Millions of people suffer from depression and the existing antidepressants are not always effective and can even have severe side effects. Serotonergic psychedelics have shown interesting properties that could potentially be used to treat depression.
Ayahuasca is a brew, traditionally used for spiritual purposes by indigenous populations of the Amazon Basin. A recent study attempted to find whether Ayahuasca could be used as an antidepressant and how effective that would be.
In this study Ayahuasca performed better as an antidepressant compared to placebo. This is great since in mental disorders placebos can perform really well. And it did, the placebo even in this study showed very good results but still Ayahuasca performed better.
The way psychedelics work is very similar to mood disorders. So if a person suffers from depression, psychedelic drugs will affect the same pathways and circuits in the brain. This can have bad effects but certain psychedelics tend to work well with certain disorders. Some don’t, like marihuana doesn’t work well with anxiety. But here we see that Ayahuasca does indeed work well with depression.
This is very early though, and more studies need to be done before such a drug can be used by patients. But it does show promise and it even shows that it can help the brain regenerate and perform better in some cognitive tests. There are drawbacks, first of all this drug causes nausea, it has to be taken in a specific place and time, it can’t be taken at work and it ends up taking a lot of time from a patient’s life but it may help us find alternatives that overcome those issues.
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Image: By Sascha Grabow http://www.saschagrabow.com [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Peruvian_Ayahuasca,_Photo_by_Sascha_Grabow.jpg