Ayahuasca’s ‘afterglow’: improved mindfulness and cognitive flexibility in ayahuasca drinkers

Article


Murphy-Beiner, A. and Soar, K. 2020. Ayahuasca’s ‘afterglow’: improved mindfulness and cognitive flexibility in ayahuasca drinkers. Psychopharmacology. 237, p. 1161–1169. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-019-05445-3
AuthorsMurphy-Beiner, A. and Soar, K.
Abstract

Rationale: There is a growing body of evidence demonstrating the therapeutic potential of ayahuasca for treating depression and anxiety. However, the mechanisms of action involved in ayahuasca’s therapeutic effects are unclear. Mindfulness and cognitive flexibility may be two possible psychological mechanisms. Like other classic psychedelics, ayahuasca also leads to an 'afterglow' effect of improved subjective wellbeing that persists after the acute effects have subsided. This period may offer a window of increased therapeutic potential.
Objective: to explore changes in mindfulness and cognitive flexibility before, and within 24 hours after ayahuasca use.
Methods: Forty-eight participants (54% female) were assessed on measures of mindfulness (Five Facets Mindfulness Questionnaire, FFMQ), decentering (Experiences Questionnaire, EQ) and cognitive flexibility (Cognitive Flexibility Scale, CFS), and completed the Stroop and Wisconsin Picture Card Sorting Task (WPCST) before drinking ayahuasca, and again within 24-hours.
Results: Mindfulness (FFMQ total scores and four of the five mindfulness facets; Observe, Describe, Act with Awareness and Non-reactivity) and decentering (EQ) significantly increased in the 24 hours after ayahuasca use. Cognitive flexibility (CFS and WPCST) significantly improved in the 24 hours after ayahuasca use. Changes in both mindfulness and cognitive flexibility were not influenced by prior ayahuasca use.
Conclusions: The present study supports ayahuasca’s ability to enhance mindfulness and further reports changes in cognitive flexibility in the 'afterglow' period occur, suggesting both could be possible psychological mechanisms concerning the psychotherapeutic effects of ayahuasca. Given psychological gains occurred regardless of prior ayahuasca use suggests potentially therapeutic effects for both naïve and experienced ayahuasca drinkers.

Keywordsayahuasca; psychedelics; mindfulness; cognitive flexibility; psychological flexibility; psychological Mechanisms
JournalPsychopharmacology
Journal citation237, p. 1161–1169
ISSN0033-3158
Year2020
PublisherSpringer
Accepted author manuscript
License
File Access Level
Anyone
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-019-05445-3
Web address (URL)https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-019-05445-3
Publication dates
Online11 Jan 2020
Publication process dates
Accepted27 Dec 2019
Deposited15 Jan 2020
Copyright holder© 2020, Springer Nature
Copyright informationThis is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Psychopharmacology. The final authenticated version is available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00213-019-05445-3.
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