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Keywords:

  • ayahuasca;
  • psychedelic;
  • hallucinogen;
  • psychiatry;
  • depression

Abstract

There is a growing interest among scientists and the lay public alike in using the South American psychedelic brew, ayahuasca, to treat psychiatric disorders like depression and anxiety. Such a practice is controversial due to a style of reasoning within conventional psychiatry that sees psychedelic-induced modified states of consciousness as pathological. This article analyzes the academic literature on ayahuasca's psychological effects to determine how this style of reasoning is shaping formal scientific discourse on ayahuasca's therapeutic potential as a treatment for depression and anxiety. Findings from these publications suggest that different kinds of experiments are differentially affected by this style of reasoning but can nonetheless indicate some potential therapeutic utility of the ayahuasca-induced modified state of consciousness. The article concludes by suggesting ways in which conventional psychiatry's dominant style of reasoning about psychedelic modified states of consciousness could be reconsidered.