Sunday, April 21 • 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM • Grand Ballroom
How Similar to Dreaming is the Ayahuasca Experience?
Sidarta Ribeiro, PhD
Dreaming is one of the most common metaphors for the ayahuasca experience—but to what extent does this metaphor represent what is happening biologically? In this presentation, the neurobiological features of subjects who have experienced dreams and those who have consumed ayahuasca will be reviewed. The visual association regions modulated by ayahuasca (upper cuneus, lower lingual gyrus, and the fusiform gyrus) are also activated during dreaming (within REM). During lucid dreaming, a special kind of dream in which dreamers are aware within the dream that they are dreaming, extra activation occurs in the occipital and frontal regions. The existing data suggest that the ayahuasca experience is akin to dreaming in the sense that both conjure visual memories in tune with the emotions of the subject. Further investigation is needed to determine how close the ayahuasca experience is to either lucid or non-lucid dreaming. The use of neuroscience tools to compare dream states and psychedelic states holds great potential for the understanding of consciousness.
Sidarta Ribeiro, PhD, holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from the Universidade de Brasília (1993), a Master’s in Biophysics from the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (1994), and a PhD in Neuroscience and Animal Behavior from the Rockefeller University in New York (2000). He performed post-doctoral studies in Neurophysiology at Duke University from 2000 to 2005. He is currently a Full Professor of Neuroscience at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN), and Director of the Brain Institute of UFRN. He is greatly interested in the study of the neural bases of consciousness and its alteration. He has been involved in the public debate on the medicinal uses and the legalization of cannabis in Brazil.
Sunday, April 21 • 10:00 AM – 10:30 AM • Grand Ballroom
A Psychoanalytic Perspective on Ayahuasca: Insight, Transitional Space, and Potential Side Effects
Eduardo Gastelumendi, MD
This presentation will explore differences and continuities between psychoanalysis and the ayahuasca experience regarding both their nature and scope. These might be considered two of the few “royal roads” that lead to inner exploration, transformation, and growth. They rely mainly, but not only, on insights; whether in the form of meaningful and new true understandings that emerge in an intimate interpersonal relationship (as may happen in psychoanalysis) or under the form of emotionally intense and vivid visions and the grasping of truth (as in the ayahuasca experience). It will be noted that ayahuasca may produce negative side effects, such as the “inflation of the Ego” or interpreting visions as real instead of a metaphoric or “as-if” quality. The Winnicottian psychoanalytic concept of “transitional space,” essential to developing the capacity to play, create and love, may help to clarify and better understand occasional problematic effects of ayahuasca.
Eduardo Gastelumendi is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst working mainly as a clinician in private practice in Lima, Peru. He is Member and current Vice-president of the Peruvian Psychoanalytic Society, Member and former President of the Peruvian Psychiatric Association (1999-2000) and Member of the International Neuropsychiatric Association. He lectures at the Institute of the Peru Psychoanalytic Society. He is Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Revista de Neuro-Psiquiatria (founded in 1938 in Lima). He has participated in the Freud-Jung dialogues between the IPA (International Psychoanalytic Association) and the IAAP (International Association for Analytic Psychology) since 2006.
Sunday, April 21 • 11:00 AM – 11:30 AM • Grand Ballroom
The Effects of Participation in Ayahuasca Rituals on Gay’s and Lesbian’s Self Perception
Clancy Cavnar, PsyD
The practice of drinking the psychoactive drink ayahuasca has been shown in several studies to have positive long-term effects on mental states, and several studies have suggested it has a particularly strong positive effect on perceptions of identity. This research sought to discover if and in what way, these previous findings would be seen in gay people, who are often taught by their culture and religion that their lifestyles, values, and sexual orientation are unacceptable. This qualitative study examined the interview responses of 17 gay and lesbian-identified participants who had used ayahuasca in a group in the past three years regarding their self-perceptions. The results indicated that all participants reported positive effects on their lives from ayahuasca rituals, including affirmation of their sexual orientation, and no participants reported negative effects on perception of identity. Findings will be reported and the implications of psychedelic research with gay and lesbian people will be discussed.
Clancy Cavnar has an undergraduate degree in liberal arts from the New College of the University of South Florida (1982), a Master of Fine Art in painting the San Francisco Art Institute from the San Francisco Art Institute (1985), a certificate in Substance Abuse Counseling from the extension program of the University of California, Berkeley (1993), and a Master’s in Counseling from San Francisco State University (1997). IN 1997, she got in touch with the Santo Daime in the USA and has traveled several times to Brazil since then. She received a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (PsyD) from John F. Kennedy University in Pleasant Hill, California (2011) with a dissertation on gay and lesbian people’s experiences with ayahuasca. She is co-editor with Bia Labate of The Expansion and Reinvention of Ayahuasca Shamanism (Oxford University Press, in press). She is also a researcher with the Núcleo de Estudos Interdisciplinares sobre Psicoativos (NEIP, neip.info).
Sunday, April 21 • 11:30 AM – 12:00 PM • Grand Ballroom
Santo Daime in Europe: Ritual Transfer and Cultural Translations
Jan Weinhold, PhD
Santo Daime rituals have been conducted in several European countries for the last 20 years, involving an extended cross-cultural exchange of ritual practices between European and Brazilian churches. Despite the similarity between ritual structures in Brazil and Europe, there are several contextual differences: the illegal status of DMT in some European countries and language differences being the most obvious. In this paper, issues around this “ritual transfer” will be discussed: How do ritual partic
ipants in Europe adapt the ritual practices and belief-systems of Santo Daime to their own cultural contexts? How do the legal status, language differences, and other cultural contexts influence rituals and meanings of ayahuasca-induced altered states of consciousness? How can empirical research tackle such problems on a conceptual level?
Jan Weinhold, PhD, studied psychology at the Humboldt-University Berlin. Since 2002, he has been working as a research psychologist within the Collaborative Research Centre “Dynamics of Ritual” (SFB 619 “Ritualdynamik”) at Heidelberg University, where he completed his PhD in 2011. His research covers the use of psychoactive substances in relation to ritual studies, drug-abuse prevention, cross-cultural psychology, altered states of consciousness, and systemic psychotherapy. He has published articles in the field of ritual studies and drug use and has co-edited the volumes Rituals on the Move [Rituale in Bewegung] (LIT-Verlag, 2006), Therapy With Psychoactive Substances: Approaches to and Critique of Psychotherapy with LSD, Psilocybin, and MDMA [Therapie mit psychoaktiven Substanzen: Praxis und Kritik der Psychotherapie mit LSD, Psilocybin und MDMA] (Huber, 2008), The Problem of Ritual Efficacy (Oxford University Press, 2010), and The Varieties of Ritual Experience (Harrassowitz, 2010).
Sunday, April 21 • 12:00 PM – 12:30 PM • Grand Ballroom
Ayahuasca Therapy and Santo Daime Mysticism in Europe: Ethnographic Challenges to Prohibition
This presentation will present findings about why some Europeans are choosing to follow the Brazil-based Santo Daime religion, an eclectic mix of Catholicism, shamanism, and African spiritualism. Santo Daime members (fardados) offer a variety of explanations for why they attend Santo Daime rituals, but the main theme can be summed up by one informants who said: “Santo Daime is the key to a lot of solutions.” Fardados believe ayahuasca induces a mystical state of awareness, where the subjective boundary between the observing self and the observed world appears to dissolve. They interpret this not as “hallucination”, but as an otherworldly encounter that catalyzes medicinal cleansings of both body and spirit. My research underscores an ethical tension in modern Western states: policies forbidding “hallucinogens” treat Santo Daime as criminality, but fardados consider ayahuasca a holy sacrament. This presentation outlines research into how fardados’ perspective demands that Euro-American societies reconsider the indiscriminate prohibition of entheogenic substances.
Marc G. Blainey was born in Toronto, Canada. He has a BA in Anthropology (University of Western Ontario, 2005) and an MA in Archaeology (Trent University, 2007). He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology at Tulane University. He has previously conducted research into the shamanistic ingestion of entheogens by the ancient Maya culture. Presently, he is conducting research on European members of the Santo Daime. He is now completing a PhD dissertation entitled “A Ritual Key to Mystical Solutions: Ayahuasca Therapy, Secularism, & the Santo Daime Religion in Belgium.”
Sunday, April 21 • 2:00 PM – 2:30 PM • Grand Ballroom
Federal Government Licensing of Ayahuasca Use and Personal and Religious Freedom
This presentation will elaborate upon the results of the more than 10-year legal struggle of the União Do Vegetal (UDV) to secure the right to use Hoasca tea, as a religious sacrament, in the United States. In 2006, after several years of litigation in the federal judiciary involving representatives of the United States Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Agency, and United States Customs Service, the UDV’s use of Hoasca was ultimately affirmed by a unanimous decision of the United States Supreme Court. Subsequently, the issue of how that use would be regulated, by the same government agencies who had previously argued for prohibition, required another four years of litigation. The case was finally resolved through a settlement agreement whereby the UDV became the first registered importer, manufacturer, and distributor of a Schedule I controlled substance. The presentation will examine the details of the settlement agreement itself, and related considerations regarding issues of personal and religious freedom.
Jeffrey Bronfman is an educator, philanthropist, and environmentalist first introduced to ayahuasca (and the União do Vegetal religion) when visiting the Amazon to establish a conservation preserve in 1990. He embraced the UDV religion as his spiritual path and practice in 1992 and in 1994 he became the religion’s first Mestre (teacher-guide) living outside of Brazil. From 1999 through its final conclusion in 2010 he served as the lead plaintiff in the UDV’s legal action against the government of the United States, securing the legal acceptance of the UDV’s religious practice in this country.
Sunday, April 21 • 2:30 PM – 3:00 PM • Grand Ballroom
The Expansion of Brazilian Ayahuasca Religions: Law, Culture, and Locality
Kevin Feeney, JD and Beatriz Caiuby Labate, PhD
This presentation will explore globalization, diversity, and issues of social justice by examining the global expansion of ayahuasca religions through the lens of transnationalism, and against the backdrop of international drug control. Politics have often equated cultural groups with particular national boundaries, and proceeding from this premise have made legal and cultural exceptions for groups that were seen as specifically situated geographically. The ayahuasca religions pose a particular challenge to this line of thinking, with the originally Brazilian-based religions of Santo Daime and the União do Vegetal having established a global presence with international adherents: followers who are not constrained by national boundaries and not identifiable as members of any particular ethnic categories. As these religions expand outside of their traditional regional and cultural contexts, they come to be viewed through the Western framework of the “war on drugs,” and become classified as criminal enterprises. The expansion of the ayahuasca traditions will be used as a foundation for examining issues of international human rights law and protections for religious freedom within the current global milieu of cultural transnationalism.
Kevin Feeney, JD, received his law degree from the University of Oregon in 2005, and is currently a student of Anthropology at Washington State University (USA), where he is studying the religious use of peyote in American Indian traditions. Other research interests include examining legal and regulatory issues surrounding the religious and cultural use of psychoactive substances, with an emphasis on ayahuasca and peyote, and exploring modern and traditional uses of Amanita muscaria, with a specific focus on variations in harvest and preparation practices. He is co-author, with Richard Glen Boire, of Medical Marijuana Law (2007).
Beatriz Caiuby Labate, PhD, earned her doctorate in Social Anthropology from the State University of Campinas (Universidade Estadual de Campinas, UNICAMP), Brazil. Her mai
n areas of interest are the study of psychoactive substances, drug policies, shamanism, ritual, and religion. She is Visiting Professor at the Drug Policy Program of the Center for Economic Research and Education (Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, CIDE) in Aguascalientes, Mexico. She is also Research Associate at the Institute of Medical Psychology, Heidelberg University, co-founder of the Nucleus for Interdisciplinary Studies of Psychoactives (NEIP), and editor of its Web site (neip.info). She is author, co-author, and co-editor of eight books, two with English translations, one journal special edition, and several peer-reviewed articles (bialabate.net).
Sunday, April 21 • 3:00 PM – 3:30 PM • Grand Ballroom
The Economics of Ayahuasca
Kenneth Tupper, PhD
This presentation considers the emerging status of ayahuasca as a commodity in international trade networks and the global economic system of the early 21st century. It explores how the brew and its constituent plants are variously represented as a medicine, sacrament, or plant teacher by people who drink it, and how drinkers (and suppliers) negotiate these representations with the competing status of ayahuasca as a consumer item in the global marketplace. Is ayahuasca drinking becoming a bourgeois luxury for the affluent of the global North? Does the commodification of the brew somehow profane it? How does ayahuasca consumerism fit within the politics of international drug control? Is ayahuasca, as the International Narcotics Control Board suggested in its 2010 Annual Report, simply an example of the “increased trade, use and abuse of…plant material” containing psychoactive substances? These and other questions lead to reflections on what the economics of ayahuasca might reveal about the nature of money, value, and ecology at a critical moment in world history.
Kenneth W. Tupper, PhD, is an Adjunct Professor in the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia. His 2011 PhD dissertation focused on ayahuasca, entheogenic education, and public policy. His other research interests include the cross-cultural and historical uses of psychoactive substances; public, professional and school-based drug education; and the creation of effective public policies to maximize benefits and minimize harms from currently illegal drugs (kentupper.com).
Sunday, April 21 • 3:30 PM – 4:00 PM • Grand Ballroom
Ayahuasca for PTSD: Integrating Psychedelic Therapeutic Strategies for Neurotrauma into a Bioinformatics Framework
Jessica L. Nielson, PhD and Julie D. Megler, MSN, NP-BC
This presentation is part of our work developed at the University of California, San Francisco using a bioinformatics framework and multivariate statistics to fully characterize the syndrome of spinal cord injury (SCI). This approach can be applied to other forms of neurotrauma, including traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Studies about MDMA-assisted psychotherapy have demonstrated safety and remarkable, long-lasting beneficial effects for treatment-resistant PTSD. We hypothesize that by incorporating the data from these clinical trials into our bioinformatics framework, along with additional studies from previous and future PTSD trials, we will be able to identify syndromic risk factors for treatment-resistant PTSD and its appropriate treatment. We will present a pilot study currently being developed in collaboration with the Paititi Institute in Peru to collect data from individuals suffering from ailments including PTSD who have voluntarily traveled to participate in shamanic ayahuasca ceremonies in order to heal themselves. Our study will use outcome measures similar to those that are currently being used for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD (e.g. CAPS) to assess the effects of ayahuasca on PTSD, including pre-treatment and post-treatment follow-up interviews. The goal of this project is to identify the potential risk factors for treatment-resistant PTSD, and to determine whether substances such as MDMA and ayahuasca will prove to be additional therapeutic options for veterans suffering from PTSD.
Jessica Nielson, PhD, received her BS in biology from Cal Poly Pomona in 2003, and her PhD in anatomy and neurobiology from the University of California, Irvine, in 2010. During her doctoral work she resolved a century-old controversy regarding the fate of the corticospinal tract following spinal cord injury, definitively demonstrating that this important motor pathway survives injury and is available in chronic cases for therapeutic interventions to promote regeneration and functional recovery. She joined the Brain and Spinal Injury Center at University of California San Francisco in 2011 as a postdoctoral scholar, where she has been developing a novel bioinformatics approach to characterize syndromic features of spinal cord injury, with future plans to apply this approach to traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Julie Megler is a licensed nurse practitioner in both psychiatry and family practice. In 2009, she received her Master’s of Science in nursing from the University of Miami, Florida. In 2010, she began working at an emergency room in Detroit, Michigan. Her ER experience illustrated for Julie the gap between medical and psychiatric care, and how the mind/body connection is often ignored, leading her to develop a practice that integrates medicine and mental health for more effective treatment. In 2012, she completed her post-Master’s certificate as a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner at the University of California, San Francisco. Julie is now working for the San Francisco Veteran’s Medical Center (SFVMC). At the SFVMC, she is seeing dual diagnosis psychiatric patients. Julie has particular interest in veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and the implications of ayahuasca for PTSD treatment.
Sunday, April 21 • 4:30 PM – 5:00 PM • Grand Ballroom
Long-Term Effects of the Ritual Use of Ayahuasca on Mental Health
José Carlos Bouso, PhD
Over the last decades, ayahuasca use has expanded throughout the world. An uncountable number of people are being exposed to this potent hallucinogenic beverage. At the same time, little is known regarding the long-term effects of ayahuasca use. The few studies published until now conclude that ayahuasca seems not to be deleterious at the long term. In this presentation, data will be presented from a longitudinal study where different areas of mental health have been assessed in a large sample of regular ayahuasca users (N = 127) and controls (N = 115). The assessment included potential drug abuse-related problems, personality, psychopathology, life attitudes, and neuropsychological performance. Results are in line with previous studies. Potential biases shared by all
the published studies will also be discussed.
José Carlos Bouso, PhD, is conducting research to collect preliminary data on the safety and efficacy of varying doses of MDMA administered in a psychotherapeutic setting to women with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of a sexual assault. He also has been conducting neuropsychological research into the long-term effects of drugs such as cocaine and cannabis. He has done transcultural research, extensively studying the long-term effects of ayahuasca use in different cultures and ecosystems, both in Spanish and in Brazilian communities. José Carlos Bouso is co-author of several scientific papers and book chapters. He currently combines his activity as a clinical researcher at the IMIM (Institut Hospital del Mar d’Investigacions Mèdiques) with his work as Scientific Projects Manager at the International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research, and Service (ICEERS; iceers.org).
Sunday, April 21 • 5:00 PM – 5:30 PM • Grand Ballroom
Alex Gearin, PhD (C)
Over the last few decades the Amazonian psychoactive brew ayahuasca has undergone a rapid and quickening process of globalization. While there have not been many studies dedicated to comprehending indigenous Amazonian uses of ayahuasca, anthropologists tend to understand indigenous ayahuasca practices as being embedded in broader Amazonian ontological perspectives or ways of relating to the world. With a focus on notions of health, this talk undertakes a comparative analysis of basic principles of indigenous Amazonian ayahuasca practice in contrast to various cosmological postulates of ayahuasca use in Australian society. The analysis draws on personal fieldwork undertaken in Australian ayahuasca circles during 2011 and 2012 along with seminal ethnographies on the use of ayahuasca in indigenous Amazonia. Questions that will be explored include the instability of identity and personhood, notions of illness and wellbeing, and the encounter between humans and spirits or discarnate entities.
Alex Gearin is currently a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. His dissertation research involves a multi-sited ethnographic study of ayahuasca culture in Australia with a focus on health and cosmology. His B.A. thesis, written at La Trobe University, explores discourse on Amerindian ontology and the Upper Amazonian social contexts of discarnate entities encountered through the use of ayahuasca. Additional research interests include the anthropology of sorcery and witchcraft, post-colonialism, drug policy, and globalization.
The Ayahuasca Visions of Pablo Amaringo by Howard G. Charing, Peter Cloudsley, and Pablo Amaringo © 2011 Inner Traditions / Bear & Co. Image used with permission from the publisher Inner Traditions International.
Continuing Education (CE) credit is available for psychologists, social workers, MFTs, and nurses. More information is available at the Spiritual Competency Resource Center.