Helle Kaasik is an academically trained research geek with a long-standing interest in altered states of consciousness. She met ayahuasca in Santo Daime in 2011. This big leap for her became also a small step for research of ayahuasca: she infused ayahuasca as her research topic drop by drop into her academic environment, thereby initiating study of psychedelics in her homeland Estonia. She will present her research about ritual ayahuasca use in Estonia and a project for her forthcoming research of relationships between user’s preparation, experiences and long-term effects in ayahuasca rituals.
Ritual use of ayahuasca: a project to study relationships between user’s preparation, experiences and long-term effects
Ritual use of psychedelic plant concoction ayahuasca is increasing worldwide and has been shown to be reasonably safe. In interaction with local cultures, it has given rise to new forms of collective psychospiritual practice. Those practices are embedded in a variety of beliefs about user’s preparation for the ritual, experience during the ritual and long-term effects of the ritual. Users and science could benefit from a study clarifying to which extent those beliefs are supported by empirical evidence.
Studies of practices and experiences of users of ayahuasca outside of its traditional area of use are needed to assess long-term effects of ritual use of ayahuasca, to discover predictors of and possible ways to influence those effects, to understand the mediating role of the experiences undergone in an altered state of consciousness, and to design safety measures and evidence-based regulations. The presentation will propose a project to study ritual use of ayahuasca. The study aims to clarify: how preparation of participants for the ritual influences their experiences during the ritual, and how are user’s preparation and the experience of altered state of consciousness connected with long-term effects of the ritual. Preparation includes initial mental and physical state, quality of life, motivation for participation, behaviour, and diet. Description of the experience includes bodily, affective, spiritual and cognitive aspects. Long-term effects include changes of mental and physical state, and quality of life. Participants of ayahuasca ceremonies will complete structured interviews before and after the ceremony and questionnaires 1-2 months after. Concentrations of active ingredients in ayahuasca and actually consumed doses will be estimated. Specific relationships between specific forms of preparation, experience and effects will be clarified as outcomes of the study. The results will help with harm reduction, benefit maximization and evidence-based regulation of ayahuasca use.