Ayahuasca Workshop: Ethnobotany, Safety, and Expansion - Part 3/5

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Watch the full workshop at http://psychedelicscience.org

This presentation aims to revisit a research conducted by a group of experts, published in 2005, that evaluated adolescents who used ayahuasca in the religious group União do Vegetal (UDV). Ritual use of ayahuasca within the context of the Brazilian ayahuasca churches often starts during late childhood or early adolescence. Premature access to psychoactive drugs may represent a risk factor for drug misuse. Conversely, religious affiliation seems to play a protective role in terms of substance abuse. Compared to a matched control group of adolescents who did not use ayahuasca, our findings suggested that there were no significant statistical difference between the two groups on neuropsychological measures, except for subtle cognitive abilities (encoding and learning). Considerably lower frequencies of positive scoring for anxiety, body dismorphism, and attention problems were detected among ayahuasca-using adolescents. We concluded that the low frequencies of psychiatric symptoms detected among the UDV adolescents might have reflected a protective effect of their religious affiliation. However, this presentation will suggest that it is possible that some bias may have been responsible for these favorable results. First, ayahuasca-using adolescents were particularly motivated to answer the questionnaires and to be interviewed. Next, important evidence of subtle cognitive disabilities related to ayahuasca use may have been minimized by the presence of confounders, such as: privileged baseline cognitive performance, social background, comorbid conditions, and frequent use of alcohol or other drugs among controls. Finally, problematic adolescents may have been excluded from the study by their ayahuasca-using parents. I will reflect on the political backstage and scientific implications of this study, and conclude by pointing out how further research could address the possible interference of different variables in order to better understand this complex phenomenon.

Dartiu Xavier da Silveira, graduated in medicine and obtained his Ph.D. degree in psychiatry at the Federal University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and his specialization in addictive behaviors at the Centre Medical Marmottan, Paris. He is a professor at the medical school of the Federal University of Sao Paulo and has been coordinating the addiction unit of the institution for the last 25 years. He has been conducting research on different themes, specifically in psychiatry and neuroscience, such as: alcohol and other drugs misuse, impulse control disorders, psychiatry comorbidity, neuropsychiatry, harm reduction, psychometrics (validation of diagnostic and screening instruments), assessment of effectiveness of therapeutic interventions, and systematic reviews and meta-analysis.
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