, Cazorla IM, Giglio JS, Strassman R.


Departamento de Filosofia e Ciências Humanas, Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz (UESC), Ilhéus, Bahia, Brazil.


The authors assessed 23 subjects immediately before and six months (27.5 weeks) after their first ayahuasca experience in an urban Brazilian religious setting, either Santo Daime (N = 15) or União do Vegetal (N = 8). Measures included scores on instruments assessing psychiatric symptoms, personality variables and quality of life. Independent variables were the frequency of ayahuasca use throughout the period and the length of ayahuasca wash-out after six months. Santo Daime subjects had a significant reduction of minor psychiatric symptoms, improvement of mental health, and a change in attitude towards more confidence and optimism. The União do Vegetal group had a significant decrease in physical pain, and attitude change towards more independence. Independence was positively correlated with the frequency of ayahuasca use and negatively correlated with the wash-out period. We discuss possible mechanisms by which these changes may occur and suggest areas for future research.

PMID: 19999673

Birth Defects Res B Dev Reprod Toxicol. 2010 Jun;89(3):207-12. doi: 10.1002/bdrb.20244.

Maternal and developmental toxicity of ayahuasca in Wistar rats.

Oliveira CD, Moreira CQ, de Sá LR, Spinosa Hde S, Yonamine M.


Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of São Paulo, Brazil.



Ayahuasca is a psychotropic plant beverage initially used by shamans throughout the Amazon region during traditional religious cult. In recent years, ayahuasca has also been used in ceremonies of a number of modern syncretic religious groups, including pregnant women. However, no documented study has been performed to evaluate the risk of developmental toxicity of ayahuasca.


In the present work, maternal and developmental toxicity was evaluated in Wistar rats. Ayahuasca was administered to pregnant rats in three different doses [the equivalent typical dose (TD) administered to humans, five-fold TD and 10-fold TD] during the gestational period (6-20 days).


Dams treated with the highest ayahuasca dose showed maternal toxicity with decrease of weight gain and food intake. Visceral fetal findings were observed in all treatment groups. Skeletal findings were observed in the intermediate- and high-dose groups. The fetuses deriving from the highest dose group also presented a decrease in body weight.


From these results, it is possible to conclude that there is a risk of maternal and developmental toxicity following ayahuasca exposure and that the level of toxicity appears to be dose-dependent.

Comment in

of chronic ayahuasca administration to the pregnant rat: how relevant it is regarding the human, ritual use of ayahuasca? [Birth Defects Res B Dev Reprod Toxicol. 2010]

PMID: 20549682

J Anal Toxicol. 2005 Nov-Dec;29(8):838-41.

A fatal intoxication following the ingestion of 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine in an ayahuasca preparation.

Sklerov J, Levine B, Moore KA, King T, Fowler D.


Division of Forensic Toxicology, Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner, 1413 Research Blvd., Rockville, Maryland 20850, USA.


A case of a 25-year-old white male who was found dead the morning after consuming herbal extracts containing beta-carbolines and hallucinogenic tryptamines is presented. No anatomic cause of death was found at autopsy. Toxicologic analysis of the heart blood identified N,N-dimethyltryptamine (0.02 mg/L), 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (1.88 mg/L), tetrahydroharmine (0.38 mg/L), harmaline (0.07 mg/L), and harmine (0.17 mg/L). All substances were extracted by a single-step n-butyl chloride extraction following alkalinization with borate buffer. Detection and quantitation was performed using liquid chromatography-electrospray mass spectrometry. The medical examiner ruled that the cause of death was hallucinogenic amine intoxication, and the manner of death was undetermined.

Comment in

demand for clarity regarding a case report on the ingestion of 5-methoxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) in an Ayahuasca preparation. [J Anal Toxicol. 2006]

PMID: 16356341

J Psychoactive Drugs. 2005 Jun;37(2):129-33.

Ayahuasca in adolescence: a preliminary psychiatric assessment.

Da Silveira DX, Grob CS, de Rios MD, Lopez E, Alonso LK, Tacla C, Doering-Silveira E.


Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP), São Paulo, Brazil.


Ayahuasca is believed to be harmless for those (including adolescents) drinking it within a religious setting. Nevertheless controlled studies on the mental/ psychiatric status of ritual hallucinogenic ayahuasca concoction consumers are still lacking. In this study, 40 adolescents from a Brazilian ayahuasca sect were compared with 40 controls matched on sex, age, and educational background for psychiatric symptomatology. Screening scales for depression, anxiety, alcohol consumption patterns (abuse), attentional problems, and body dysmorphic disorders were used. It was found that, compared to controls, considerable lower frequencies of positive scoring for anxiety, body dismorphism, and attentional problems were detected among ayahuasca-using adolescents despite overall similar psychopathological profiles displayed by both study groups. Low frequencies of psychiatric symptoms detected among adolescents consuming ayahuasca within a religious context may reflect a protective effect due to their religious affiliation. However further studies on the possible interference of other variables in the outcome are necessary.

PMID: 16149324

J Psychoactive Drugs. 1998 Oct-Dec;30(4):367-9.

Ayahuasca preparations and serotonin reuptake inhibitors: a potential combination for severe adverse interactions.

Callaway JC, Grob CS.


Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of Kuopio, Finland.


The Amazonian psychoactive plant beverage ayahuasca has attracted increasing interest in recent years. Little attention has been given, however, to potentially dangerous interactions with other drugs. In particular, the interaction between the potent monoamine oxidase-inhibiting harmala alkaloids in ayahuasca and the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class of antidepressants may induce a serotonin syndrome with potentially grave outcome. Caution is advised when combining ayahuasca with certain pharmaceutical drugs.

PMID: 9924842




  1. Well ayahuasca is pretty safe is when it is prepared carefully and taken in the right dosage. Deaths caused may have been due to poor physical condition of the takers. If you want more information on the ayahuasca plant, visit my website:

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