Does the ceremonial use of ayahuasca hold the key to improving well-being in Westerners? A recent study suggests that the psychoactive brew may help to boost spiritual well-being, happiness, quality of life.
The Western world presents a paradox. The majority of citizens in developed nations have everything they need to survive given to them on a plate — water flows out of taps and calories line supermarket shelves. Western culture also satisfies the hedonistic impulses of the human being. We have access to the drama and gossip of reality television, an endless supply of alcohol and stimulants, and more porn than a person could watch in a lifetime.
With our needs for survival and pleasure met, we still find ourselves in a mental health crisis. Materialism and consumerism lead many of us to work our lives away to purchase items that bring only temporary fulfilment — the empty promise of salvation through ownership.
In between pulses of material pleasure, many of us experience a void of dissatisfaction, desperation, and absolute disconnection from the mystery and beauty of reality. Within the United States alone, 40 million adults are anxious, and 16 million are depressed.
Fortunately, many people find spiritual fulfilment in a broad range of beliefs and experiences that free them from this emptiness. For some, the ancient Amazonian practice of drinking ayahuasca renews their sense of spirituality, well-being, and gratitude for being alive.
Research published in the journal Ethnopharmacology put this practice to the test. After engaging in the Shipibo ceremonial use of ayahuasca, 200 individuals underwent psychological evaluations up to six months after the experience. The collected data displayed significant increases in spiritual well-being, psychological well-being, subjective well-being, and quality of life.