A study published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs has found that ayahuasca might have the potential to help people recover from eating disorders.
Dr. Adele Lafrance, a professor at Laurentian University in Ontario, and her colleagues used 16 participants from North America who had suffered from either bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa and studied their reactions to the psychoactive tea.
Ayahuasca is used for spiritual purposes in indigenous Amazonian communities but is illegal in both the US and UK. It is a powerful psychedelic and people who drink it often report themselves as having transcendental, self-revelatory experiences, which can lead to lasting behavioural change.
one participant hallucinated herself as “a rotting, decaying skeleton”
The report quotes one participant who says she hallucinated herself as “a rotting, decaying skeleton” and then as “beautiful full-bodied, just beautiful woman with this long hair… I wanted to be that full, loving woman that has so much to offer my family and world. It was, and then I felt my ribs and I could feel them, they were so hollow and I was just, I was like, I can’t wait to get back and just start gaining some weight.”
Another participant said “I really just experienced my body as a gift. It was, I felt that it was malnourished. I could sense that, I could sense that I was not honouring the gift.”
The relatively small sample used in this study points to the need for more research in this area. Speaking to The Unapologists, Dr Lafrance said “the reception has been positive and I think people are curious about its potential. It’s going to take time though since for years some of these substances have been viewed as harmful, and like any medicine, when taken in the wrong conditions, they can be.”
Eating disorders are among some of the most difficult medical conditions to treat, so new research in this field is welcome. Previous studies have shown that ayahuasca may be a promising treatment for people suffering from hard-to-treat depression and others have claimed it can heal the psychological damage inflicted by trauma.
Interest in the possible medical applications of psychedelics has picked up in recent years despite legal barriers making it difficult to run scientific studies. “I’m hopeful that as a field we can broaden our scope since the conventional models are limited,” said Dr Lafrance.