Research - Ongoing Projects

In the following list you can find the projects that are currently being developed within the framework of the research protocol of the Takiwasi Center.

The Effectiveness of Ayahuasca for the Treatment of Addictions in Latin America

Researcher / Responsible : Brian Rush, Fernando Mendive, Sara García

Partner Institutions: Camh, Nierika

Ayahuasca has been identified as having therapeutic potential for the treatment of addiction and other mental health challenges such as depression and trauma-related disorders. While long-standing indigenous knowledge, anecdotal evidence and several preliminary observational studies consistently point in this direction more research is needed with more rigorous methods and diverse therapeutic settings and cultural contexts. This presentation will outline the rationale for and design of a multi-country, multi-site program of research known as the Ayahuasca Treatment Outcome Project. The presentation will discuss key principles, legal, ethical and methodological challenges identified to date in project planning and implementation – for example, the rationale to focus on addictions; the appropriateness and feasibility of identifying the “active ingredients” of an integrated approach that combines shamanic and psychotherapeutic approaches; bio-ethical issues in site selection related to both energetic and physical safety; choice of outcomes to monitor over time. This presentation will also briefly outline the pros and cons of alternative and potentially complementary approaches to the study of the therapeutic benefits of ayahuasca – traditional clinical research with controlled designs, health services research in more naturalistic settings, realist evaluation and indigenous-culture based evaluation. The aim will be to stimulate reflection and discussion of these alternative approaches and the potential for reconciliation and synergy. We will draw upon the experience of ATOP and conclude with an update on current status of funding proposals under development and review for 2014-15 for project sites in Peru, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.

Research Project Psychosis and Ayahuasca

Researcher / Responsible : Annalisa Valeri

Partner Institutions: José Bleger Center for Study and Research

The aim of this research is to find out the relationship between ayahuasca and psychotic symptoms (unusual experiences defined as ravings, hallucinations, experiences of deep discomfort, severe depression, serious eating disorders) that arise once the ritual is finished and last up to a month after the ceremony. The hypothesis is that the ayahuasca ritual can allow ancient memories to emerge, as pre-verbal experiences that, if not integrated into a global vision, could lead to moments of fragmentation, with experiences of persecution. In the same way, the experience with ayahuasca could allow, through the emergence of ancient traumas and pre-verbal memories, to find a meaning to the symptoms that usually would not fit in the whole individual’s personality. This would mean that the experience with ayahuasca could have the therapeutic potential to modify and expand the awareness of lived experiences, not only at the individual level. Through the collaboration with the Takiwasi Center in Tarapoto, the research provides a study on 8 cases related to the Center that have experienced psychotic symptoms. The study will be carried out through the analysis of the material collected thanks to the Proyecto Plus platform, with the objective of finding out if ceremonies with ayahuasca could have therapeutic potential in the understanding and cure of psychotic symptoms or, on contrary, an effect of exacerbation and onset of latent psychoses. In addition, through different associations based in Italy, which perform rituals with ayahuasca, 10 interviews will be made to people who have come to this experience to cure psychotic experiences or have had psychotic experiences after an experience with ayahuasca, analyzing this way how the process has developed over time.

Outcomes evaluation of the use of Amazonian Traditional medicines and ayahuasca in the treatment of addictions and other mental health disorders.

Researcher / Responsible : Anne Denys

Partner Institutions: French Ethnopharmacology Association, Public Health School at the Nancy University and APEMAC research Laboratory at Metz – France.

Abstract: Anne’s PhD project is yet under development and has the support of three French scientific institutions: the French Ethnopharmacology Association, the Public Health School at the Nancy University and the APEMAC research Laboratory at Metz. The project is based on her previous field research at Takiwasi Centre where she identified a set of key experiences during participation in indigenous healing practices along the treatment, claimed by clients and therapists as relevant and associated with recovery from severe alcohol and drug addiction. The research project aims at: i) correlate the occurrence of key experiences with treatment outcomes measured in terms of psychiatric symptoms, drugs and alcohol use and quality of life; ii) correlate qualitative evaluations of the therapeutic processes with quantitative results two years after discharge; iii) identify client’s characteristics and personality traits better adapted to Takiwasi’s programme and predictors of successful outcomes.

Global Ayahuasca Project

Researcher / Responsible : Daniel Perkins

Partner Institutions: Melbourne University – Australia.

The study will be observational and use a mixed-methods approach combining the use of both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. Triangulation will be used to draw on qualitative perspectives of participants and those running ayahuasca centers/groups as well as quantitative data collected to provide a picture that is more holistic and robust (Vidovich 2003). There are three survey components as well as anthropological and sociological qualitative methods including ethnographic fieldwork, participant observation, and semi-structured interviews.

Cultural Formulation Interview to characterize the population of Takiwasi within the framework of the ethnography of the ATOP project

Researcher / Responsible : Renato Alarcón

Partner Institutions: Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia - Perú.

Complementing the work done by ATOP, the application and analysis of the "Cultural Formulation Interview" to the Takiwasi’s team broadens the understanding of conceptions about mental health, addictions and recovery that people that work within the protocol of the Center have (integration of traditional and western medicine). This qualitative analysis proposes to be a publication in itself.

The articulation of Ayahuasca in the treatment of addictions

Researcher / Responsible : Julio Portocarrero, Mae Francke

Partner Institutions: Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, Department of Social Sciences, Specialty of Anthropology.

The research analyzes the articulation of Ayahuasca in the treatment of addictions starting from the Takiwasi case, focusing mainly on the therapeutic practices of the different specialists who work in Takiwasi, who in their interactions and relationships establishment, negotiate and constitute the same medical therapy. In-depth interviews were conducted with Takiwasi staff. Among the preliminary conclusions we find that Takiwasi is a complex phenomenon, one of the first projects with the conscious goal of articulating practices of different medical systems with the aim of a treatment, but also a multi-voices space, with medical specialists of different formations, backgrounds and origins (plants, biomedicine, psychotherapy) that negotiate and dispute spaces of therapy, notions about health and disease, and protagonism in the healing process of the patient. Medical therapies are not rigid, are fluid and negotiable. The research is currently in the phase of collected information analysis and thesis development.

Evaluation of the efficacy of traditional Amazonian medicine, Ayahuasca and psychotherapy in alleviating depression and anxiety in patients following a residential addiction treatment at the Takiwasi Center in Peru

Researcher / Responsible : Cecile Giovannetti

Partner Institutions: Institute of Tropical Medicine and International Health Charité Universitätmedizin Berlin – Germany.

The main objective of the project is to "Generate preliminary evidence on the impact of traditional Amazonian medicine, psychotherapy and cohabitation on the intensity of depression and anxiety in patients that are undertaking a therapeutic program for substance abuse”. The proposed study presents an observational and longitudinal study design with a simple evaluation before and after the end of the therapeutic program: a simple pre / post design. Follow-up data and comprehensive assessment of the severity of addiction, in-depth patient profile and patient perceptions of the therapeutic program will be adequately analyzed upon ATOP’s finalization and this study will be limited to assessing the impact of treatment on the change of a small number of elements before and after treatment. The proposed study is not intended to represent the extensive work carried out with ATOP, but aims to open the way for the publication of this unique research project, presenting a limited part of the first results, developing an early methodological approach and informing the scientific community of the future publication of this work never seen before of great clinical importance.

Investigation of Therapeutic Pluralism in the Peruvian Amazon

Researcher / Responsible : Olivia Marcus

Partner Institutions: University of Connecticut – U.S.

The present work is an anthropological research on the people, the setting and the protocol within the Takiwasi Center, to complement the review of the state of therapeutic pluralism in the Peruvian Amazon. In-depth interviews are conducted with residential patients, dietitians and staff of the Takiwasi Center. The study is currently in the information retrieval and analysis phase.

The experience of the participants at the "retreat-diet”, a healing tool of the traditional Amazonian medicine at Takiwasi Centre

Researcher / Responsible : Tereza Rumrelová

Partner Institutions: University of Palackeho, Czech Republic

The Dieta, also known as “retreat-diet”, is a practice on which so far little research has been done. The present research aims to expand the knowledge on this therapeutic resource using information obtained through semi-structured interviews with users. The goal of the research is to describe the experience of the participants in the “retreat-diet” protocol at the Takiwasi Center, performing qualitative measures of the recorded data by using phenomenological analysis that allows to go into detail about personal experiences.