Ayahuasca Treatment Outcome Project

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 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 includes 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 the Takiwasi Center the leaders of the project are Dr. Jacques Mabit, MD, Founder and President of the Takiwasi Center and Dr. Fernando Mendive, PhD in Biochemistry and Director of the Takiwasi Laboratory.

Our Progresses

The ATOP project and its design are supported by two main sources of knowledge:

  • The clinical experience of several institutions and therapists who have dabbled in the use of Traditional Amazonian Medicine and other ancestral medicines to treat addictions.
  • Scientific studies carried out during the last 20 years, mainly on the religious use of ayahuasca, in which beneficial effects in people with substance dependence and other mental health problems were reported (Grob, 1996, McKenna 1998, Halpern, 2008; Bouso, 2012).

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.

Since then, a lot has been done. With regard to core activities, all the common data collection instruments and translation needed have been finalized. One of the ATOP challenges has been getting a package of validated tools in three study languages - English, Spanish and Portuguese. Core activities which support the projects include assistance with proposal development, advice on methodology, staying informed of the most recent literature and the Ayahuasca research community activities, communications and more. We proceed 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 last 25 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 now 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.

Current Situation of the ATOP Project at the Takiwasi Center

Good progress has been made with the ATOP project at the Takiwasi center. We have finalized the data collection instruments and interview guidelines and completed pilot testing of the qualitative instruments and follow up procedure. We have successfully passed an ethics review process, which is essential for publication, and completed the planned ethnographic study: seventeen members of the staff including therapists, traditional healers and researchers were interviewed to get a full description of Takiwasi’s therapeutic protocol and model from a multidisciplinary point of view. Starting from January 2016 we began formal recruitment of patients into the research project. We have also started collaboration with several researchers who are currently developing sub-projects for their Masters or PhD work.

Psychologist Sara García is research assistant at the Takiwasi Center and responsible for the ATOP Peru project data collection, through questionnaires that gather quantitative data and in-depth interviews that collect qualitative data from the patients' experience during the Ayahuasca-assisted addiction treatment. These evaluations take 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.

What We Need Now

What we need now is to complete the data collection and move forward to reach the final goal which is to generate strong scientific evidence of the efficacy of the ayahuasca-assisted treatment! To reach this goal, we need to pay qualified experts. We are aiming to raise $75,000 to cover all the expenses related to this project for the years 2018, 2019 and 2020 which is supposedly when the project will come to an end. This period will include the stages of final data collection (during treatment and follow up), data analysis and publication. The budget will be used to pay the salary of researchers, system engineers, transcribers and equipment, among other project-related costs.

This kind of research is difficult to fund through traditional sources, yet it has the potential to improve many lives affected by mental health challenges, including addictions and to expand knowledge and awareness of the efficacy of plant medicine.

We believe that there are thousands of people interested in alternative treatment approaches to mental health conditions and addiction, as well as many researchers interested in studying psychotropic plants. We are counting on your help to move forward this promising line of research.


For more information on the Ayahuasca Treatment Outcome Project please write to: investigacion@takiwasi.com

Center for the Rehabilitation of Drug Addicts and Research on Traditional Medicine - Takiwasi

Address: Prolongación Alerta Nº 466, Tarapoto, San Martin, Peru

Phone: +51 (042) 52 2818 / +51 (042) 52 5479

Video presentation of the project ATOP Peru

Fundraising Campaign

Ayahuasca Treatment Outcome Project

There are thousands of people interested in alternative treatment approaches to mental health conditions and addiction, as well as many researchers interested in studying psychotropic plants. We are counting on your help to move forward this promising line of research.

Your contribution will help the success of this ambitious research project. You will be part of an extended and growing web of people around the world who care about research, plant medicine and innovation. If you cannot donate, even just assisting in spreading the word is an enormous contribution.

Help fund this groundbreaking research on Ayahuasca-assisted treatment for Mental Health and Addiction! Every donation counts and your interest does too!

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.