Research - Ongoing Projects

In the following list you can find the projects that are currently being developed within the framework of the research protocol of the Takiwasi Center.

1.
The Effectiveness of Ayahuasca for the Treatment of Addictions in Latin America

Researcher / Responsible : Brian Rush, Fernando Mendive, Sara García

Partner Institutions: Center for Addiction and Mental Health - Camh, Nierika.

The objective of this research is to systematically evaluate the therapeutic effects and effectiveness of the treatment for additions developed and applied for more than 20 years by the Takiwasi Center, in the San Martín region, Peru, which is based on the complementation of Traditional Amazonian Medicine with modern psychotherapy. It is an observational and longitudinal study of a prospective cohort that includes mixed methods. A sample of 30 resident patients of Takiwasi will be included. Participants will complete quantitative measures and conduct qualitative interviews at the beginning and at the end of treatment, and at 3, 6, 9, and 12 months after medical discharge. The instruments measure severity of addiction, quantity and frequency of consumption, motivation for treatment, mental health, quality of life, spirituality and satisfaction with the service. The interviews will explore in depth the subjective experiences of the patients about the treatment and about the possible explanatory mechanisms regarding the effectiveness of the treatment. In addition, this research will include an ethnography of Takiwasi's therapeutic context describing both the physical location and the cultural ideas about the problem and the healing processes among the Takiwasi staff. This research is part of an international research project called ATOP in which several American countries collaborate (Brazil, Canada, Peru, Mexico and Argentina). The results of this research will be shared with those carried out by other countries in order to jointly evaluate the effectiveness of the use of traditional Amazonian medicine for the treatment of addictions at a transcultural level. See the full presentation: Ayahuasca Treatment Outcome Project


2.
Global Ayahuasca Project

Researcher / Responsible : Daniel Perkins

Partner Institutions: Melbourne University – Australia.

The Global Ayahuasca Project is a multidisciplinary research project based at the University of Melbourne, Australia, and being undertaken in partnership with an international team of researchers from Brazil, Spain, the Czech Republic, and Switzerland. The project aims to increase understanding of the drinking of ayahuasca in different contexts around the globe and is exploring motivations and contexts of drinking, reported effects on health and well-being, and any potential risks. The study will be observational and use a mixed-methods approach combining the use of both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. Triangulation will be used to draw on qualitative perspectives of participants and those running ayahuasca centers/groups as well as quantitative data collected to provide a picture that is more holistic and robust (Vidovich 2003). There are three survey components as well as anthropological and sociological qualitative methods including ethnographic fieldwork, participant observation, and semi-structured interviews. To find out more please follow the link: Global Ayahuasca Project


3.
Observational exploration of intervention techniques in addictive pathologies in Takiwasi

Researcher / Responsible : Federico Cervi

Partner Institutions: Department of Education, University of Bologna, Italy.

The research in Takiwasi serves to develop skills in the treatment of problems related to the use of substances, expanding and relativizing the researcher's vision.
Objectives of the research: I) To explore the paradigm of dependence that underlies treatment. II) Analyze the intervention techniques used to face addictive behaviors (group therapy, workshops, ceremonies). III) Deepen the concept of "integration" linked to the intake of plants.
Methodology: qualitative research. The first part of the stay will be devoted to the study of texts, research and scientific publications produced on Takiwasi. The second part will include a direct observation of the activities. In the final part, the approach of the association will be explored through the use of semi-structured interviews.


4.
Anthropology of the encounter between spirits and humans in the "Singing House"

Researcher / Responsible : Alberto Dubbini

Partner Institutions: Institute of Religious Sciencie “Italo Mancini”, Urbino, Italy.

The research aims to collect data and propose interpretations about the following events that take place in the Takiwasi center: i) the rituals and their contexts; ii) the encounter between the catholic religion and the indigenous and mestizo religions and beliefs, between the catholic religion and the presence of spirits; iii) the religions and beliefs of healers and therapists; the encounter and the relationship of healers, therapists and the Catholic pastoral assistant with plants and spirits.
The data collection will be done through: i) observations to the extent possible; ii) recording of semi-structured interviews with available healers and therapists and to the Catholic pastoral assistant if available; iii) study analysis of the available data in the documentation center; iv) preparation and interpretation of the data.


5.
Psychiatric comorbidities, type of addiction and socio-economic status of patients in relation to the type of medical discharge

Researcher / Responsible : Victoria Defelippe, Annelèn J. Meriaan, Anna Schlütter

Partner Institutions: School for Mental Health and Neuroscience (MheNS), Maastricht University, Holland.

The research project aims to: 1) assess whether the effect of the treatment program is dependent on the type of addiction. The following types of addictions will be taken into consideration: cocaine, morphine, heroine, marihuana, alcohol, tobacco, amphetamines, LSD, ecstasy, synthetic drugs and pharmaceuticals; 2) determine whether psychosocial and socioeconomic factors, such as cognitive deficits, low alliance, personality disorders, young age, multiple addictions, and duration of addiction the risk are associated with an unsuccessful treatment with Ayahuasca. To determine this, a retrospective database analysis will be conducted to identify risk factors for successful treatment with ayahuasca; 3) elucidating whether different backgrounds of psychiatric comorbidities affect the outcome of AHA-assisted addiction therapy.


6.
The role of traditional Amazonian songs as therapeutic tools in psycho-emotional healing: A phenomenological study of musical experiences during the ceremonial practice of traditional medicine at Takiwasi

Researcher / Responsible : Maya Sherwin

Partner Institutions: Department of Health & Social Sciences, Faculty of Health & Applied Sciences, University of the West of England (UK).

The aim of this project is to generate a clear phenomenological account of experiences of traditional Amazonian healing songs and to analyze the role of these experiences in broader experiences of healing and psycho-emotional self-enquiry at Takiwasi. It is proposed that this description will sit within an interdisciplinary literature informed by the therapeutic protocol of Takiwasi. This is envisioned as a pilot project with the potential for indicating the direction of a larger study in this area.


7.
Evaluation of the efficacy of traditional Amazonian medicine, Ayahuasca and psychotherapy in alleviating depression and anxiety in patients following a residential addiction treatment at the Takiwasi Center in Peru

Researcher / Responsible : Cecile Giovannetti

Partner Institutions: Institute of Tropical Medicine and International Health Charité Universitätmedizin Berlin – Germany.

The main objective of the project is to "Generate preliminary evidence on the impact of traditional Amazonian medicine, psychotherapy and cohabitation on the intensity of depression and anxiety in patients that are undertaking a therapeutic program for substance abuse”. The proposed study presents an observational and longitudinal study design with a simple evaluation before and after the end of the therapeutic program: a simple pre / post design. Follow-up data and comprehensive assessment of the severity of addiction, in-depth patient profile and patient perceptions of the therapeutic program will be adequately analyzed upon ATOP’s finalization and this study will be limited to assessing the impact of treatment on the change of a small number of elements before and after treatment. The proposed study is not intended to represent the extensive work carried out with ATOP, but aims to open the way for the publication of this unique research project, presenting a limited part of the first results, developing an early methodological approach and informing the scientific community of the future publication of this work never seen before of great clinical importance.


8.
Investigation of Therapeutic Pluralism in the Peruvian Amazon

Researcher / Responsible : Olivia Marcus

Partner Institutions: University of Connecticut – U.S.

The present work is an anthropological research on the people, the setting and the protocol within the Takiwasi Center, to complement the review of the state of therapeutic pluralism in the Peruvian Amazon. In-depth interviews are conducted with residential patients, dietitians and staff of the Takiwasi Center. The study is currently in the information retrieval and analysis phase.


9.
The articulation of Ayahuasca in the treatment of addictions

Researcher / Responsible : Julio Portocarrero, Mae Francke

Partner Institutions: Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, Department of Social Sciences, Specialty of Anthropology.

The research analyzes the articulation of Ayahuasca in the treatment of addictions starting from the Takiwasi case, focusing mainly on the therapeutic practices of the different specialists who work in Takiwasi, who in their interactions and relationships establishment, negotiate and constitute the same medical therapy. In-depth interviews were conducted with Takiwasi staff. Among the preliminary conclusions we find that Takiwasi is a complex phenomenon, one of the first projects with the conscious goal of articulating practices of different medical systems with the aim of a treatment, but also a multi-voices space, with medical specialists of different formations, backgrounds and origins (plants, biomedicine, psychotherapy) that negotiate and dispute spaces of therapy, notions about health and disease, and protagonism in the healing process of the patient. Medical therapies are not rigid, are fluid and negotiable. The research is currently in the phase of collected information analysis and thesis development.


10.
Cultural Formulation Interview to characterize the population of Takiwasi within the framework of the ethnography of the ATOP project

Researcher / Responsible : Renato Alarcón

Partner Institutions: Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia - Perú.

Complementing the work done by ATOP, the application and analysis of the "Cultural Formulation Interview" to the Takiwasi’s team broadens the understanding of conceptions about mental health, addictions and recovery that people that work within the protocol of the Center have (integration of traditional and western medicine). This qualitative analysis proposes to be a publication in itself.


11.
Outcomes evaluation of the use of Amazonian Traditional medicines and ayahuasca in the treatment of addictions and other mental health disorders.

Researcher / Responsible : Anne Denys

Partner Institutions: French Ethnopharmacology Association, Public Health School at the Nancy University and APEMAC research Laboratory at Metz – France.

Abstract: Anne’s PhD project is yet under development and has the support of three French scientific institutions: the French Ethnopharmacology Association, the Public Health School at the Nancy University and the APEMAC research Laboratory at Metz. The project is based on her previous field research at Takiwasi Centre where she identified a set of key experiences during participation in indigenous healing practices along the treatment, claimed by clients and therapists as relevant and associated with recovery from severe alcohol and drug addiction. The research project aims at: i) correlate the occurrence of key experiences with treatment outcomes measured in terms of psychiatric symptoms, drugs and alcohol use and quality of life; ii) correlate qualitative evaluations of the therapeutic processes with quantitative results two years after discharge; iii) identify client’s characteristics and personality traits better adapted to Takiwasi’s programme and predictors of successful outcomes.


12.
Research Project Psychosis and Ayahuasca

Researcher / Responsible : Annalisa Valeri

Partner Institutions: José Bleger Center for Study and Research.

The aim of this research is to find out the relationship between ayahuasca and psychotic symptoms (unusual experiences defined as ravings, hallucinations, experiences of deep discomfort, severe depression, serious eating disorders) that arise once the ritual is finished and last up to a month after the ceremony. The hypothesis is that the ayahuasca ritual can allow ancient memories to emerge, as pre-verbal experiences that, if not integrated into a global vision, could lead to moments of fragmentation, with experiences of persecution. In the same way, the experience with ayahuasca could allow, through the emergence of ancient traumas and pre-verbal memories, to find a meaning to the symptoms that usually would not fit in the whole individual’s personality. This would mean that the experience with ayahuasca could have the therapeutic potential to modify and expand the awareness of lived experiences, not only at the individual level. Through the collaboration with the Takiwasi Center in Tarapoto, the research provides a study on 8 cases related to the Center that have experienced psychotic symptoms. The study will be carried out through the analysis of the material collected thanks to the Proyecto Plus platform, with the objective of finding out if ceremonies with ayahuasca could have therapeutic potential in the understanding and cure of psychotic symptoms or, on contrary, an effect of exacerbation and onset of latent psychoses. In addition, through different associations based in Italy, which perform rituals with ayahuasca, 10 interviews will be made to people who have come to this experience to cure psychotic experiences or have had psychotic experiences after an experience with ayahuasca, analyzing this way how the process has developed over time.


Takiwasi Center is also supporting Giorgia Tresca in her research on how the practice of the Dieta is being integrated in the European context, for a master thesis in Environmental Anthropology, University of Kent, UK.
Project title: Exploring the use of Amazonian-Peru Shamanic Dieta in a European context.
Summary: The global rise of interest in Amazonian shamanism has brought foreigners to apprentice as curanderos in Peru, and in some cases export Dieta back to their country of origin, using it both as an experimental tool for expanding knowledge on local medicinal plant flora as well as a form of therapy for their patients. This study will explore the medicinal Amazonian practice of Dieta and how it is being employed in the European context. Fieldwork will be carried out in France and will be based on observations and interviews with healers and their patients. Data will be complemented by a series of interviews on Skype with individuals who have experienced Dieta in other European countries and in Canada. Approaching Dieta as a multi species encounter, this research will question how plants are understood and related to in such cultural contexts, what meanings and knowledge are generated through Dietas and what function does this practice hold in such cultural environments.