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Postscript—Psychedelics in Unlocking the Unconscious: From Cancer to Addiction

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Abstract

Complex unconscious psychological stresses underlie and contribute to all chronic medical conditions, from cancer to addiction, from depression to multiple sclerosis. Therapy that is assisted by psychedelics, in the right context and with the right support, can bring these dynamics to the surface and thus help a person liberate themselves from their influence. Special focus will be given to the writers’ experience in treating addictions and other stress-related conditions, both with aboriginal people and in non-indigenous contemporary healing circles. This work has been done under the guidance of indigenous Peruvian shamans and their Western apprentices.

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... This in turn allows repressed unconscious materials to enter consciousness and extinguish the emotional charge of past traumatic experiences, helping the participants to temporarily experience thus far unknown emotional states and cognitive patterns; and through them they better understand the means and directions of adjustments needed in their lives. Maté (2014) proposed that ayahuasca is capable of treating many conditions because both physical and psychological conditions can be based in unconscious psychological conditions. Psychedelics assist by bringing these dynamics into consciousness, initiating a process of liberating the person from these influences. ...
... Psychedelics assist by bringing these dynamics into consciousness, initiating a process of liberating the person from these influences. Maté (2014) also suggested that while deep psychological dynamics may emerge into awareness during ayahuasca ceremonies, their therapeutic potential depends on trained guidance to bring these potentials to fruition. Successful treatment with ayahuasca requires an experienced person to provide structure and guidance to effectively orient to the visions, the therapeutic purpose, and the development of the experience across sessions. ...
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Az ayahuasca egy többféle növényi komponensből álló főzet, melynek fő hatóanyagai a DMT és a harmin. Régmúlt időktől fogva nyújt segítséget az Amazonas-menti népek testi, lelki, társadalmi és spirituális problémáinak megoldásában. Az utóbbi évtizedekben egyre nagyobb laikus és tudományos érdeklődés mutatkozik a szer terápiás célú felhasználása iránt. Az ayahuasca-élmény részei lehetnek szomatikus reakciók, élénk látomások, intenzíven felidézett emléknyomok, erős érzelmi hatások, egyfajta introspektív jellegű, megvilágosodási élmények, melyek során szignifikáns tartalmak mélységükben, összefüggéseikben tárulnak fel. Az élmény megterhelő lehet, gyakorlott vezető szükséges hozzá; részint hogy az adott szituáción átsegítse a résztvevőt másrészt, hogy terápiás effektusa kellőképp kiaknázásra kerüljön. Amennyiben jól kontrollált körülmények között kerül sor alkalmazásra, a szernek nincs bizonyítottan negatív hatása az egészségre. Az ayahuasca terápiás effektusának vizsgálata számos – részint jogi, részint metodikai – nehézségbe ütközik, melyet tovább nehezít az ayahuasca fő hatóanyagát, a DMT-t, övező negatív prekoncepció, valamint kulturális előítéletek. Cikkünk felvázolja az ayahuasca pszichiátriai felhasználásának lehetőségeit, valamint ennek biológiai, pszichológiai és spirituális hátterét.
... Além disso, testes neuropsicológicos não encontraram efeitos deletérios do uso a longo prazo sobre funções cognitivas (Grob et al., 1996). A partir de então um número crescente de estudos observacionais, pré-clínicos e clínicos têm sido realizados e fortalecem a hipótese de que a ayahuasca apresenta propriedades terapêuticas para uma série de transtornos psiquiátricos, incluindo depressão, dependência de substâncias, ansiedade, transtornos alimentares e traumas (para revisão, ver McKenna, 2004, Domínguez-Clavé et al., 2016, Dos Santos et al., 2016a,b, Nunes et al., 2016, Estrella-Parra et al., 2019, Hamill et al., 2019 2019; sobre transtornos alimentares, ver Lafrance et al., 2017, Renelli et al., 2018 sobre traumas e transtorno de estresse pós-traumático, ver Maté, 2014, Nielson e Megler, 2014. ...
... Segundo Goulart (2011) Franquesa et al., 2018;Murphy-Beiner e Soar, 2020), definida como a capacidade de se observar pensamentos, sentimentos e experiências internas de uma forma imparcial ou desapegada, como "eventos temporários na mente, ao invés de vê-los como necessariamente verdades" (Fresco et al., 2007;Kerr et al., 2011). Segundo Franquesa et al. (2018), o descentramento é um construto relevante, uma vez que tem sido apontado como necessário para o funcionamento cognitivo, psicológico e social saudável (Fresco et al., 2007), sendo que a deficiência nesta capacidade pode ser considerada como um fator de vulnerabilidade transdiagnóstico compartilhado entre vários transtornos mentais (Soler et al., 2014 (Maté, 2014;Frecska et al., 2016 (Topping, 1998(Topping, , 1999 -Zinn, 1990;Baer et al., 2006;Soler et al., 2016Soler et al., , 2018Uthaug et al., 2018; Murphy-Beiner e Soar, 2020). Essas capacidades estão relacionadas ao bem-estar psicológico e são foco de mudança em intervenções psicoterapêuticas (Franquesa et al., 2018), de modo que podem explicar em parte os efeitos terapêuticos gerados pelo uso da ayahuasca e intervenções baseadas em mindfulness Mian et al., Uthaug et al., 2018). ...
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Introdução: Doenças graves levantam questões existenciais que podem ser fonte de sofrimento psicológico e prejudicar o tratamento. Estudos com substâncias psicodélicas demonstram efeitos terapêuticos para ansiedade e depressão associadas a doenças físicas graves, principalmente câncer. Evidências indicam que a ayahuasca – uma bebida psicoativa de origem indígena preparada a partir das plantas Banisteriopsis caapi e Psychotria viridis, utilizada na medicina tradicional amazônica e em contextos ritualísticos/religiosos em diversos países – pode atuar como agente terapêutico no tratamento de transtornos psiquiátricos, destacando-se a depressão e a dependência de substâncias. Estudos preliminares sugerem também que a ayahuasca pode promover efeitos terapêuticos para doenças físicas. Objetivo: O presente estudo busca explorar como o uso ritual da ayahuasca durante o tratamento de doenças físicas graves influenciou o modo como as pessoas que vivenciaram essa experiência compreendem e se relacionam com a doença, procurando identificar os processos psicológicos envolvidos nos efeitos terapêuticos relatados. Métodos: Empregaram- se métodos de pesquisa qualitativa, em abordagem retrospectiva, exploratória e descritiva. Uma amostra intencional foi construída empregando-se critérios de intensidade e heterogeneidade, sendo que o fechamento foi determinado por saturação teórica. Quatorze participantes com diagnóstico atual ou anterior de doenças físicas graves e que fizeram uso ritual da ayahuasca durante o período do tratamento médico foram incluídos, envolvendo casos de câncer, HIV+ e doenças de natureza neurológica, reumatológica, gastrointestinal ou dermatológica. Os dados foram coletados por meio de entrevistas semiestruturadas de questões abertas em profundidade e o conteúdo foi analisado por análise temática, com temas emergentes. Resultados: Os temas identificados cobrem aspectos psicológicos, físicos e espirituais. Os participantes relataram que a experiência ritual com ayahuasca promoveu um espaço de introspecção e análise de conteúdos autobiográficos, com a ocorrência de catarses emocionais e a emersão de sentimentos positivos, o que contribuiu para a redução da ansiedade e de sintomas depressivos, favorecendo o bem-estar psicoemocional. Descreve-se também que a experiência facilitou a identificação de significados sobre a origem e o propósito da doença, bem como a sua ressignificação e aceitação, com reflexos positivos sobre a relação com a doença. Reflexões existenciais amplificadas pela experiência com ayahuasca parecem ter influenciado as concepções dos participantes sobre a vida e a morte, favorecendo a diminuição do medo da morte, maior apreciação da vida, mudanças em relações interpessoais e no estilo de vida. Os participantes relataram também que a experiência com ayahuasca promoveu um fortalecimento da espiritualidade, o que teria beneficiado o tratamento médico. No âmbito da saúde física, relatou-se que os efeitos psicofisiológicos da ayahuasca poderiam ter contribuído para a boa tolerabilidade do tratamento farmacológico, a estabilidade imunológica e a redução de dores crônicas – embora não tenham sido levantadas evidências clínicas comprobatórias. Conclusão: Os resultados deste estudo sugerem que o uso ritual da ayahuasca pode atuar como facilitador no processo de aceitação da doença, por meio de efeitos psicológicos que atuam sobre os significados atribuídos à doença, à vida e à morte, podendo favorecer um relacionamento mais equilibrado com a doença.
... This in turn allows repressed unconscious materials to enter consciousness and extinguish the emotional charge of past traumatic experiences, helping the participants to temporarily experience thus far unknown emotional states and cognitive patterns; and through them they better understand the means and directions of adjustments needed in their lives. Maté (2014) proposed that ayahuasca is capable of treating many conditions because both physical and psychological conditions can be based in unconscious psychological conditions. Psychedelics assist by bringing these dynamics into consciousness, initiating a process of liberating the person from these influences. ...
... Psychedelics assist by bringing these dynamics into consciousness, initiating a process of liberating the person from these influences. Maté (2014) also suggested that while deep psychological dynamics may emerge into awareness during ayahuasca ceremonies, their therapeutic potential depends on trained guidance to bring these potentials to fruition. Successful treatment with ayahuasca requires an experienced person to provide structure and guidance to effectively orient to the visions, the therapeutic purpose, and the development of the experience across sessions. ...
Article
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Ayahuasca is an Amazonian psychoactive brew of two main components. Its active agents are β-carboline and tryptamine derivatives. As a sacrament, ayahuasca is still a central element of many healing ceremonies in the Amazon Basin and its ritual consumption has become common among the mestizo populations of South America. Ayahuasca use amongst the indigenous people of the Amazon is a form of traditional medicine and cultural psychiatry. During the last two decades, the substance has become increasingly known among both scientists and laymen, and currently its use is spreading all over in the Western world. In the present paper we describe the chief characteristics of ayahuasca, discuss important questions raised about its use, and provide an overview of the scientific research supporting its potential therapeutic benefits. A growing number of studies indicate that the psychotherapeutic potential of ayahuasca is based mostly on the strong serotonergic effects, whereas the sigma-1 receptor agonist effect of its active ingredient dimethyltryptamine raises the possibility that the ethnomedical observations on the diversity of treated conditions can be scientifically verified. Moreover, in the right therapeutic or ritual setting with proper preparation and mindset of the user, followed by subsequent integration of the experience, ayahuasca has proven effective in the treatment of substance dependence. This article has two important take-home messages: 1) the therapeutic effects of ayahuasca are best understood from a bio-psycho-socio-spiritual model, and 2) on the biological level ayahuasca may act against chronic low grade inflammation and oxidative stress via the sigma-1 receptor which can explain its widespread therapeutic indications.
... The preparatory phase is crucial for the patient to establish and apply intention: the patient must first understand they are an active agent of their own care, and that the therapeutic session doesn't begin and end with merely taking the psychedelic. Integrative work has already demonstrated its efficacy, and some physicians have reported that they believe it to be the most important aspect of therapy (33). ...
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We argue that non-stigmatizing and precise terminology grounded in the medical model will advance both the science and public acceptance of psychedelics. Researchers and clinicians should take care to distinguish between medical, recreational, and spiritual uses to set clear boundaries and expectations for patients. Ethically fraught or stigmatizing terms should be replaced with terminology that is medically and scientifically descriptive and accurate. A medicalized linguistic framework around psychedelics will potentially yield benefits and mitigate risks. Replacing colloquial names with scientific names for medicines and therapies may help correct misconceptions about psychedelics commonly held by both professionals and the public. A harmonized medical lexicon will also provide a common language for important instances of communication—such as the informed consent process—between professionals and participants. Our recommendations draw upon communications research in addiction medicine and aim to encourage the development, acceptance, and implementation of non-stigmatizing terminology in psychedelic research and treatment.
... The ritualistic context surrounding ayahuasca also appears to play a crucial role in safeguarding and minimising risks associated with its use (74). Without a supportive "set and setting" (75), ayahuasca experiences may not produce benefit, and could even be traumatic (74,76). Clinical data into ayahuasca suggests that a supportive context can also be achieved in laboratory settings (28,77). ...
Article
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Ayahuasca is a natural psychoactive brew, used in traditional ceremonies in the Amazon basin. Recent research has indicated that ayahuasca is pharmacologically safe and its use may be positively associated with improvements in psychiatric symptoms. The mechanistic effects of ayahuasca are yet to be fully established. In this prospective naturalistic study, 63 self-selected participants took part in ayahuasca ceremonies at a retreat centre in the Peruvian Amazon. Participants undertook the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II), State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), Self-compassion Scale (SCS), Clinical Outcomes in Routine Evaluation-Outcome Measure (CORE-OM), as well as secondary measures, pre- and post-retreat and at 6-months. Participants also provided saliva samples for pre/post epigenetic analysis. Overall, a statistically significant decrease in BDI-II (13.9 vs. 6.1, p < 0.001), STAI (44.4 vs. 34.3 p < 0.001) scores, and CORE-OM scores were observed (37.3 vs. 22.3 p < 0.001) at post-retreat, as well as a concurrent increase in SCS (3.1 vs. 3.6, p < 0.001). Psychometric improvements were sustained, and on some measures values further decreased at 6-month follow-up, suggesting a potential for lasting therapeutic effects. Changes in memory valence were linked to the observed psychometric improvements. Epigenetic findings were equivocal, but indicated that further research in candidate genes, such as sigma non-opioid intracellular receptor 1 (SIGMAR1), is warranted. This data adds to the literature supporting ayahuasca's possible positive impact on mental health when conducted in a ceremonial context. Further investigation into clinical samples, as well as greater analyses into the mechanistic action of ayahuasca is advised.
... The introspective aspect of the ayahuasca experience is characterized by an increased recall of autobiographical memories and analysis of psychoemotional content, often resulting in the occurrence of emotional catharsis, the outbreak of positive emotions, and a reduction of anxiety and depressive symptoms, a process similarly described in previous related-studies (Horák, Hasíková, and Verter 2018;Loizaga-Velder and Pazzi 2014;Renelli et al. 2018;Schmid, Jungaberle, and Verres 2010;Trichter, Klimo, and Krippner 2009;Wolff et al. 2019). Reconciling unresolved emotional issues or trauma is central to many understandings of healing associated with psychedelics (Argento et al. 2019;Loizaga-Velder and Pazzi 2014;Maté 2014;Passie 2012;Wolff et al. 2019). Our main objective was to explore how such effects affected participants' understanding and relationship with their illness. ...
Article
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Diseases that threaten life raise existential questions that can be a source of psychological distress. Studies with psychedelics demonstrate therapeutic effects for anxiety and depression associated with life-threatening illnesses. Ayahuasca has been proposed as a possible therapeutic agent in the treatment of psychiatric disorders. Preliminary studies suggest that ayahuasca could promote therapeutic effects for people with physical illnesses. The aim of this study was to explore how the ritual use of ayahuasca during the treatment of severe physical illnesses (SPI) may influence the way people understand and relate to their illness, using qualitative methods to assess the partici-pants' perspectives. Participants who consumed ayahuasca ritualistically during the period of treatment for SPI were purposely chosen. Data were obtained through semi-structured interviews. A thematic analysis was performed with 14 individuals. The ritual experience with ayahuasca acted on the participants' illness understanding through multiple psychological mechanisms, including introspection, self-analysis, emotional processing and catharsis, recall of autobiographical memories subjectively related to illness origin, illness resignification, and perspective changes. This study suggests that the experience with ayahuasca may facilitate illness acceptance through an influence on the meanings of the illness, life, and death. These changes may favor a more balanced relationship with illness and treatment.
... Moran goes on to discuss how trauma from very early childhood might not be consciously accessible but could arise as part of a 'difficult ayahuasca experience.' Maté states elsewhere that 'Ayahuasca can evoke direct but long-suppressed memories of trauma. It can also trigger emotional states and visions of horror that are not direct recollections, but emotional imprints of trauma.' (Maté, 2014) While there is abundant anecdotal evidence from individuals who have successfully used ayahuasca ceremonies to recover from various forms of trauma they have conscious experience of, it seems risky at best to treat a psychedelic experience as reflecting something historically real. Under the influence of psychedelics, individuals have on occasion believed that they can fly, but it doesn't make it sensible to encourage them to follow through on that belief. ...
... s in turn allows repressed unconscious materials to enter consciousness and extinguish the emotional charge of past traumatic experiences, helping the participants to temporarily experience thus far unknown emotional states and cognitive patterns; and through them they better understand the means and directions of adjustments needed in their lives. Maté (2014) proposed that ayahuasca is capable of treating many conditions because both physical and psychological conditions can be based in unconscious psychological conditions. Psychedelics assist by bringing these dynamics into consciousness, initiating a process of liberating the person from these influences. Maté (2014) also suggested that wh ...
Article
Full-text available
Ayahuasca, which originates from the Amazon Basin, is a psychoactive brew of two components. Its active agents are betacarboline and tryptamine derivatives. Near the spring of the Amazon River this brew is still a central component of many healing and tribal rituals. During the past few decades, the substance has become known among both laymen and scientistss and nowadays its use is spreading all over in Europe. In the present paper we give an overview of the scientific research and describe ayahuasca's main features, the main questions raised over its use, the risk factors and potential benefits. A growing number of scientific results seem to support the psychotherapeutic potential of ayahuasca, which has a strong serotonergic effect, whereas studies on its effect on the immune system also raise the possibility that certain ethno-medical observations can be scientifically proved.
... Mate [62] proposes that ayahuasca is capable of successfully treating a wide range of conditions because physical as well as psychological conditions are based in complex unconscious psychological conditions and the stress they produce. Psychedelics can assist in the treatment of many conditions by helping to bring these dynamics into consciousness and begining the process of liberating the person from these influences. ...
Article
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Substances known as psychedelics, hallucinogens and entheogens have been employed in ethnomedical traditions for thousands of years, but after promising uses in the 1950's and 1960's they were largely prohibited in medical treatment and human research starting in the 1970's as part of the fallout from the war on drugs. Nonetheless, there are a number of studies which suggest that these substances have potential applications in the treatment of addictions. While these substances are generally classified as Schedule I, alleging no established medical uses and a high drug abuse potential, there is nonetheless evidence indicating they might be safe and effective tools for short term interventions in addictions treatment. Evidence suggests that the psychedelics have a much greater safety profile than the major addictive drugs, having extremely low levels of mortality, and producing little if any physical dependence. This paper reviews studies evaluating the use of LSD, peyote, ibogaine and ayahuasca in the treatment of dependencies and the possible mechanisms underlying the indications of effectiveness. Evidence suggests that these substances help assist recovery from drug dependency through a variety of therapeutic mechanisms, including a notable "after-glow" effect that in part reflects their action on the serotonin neurotransmitter system. Serotonin has been long recognized as central to the psychedelics' well-known phenomenological, physical, emotional and cognitive dynamics. These serotonin-based dynamics are directly relevant to treatment of addiction because of depressed serotonin levels found in addict populations, as well as the role of serotonin as a neuromodulators affecting many other neurotransmitter systems.
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Ayahuasca is a psychotropic plant-based tea from the Amazon. Its ceremonial use for therapeutic and spiritual purposes has become increasingly common and stands to escalate based on current policy initiatives in some countries. As ceremonial ayahuasca use spreads there is a need to understand, from various perspectives, how best to improve outcomes and minimize potential harms. Clinicians and therapists encourage the use of preparation and integration practices that accompany ceremonial ayahuasca use; however, there is no research investigating the views of those conducting the ceremonies. This qualitative study explored the perspectives of 15 ayahuasca ceremony leaders regarding preparation and integration practices they consider helpful for ensuring safe and productive experiences for ceremony participants. Qualitative content analysis produced three main categories, each with relevant subcategories. The first category included factors that facilitate preparation, including participant honesty and respect; readiness and willingness; and internal and external resources. The second category encompassed several complementary modalities believed to facilitate both preparation and integration, such as psychotherapy, spiritual and contemplative practices, and other modes of creative expression. The third category included factors considered facilitative of integration, including sharing of experiences, and working with insights and lessons. Ineffective integration practices constituted a fourth subcategory. Consistent with reports from other stakeholders, the findings highlight a wide range of preparation and integration practices that may be useful for ayahuasca ceremony participants to consider when drinking ayahuasca.
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Health-related psychedelic research should focus on helping us flourish, not just remedying ill-health or addiction. We don’t know enough about how psychedelics could enhance human flourishing. Factors promoting health-through-flourishing include finding meaning in life, spiritual practices, comfortable levels of social bonds, emotionally/physically satisfying sex in a long-term monogamous relationship and control over one’s daily life. Psychedelic research could find more. Neuroscience anchors psychedelic research into disease and disorder, e.g. addiction, PSTD, migraine, anxiety, pain etc. Neurophenomenological psychedelics research could illuminate relationships between health, ASC/NOSCs and cognitive liberty to promote human flourishing. If we accept the self as an epiphenomenon of subsystems within the brain, we ‘know’ ‘unconsciously’, but are not aware of, many things which affect our lives profoundly. These include control over identifying, remembering and forgetting our states of mind and how to move between them. A prerequisite for integrated investigations into ASC/NOSCs is the establishment of a taxonomic knowledge base which lists, categorises and characterises ASC/NOSCs to enable us to choose specific states of mind and move securely among them. Or, in other words, to enable us to exercise our cognitive liberty safely. I believe that human health and flourishing would be enhanced were we able to direct our states of being by consciously choosing them. Given the promise of mindfulness techniques to enhance our health, happiness and spiritual growth, constructing both personal and generic classifications of salient ASC/NOSCs makes sense. Laws need to change. The neuroscience of pleasure, love, spirituality, decision-making, pattern recognition and location of meaning should inform health-enhancing psychedelic research while promoting flourishing through cognitive liberty. As part of cognitive liberty, our end-of-life choices should include how we die. In other words, our idea of the good death should include access to psychedelics. Dying high is increasingly likely to become a popular choice as baby boomers age and place their economic clout behind the reform of end-of-life laws as well as drug laws. Achieving such crucial legal changes depends partly on the ability to produce research to anchor evidence based law and policy. Research into psychedelics, ASC/NOSCs and the neurobiology of the dying process is essential.
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This introductory chapter looks at psychedelic medicine from a cross-cultural perspective, illustrating the therapeutic and spiritual interpretations of their uses in many societies. The cross-cultural similarities in their use and interpretation reflect a biological foundation for their uses and effects. The chapter addresses some of the standard interpretations of these substances' mechanisms of action in the serotonergic neurotransmitter system. The author's analyses of the systemic effects of serotonergic transmission, and the interaction of the psychedelic medicines with serotonergic mechanisms, provide the basis for characterizing their effects as psychointegrative. Psychedelics produce a disinhibition of informational, emotional, and visual processes and stimulation of the integration of limbic system processes within the neocortex. This in effect integrates behavioral and emotional dynamics with the rational processes of the symbolic brain. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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