In a previous issue of the MAPS newsletter (Summer 1992 Vol. 03, No. 3 Building on Common Ground), a summary description of a proposed biomedical investigation of Hoasca, a hallucinogenic beverage prepared from indigenous Amazonian plants, was published in order to solicit financial support for the study. Hoasca, also known as ayahuasca, is used as a ritual sacrament in a religious context by a number of syncretic religious movements in Brasil, as well as by indigenous peoples throughout the Amazon basin. Its legitimate use for religious purposes in Brasil has recently been sanctioned by CONFEN, the Brazilian Federal Drug Council. The proposed study was conceived as a collaborative research effort between Botanical Dimensions, a non-profit research organization dedicated to the preservation and investigation of plants of ethnomedical importance, and several Brasilian and U.S. organizations. We are pleased to report that, thanks to the generous contributions of several individuals, Botanical Dimensions has obtained sufficient funds to initiate a pilot biomedical study of the acute and long-term effects of hoasca tea among members of the Uniao do vegetal, one of the larger Brasilian religions which have incorporated Hoasca tea into their religious rituals. [The research team went to Brasil in late June and early July, 1993 to conduct the first phase of the study.]
Principle co-investigators on the study will include Dennis J. McKenna, Ph.D., Research Director of Botanical Dimensions, and Dr. Charles Grob, M.D., of the Department of Psychiatry, UCLA. Collaborating investigators will include Kym Faull, Ph.D., of the UCLA School of Medicine; Jace Callaway, Ph.D. currently of the Department of Pharmacology, University of Kupio, Finland ( http://www.maps.org/news-letters/v04n2/04230cal.html); and Edison Saraiva Neves, M.D., and Glaucus de Souza Brito, M.D., both of the Centro de Estudos Medicos, UDV. Additional Brasilian and U.S. collaborating investigators may also participate.
As described in the previous MAPS newsletter, the objectives of the initial studies will include assessments of the psychiatric profiles and platelet receptor binding characteristics in long-term users of hoasca tea; determination of the acute effects of hoasca on physiological and neuroendocrine functions; quantitative analysis of DMT and harmine in plasma following acute administration of hoasca tea; and quantitative analysis of various kinds of hoasca tea and their associated source-plants. The results of the study will eventually be submitted for publication in peer-reviewed journals, but will also be made available to readers of the MAPS newsletter. Continue to watch this space.