Psychedelic Treatments Are Ready to Tackle Alcoholism and Alzheimer's Disease

Meeting in London showed possible clinical applications of ayahuasca, among others

Marcelo Leite
London

At the Breaking Convention conference on psychedelic substances in London, you will find everything. 

You will even find the unexpected: a link between Alzheimer's and ayahuasca, or even anyone willing to give the Palestinians and Israelis a psychedelic brew so they can understand each other. 

Psychedelics like LSD are compounds, capable of inducing altered states of consciousness. Although classified as drugs, they are currently undergoing a scientific renaissance for their potential as a therapy for various conditions, from depression to chemical dependency.

One of the most impressive revelations of the congress was presented by Ben Sessa, from Imperial College (United Kingdom). He coordinates a study on the safety of using MDMA (the main component of ecstasy) in the treatment of alcohol dependence.

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Ayahuasca tea. (Foto: Avener Prado/Folhapress) - Folhapress

Research with 11 patients showed that therapy is safe and that nine months later, most participants recovered from addiction. There were eight weeks of psychotherapy, with two doses of MDMA, in the third and sixth weeks.

Only one patient had a complete relapse, returning to the original level of consumption. The others are either teetotalers or drink quantities that would no longer qualify them as dependents.

MDMA is at the forefront of psychedelics with a phase 3 study in the US that should lead to FDA drug authorization to support psychotherapy for people with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Alzheimer-ayahuasca link, in turn, was the subject of a lecture by Stevens Rehen, a neuroscientist at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and the D'Or Research Institute.

Rehen uses mini-brains in his studies; neural cell globules grown in jars from human cells. Organoids develop brain-comparable structure and offer a multipurpose tool for testing the effect of compounds on the biochemistry behind emotions and thoughts.

The study is preliminary, warns Rehen: "I would worry [if it were taken] as an incentive to consume ayahuasca tea as an alternative therapy for alzheimer's, which would obviously be frivolous to say at this point."

Imperial College's Leor Roseman researched what comes from the brains of flesh-and-blood people in the form of words. He interviewed 31 regulars - 18 Jews and 13 Palestinians, Muslims and Christians - from ayahuasca centers in Israel and Palestine.

His analysis of the responses indicates that psychedelic tea may favor reconciliation between individuals separated by bloody history. In an emotionally charged presentation, Roseman projected participants' statements.

"A big part of what I realized was how much [my] activism, even nonviolent activism, was motivated by hatred towards one another," said one Palestinian.

One Jew told how he was touched by songs in Arabic: "You hear the language you hate the most, and suddenly it leads you to light and love."

"Can ayahuasca promote peace?" Roseman wonders. "I do not know. But it has potential." 

Translated by Kiratiana Freelon

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