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Effective factors of ritual ayahuasca use in the treatment of addictions in the psychotherapeutic context



Introduction On the neurochemical level, ayahuasca act in similar way across different settings, but its effect are also highly dependent on the context of use. Among others the psychotherapeutic one is often implemented. In Takiwasi, the Center for Rehabilitation of Drug Addicts in Peru, drug addicts are treated by a combination of psychotherapy and traditional medicine of the Amazon, in which the use of psychedelic brew known as ayahuasca plays a pivotal role. Goal The aim of the study was to identify effective therapeutic factors of ritual ayahuasca use and explore the interactions between ayahuasca use and psychotherapy. Method The research had a qualitative design. The research sample consisted of ten patients enrolled in a long-term addiction treatment program in Takiwasi and regularly participating in ayahuasca sessions. The data were collected primarily through in-depth interviews. As a complementary source, about 150 reports from ayahuasca and psychotherapeutic sessions from the archive of Takiwasi were used. Conclusion The study identified a variety of effective factors of ayahuasca sessions as perceived by the patients. Some are already known from psychotherapy, which includes following: access to the unconsciousness, receiving insights, emotional release, raising mindfulness capacities, others are specific to ayahuasca use. Psychotherapy has a specific role in the context of ayahuasca sessions and can maximize the benefits arising from the psychedelic experience: The study indicates that ayahuasca can act as a facilitator of psychotherapy, but, similarly, psychotherapy can act as a facilitator of psychedelic sessions.
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