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DMT: Learning Science From Our Ancestors

As soon as we enter medical school,there are endless lists of drugs,symptoms and diseases that suddenly invade our understanding of human beings and nature.In this novel scenario,there is a high risk of limiting"truth"to information found in academic references.While this is often necessary and adequate,we should also strive to glean evidence from other sources in order to optimize treatment of patients.Science is built upon researching new evidence and potential cures,so we should not restrict our practice to what is already known.Rather,we should learn from the academic truths while attempting to broaden our knowledge and abandon complacency in diagnosis and treatment.

Many ground-breaking discoveries have emerged after scientists dared to explore beyond the boundaries of the knowledge in their respective time periods.Therefore,if we decide to rely on those who came before,we should prepare to engage in the first step of the scientific method,which isobservation.

Prior to the arrival of European conquerors to North America,indigenous groups from the Amazon basin already performed mystic rituals aimed at curing mental illness and physical ailments.These ancient societies had individuals whose roles incorporated aspects of healing.  They included those who were proficient in handling these healing ceremonies and ensuring that they were treating members of their community.These healers were in charge of preparing an orally-ingested concoction for the events.

Some of these potions contained entheogens,which are psychoactive substances that induce what some may consider a spiritual experience aimed at mental and spiritual development.Sometimes,this concoction also contained ayahuasca,and was formed from a mixture of psychotria viridis — which contains the main entheogenic ingredients of dimethyltryptamine (DMT) — and banisteriopsis caapi,a natural source of monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).This powerful mixture was regarded as thegateway to deep emotions,inner thoughts and feelingsand even the road to enlightenment.In addition,,many testimoniesdescribed the intense aesthetic states of mind achieved after ingestion of this magical compound and its unbelievable cathartic properties.

Ayahuasca contains DMT,which is manufactured naturally in human brains,and there is evidence that ayahuasca could have positive effects on patients.DMT administration to healthy volunteersshowsthat this compound might be useful in reducing anxiety symptoms.Long-term ayahuasca usersdo not exhibit symptoms of psychiatric disorders or neurocognitive problems,but instead show improved cognitive function,increased well-being and spirituality and reduced psychopathology,including symptoms of anxiety and depression.Animal and human studiessuggest that ayahuasca and its alkaloids can produce anxiolytic and anti-depressive effects,which are likely mediated by agonistic mechanism of 5-HT1A/2A/2C receptors.For example,adolescents who regularly consume ayahuascashow less signs of anxiety.Additionally,theuse of ayahuascaincreased assertiveness,joy of life and liveliness among the members of the Brazilian syncretic churches.

Victims of abuse and recovered addictsfrequently mentionthat ayahuasca ingestion helped them to recover memories of traumatic events that they were then able to process and work through thus providing a basis for restructuring their personal lives.Additionally,cross-sectional and longitudinal case-controlstudiesshowed that ritual and religious ayahuasca users presented fewer alcohol-related problems than control groups.On magnetic resonance imaging (MRI),long-term use of ayahuasca has beenshown to produce measurable changesin the brain such as differences in midline brain structures.

Ayahuasca can also help cure symptoms of depression.While commercial anti-depressants typically take a minimum of two to four weeks to have a therapeutic effect;;ayahuasca is rapidly-acting.A single dose of ayahuascaadministered to six volunteerswith a current depressive episode significantly reduced depressive symptoms from baseline one,seven and twenty-one days after administration.Psychotic episodes associated with ayahuasca intake are rareand appear to be associated with individuals' premorbid psychiatric conditions,concurrent use of other psychoactive substances and lack of trained supervision.Before ayahuasca or DMT is administered in a controlled setting,a thorough medication and drug use history should be gathered in order to reduce the occurrence of psychotic experiences.

In light of these results,this traditional medicine ritual deserves our attention.Ayahuasca and DMT may help us find the uncover cures to medical issues.Because DMT isproduced by the human brainand released during the sleep cycle,exogenous administration of ayahuasca could lead to new approaches to studying normal and abnormal brain functions.Should this come to fruition,it would give researchers a radically different method of studying psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia.

One could legitimately disregard these stories as mere pseudoscience or as nothing more than psychedelic fairy tales.However,it serves us,as critical thinkers and future scientists,to investigate these accounts for potential validity.We cannot lose the opportunities to widen our scientific background.Once we expand our options and begin looking at new methods of studying and treating disease instead of limiting ourselves to conventional pharmaceutical drugs,we can discover new ways to further medical progress.

Antonio Cristóbal Luque Ambrosiani (1 Posts)

Contributing Writer

University of Seville Faculty of Medicine

I am a fifth-year student from the University of Seville interested in exploring the boundaries of medical knowledge,trying to learn from different backgrounds.The universe is immense,and science provides us with a powerful tool to engage with its mysteries,despite that I still got more questions than answers.As a consequence of this,life offers us a never-ending game of pursuing new scientific evidence to better understand nature and ourselves.