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J Psychoactive Drugs. 2013 Apr-Jun;45(2):179-88.

A critical evaluation of reports associating ayahuasca with life-threatening adverse reactions.

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International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research & Service, Nieuwe Zandstraat 4, 4661 AP Halsteren, The Netherlands.


Ayahuasca is a botanical hallucinogenic preparation traditionally consumed by Northwestern Amazonian indigenous groups. Scientific evidence suggests good tolerability after acute administration of ayahuasca and also after years or even decades of its ritual consumption. Nevertheless, some scientific and media reports associate ayahuasca or some of its alkaloids with severe intoxications. The purpose of the present text is to do a critical evaluation of these reports. The evaluation of the cases highlights the fact that some lack accurate forensic/toxicological information, while others are not directly relevant to traditional ayahuasca preparations. These limitations reduce the possibility of an accurate risk assessment, which could indicate potential contraindications and susceptibilities for ayahuasca consumption. Nevertheless, even with these limitations, the cases suggest that previous cardiac and hepatic pathologies and current use of serotonergic drugs/medications are contraindications to ayahuasca use, and that caution should be taken when using different botanical species and extracted/synthetic alkaloids to prepare ayahuasca analogues.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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