What is ATOP?
The Ayahuasca Treatment Outcome Project - ATOP Peru aims at validating the effectiveness of Ayahuasca and traditional Amazonian medicine for the treatment of addictions and has the potential to improve many lives affected by mental health challenges.
Scientific evaluation of the efficacy of Ayahuasca-assisted treatment is necessary for it to be recognized as a legitimate therapeutic approach for treating addiction and other mental health challenges. The Ayahuasca Treatment Outcome Project (ATOP) was developed in response to this need by a multidisciplinary international research team.
It is important to consider Ayahuasca-assisted treatment not as a pharmacological intervention but rather as a well-structured ritualistic psycho-therapeutic intervention, as it is found in traditional medicine. Towards this purpose, we follow a scientific approach that complies with the rigorous evaluation of therapeutic efficacy demanded by modern medicine and respects the integrity of Ayahuasca as a therapeutic tool with roots in indigenous medicine.
The ATOP project not only seeks to study Ayahuasca and the effectiveness and extent of the use of traditional Amazonian medicine in the treatment of addictions, but also to understand the therapeutic processes towards healing. It seeks to create a bridge between traditional Amazonian medicine and modern medical science to help broaden our understanding of mental health.
Who is Participating?
This multi-sited, multidisciplinary project includeed contributors from Canada, Peru, Brazil and Mexico. It is made of a network of clinical psychiatrists and neuroscientists, medical doctors and anthropologists, epidemiologists and curanderos.
The team is being led by Dr. Brian Rush, Professor, Dept. of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Canada and Scientist Emeritus at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Canada. Other team members include Anja Loizaga-Velder, Director of Psychotherapy and Research, Nierika A. C., Mexico. At Takiwasi, the responsible for the project is Dr. Jacques Mabit, medical doctor, founder and president.
The ATOP project and its design were supported by two main sources of knowledge:
The first meeting held in Tarapoto in October 2013 was the starting point of this project. It gathered researchers from different Latin American countries, Canada and even Australia. It was a big success in terms of developing core principles and methods to apply to the various sub-projects to be implemented in different countries.
In a second stage, all the data collection instruments and respective translations have been developed. One of the ATOP challenges has been getting a package of validated tools in three study languages - English, Spanish and Portuguese. We proceeded with these individual projects but with the goal to integrate the data to tell a larger story about the therapeutic value of Ayahuasca for the treatment of addictions.
The Takiwasi Center
Takiwasi Center has been dedicated for the past 30 years to the treatment of addictions with the use of traditional Amazonian medicine, that includes the use of ayahuasca, dietas and purgative plants, complemented by psychotherapy and Western medicine.
The center is a therapeutic community in which the patient stays for 9 months, that is the time necessary for a full treatment. We also carry out a post-treatment follow-up of 1 to 3 years. The effectiveness of the treatment is around 65% and every year we receive a bigger demand of people from all over the world who are looking for an alternative and effective approach to this health problem that affects modern society.
Many of the people who arrive at the Takiwasi Center have unsuccessfully tried several conventional treatments with pharmaceuticals before deciding to turn to plants. The medicinal plants and specifically ayahuasca allow to access the transcendent dimension of human beings and connect them with the meaning of their lives, which is the particular issue that conventional treatments do not usually address. This treatment allows to reach the roots that underlies the problem of addiction and has been successfully applied to people from different cultural, religious and social backgrounds.
The goal with ATOP is to scientifically validate the efficacy of this innovative treatment protocol as a way to facilitate a wider understanding and approach to drug addictions and help more people to recover from this imprisoning condition.
ATOP Project at the Takiwasi Center
Good progress has been made with the ATOP project at the Takiwasi center. Starting from January 2016 we began formal recruitment of patients into the research project which lasted until May 2022. We have also collaborated with several researchers who have developed sub-projects for their Masters or PhD work. The data collection of the ATOP Peru project was carried out through questionnaires to gather quantitative data and in-depth interviews to collect qualitative data from the patients' experience during the Ayahuasca-assisted addiction treatment. These evaluations took place at the beginning, the middle and at the end of the treatment, and every 3 months in the post-treatment follow-up phase that lasts 1 year.
For the ATOP Takiwasi project it has been necessary to create a platform for data collection which, among other things, contains evaluation tests that are administered to the patients who have finished the treatment and are now in different parts of the world. In 2020, the minimum required number of patients evaluated in post-treatment follow-up was reached to start the data analysis. During 2020 and 2021, a methodology for the analysis of qualitative and quantitative data was developed. In 2021, an article was published describing the conception of the ATOP project and the research protocol adapted to the Takiwasi setting.
The preliminary results of the ATOP project have been presented by Dr. Brian Rush during the conference “From Research to Reality: Global Summit on Psychedelic Assisted Therapies and Medicine”, held in Toronto, Canada, May 2022. Currently, the publications to present the quantitative results are being prepared. Additionally, the analysis of the quantitative results will be deepened in a population of 52 patients for whom there is an evaluation at 01 year of follow-up, and the methodology for integrating the qualitative and quantitative data collected in interviews before, during and after treatment will be refined.
Articles related to ATOP published in academic journals:
Many of the people who arrive at the Takiwasi Center have unsuccessfully tried several conventional treatments with pharmaceuticals before deciding to turn to plants.
The personal experience of a patient at the final stage of the Ayahuasca-assisted treatment for addiction carried out at the Takiwasi Center.
A patient's point of view on conventional treatments that in his experience are ineffective in addressing the issues that are at the root of the addiction problem.
Cécile Giovannetti is one of the many researchers who have been interested in the work of the Takiwasi Center and the ATOP project.
The addiction treatment proposed by the Takiwasi Center is adapted to people proceeding from different contexts and cultures.
This is the first and largest multi-site, multidisciplinary research project on Ayahuasca-assisted Treatment for Mental Health and Addiction.