A study published earlier this year found that the cure for too much self-love might just be ayahuasca.
The findings, published in April in the Journal of Personality Disorders and based on a three-month evaluation of more than 300 adults, suggested that after “ceremonial use of ayahuasca, self-reported changes in narcissism were observed,” although the researchers did urge some caution.
“However, effect size changes were small, results were somewhat mixed across convergent measures, and no significant changes were observed by informants. The present study provides modest and qualified support for adaptive change in narcissistic antagonism up to 3 months following ceremony experiences, suggesting some potential for treatment efficacy. However, meaningful changes in narcissism were not observed. More research would be needed to adequately evaluate the relevance of psychedelic-assisted therapy for narcissistic traits, particularly studies examining individuals with higher antagonism and involving antagonism-focused therapeutic approaches,” the researchers wrote.
The publication PsyPost has more background on the study.
“The study involved 314 adults attending ayahuasca ceremonies at three retreat centers in Peru and Costa Rica. All participants were required to be at least 18 years old. Those with a personal or family history of psychotic disorders were also excluded from the study. Participants were recruited through emails sent two weeks prior to the start date of their reservation at an ayahuasca retreat center. As compensation for participation, researchers offered them a report detailing their personality changes and entry into a raffle for a week-long retreat at one of the ayahuasca centers, valued at $1580,” the publication reported.
“The researchers required participants to complete three surveys, offering an additional $20 or $30 for each. These surveys were completed eight days before their visit to an ayahuasca retreat center, during their stay, and three months after their retreat ended. The surveys included assessments of narcissism, using tools like the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, Psychological Entitlement Scale, and a composite derived from the five-factor model personality facets. Additionally, 110 informants, who were peers of the participants, completed these assessments at the beginning and three months after the retreat concluded.”
Ayahuasca and other psychedelics have gone mainstream in recent years, with the public, research community and governments increasingly amenable to their potential for mental health improvements.
A study released last year found that ayahuasca yields more benefits than adverse effects among those who have used the drug.
But the study, which came via researchers in Australia, also noted that participants did experience negative effects, as well.
“Many are turning to ayahuasca due to disenchantment with conventional Western mental health treatments, however the disruptive power of this traditional medicine should not be underestimated, commonly resulting in mental health or emotional challenges during assimilation. While these are usually transitory and seen as part of a beneficial growth process, risks are greater for vulnerable individuals or when used in unsupportive contexts,” the authors of the study said.
A press release for the study provided a breakdown of the findings.
“Overall, acute physical health adverse effects were reported by 69.9% of the sample, with the most common effects being vomiting and nausea (68.2% of participants), headache (17.8%) and abdominal pain (12.8%). Only 2.3% of participants reporting physical adverse events required medical attention for this issue. Among all participants, 55% also reported adverse mental health effects, including hearing or seeing things (28.5%), feeling disconnected or alone (21.0%), and having nightmares or disturbing thoughts (19.2%). However, of all respondents identifying these mental health effects, 87.6% believed they were completely or somewhat part of a positive growth process,” the press release stated.
“The researchers also identified several factors that predispose people to the adverse physical events, including older age, having a physical health condition or substance use disorder, lifetime ayahuasca use and taking ayahuasca in a non-supervised context. The authors make the observation that ayahuasca has notable, although rarely severe, adverse effects according to the standards used for assessing prescription medicines. In that sense, they state that ayahuasca practices can hardly be assessed with the same parameters used for prescription medicines, since the myriad of its effects include challenging experiences that are intrinsic to the experience, some of which are considered as part of its healing process.”
In Berkeley, California this summer, city officials approved a measure to decriminalize ayahuasca.
The measure said that “the City of Berkeley wishes to declare its desire not to expend City resources in any investigation, detention, arrest, or prosecution arising out of alleged violations of state and federal law regarding the use of Entheogenic Plants,” and stated “that it shall be the policy of the City of Berkeley that no department, agency, board, commission, officer or employee of the city, including without limitation, Berkeley Police Department personnel, shall use any city funds or resources to assist in the enforcement of laws imposing criminal penalties for the use and possession of Entheogenic Plants by adults of at least 21 years of age.”