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.

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

Intercultural transdisciplinarity in Guatemala and Peru: A North-South-South learning platform for culturally pertinent public health provision systems for indigenous populations

Researcher / Responsible : Caroline Maake (Principal Investigator, Switzerland), Tatiana Paz Lemus (Guatemala), Juan Rubén Ruiz Zevallos (Peru)

Partner Institutions: The University of Zurich (Faculty of Medicine) steers the project in collaboration with local boards in Peru and Guatemala, composed of academic partners, indigenous associations, traditional health practitioners, as well as stakeholders from public health sectors of the different countries.

Despite efforts in the past, the health care of indigenous people in Latin America remains precarious. This is shown, inter alia, in their higher disease probability and mortality rate compared to the rest of the population. The underlying causes are complex. However, a lack of co-operation between divergent medical systems practiced in parallel, namely western biomedicine and traditional indigenous medicine, can be seen as a major obstacle to improved health care in these countries. In our project, which concentrates on Peru and Guatemala we will, thus, create the conditions for a comprehensive, intercultural learning platform that considers both the concepts of traditional indigenous medicine and conventional biomedicine. As a prerequisite for that, an initial project focus will for the first time comprehensively examine and document the fundamentals of indigenous medicine on health, illness and therapy from a medical and socio-scientific point of view. A next step will comprise patient-centered approaches, in which western medical staff and traditional medical practitioners will be setting up joint medical collaborations. Accompanying workshops will be organized for the involved interest groups as a framework for the exchange of experience, transdisciplinary communication and the development of future, efficient, integrative medical concepts. In line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, we hope that our project will sustainably strengthen local traditions, reduce social inequities, strengthen the right to health and education, and, thus, promote the establishment of peaceful and inclusive societies. This project is financed by the Swiss Programme for Research on Global Issues for Development (r4d programme).
More information

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Treating the addiction with the Amazonian medicine: Protocol for assessing the process of the 6 key points of this therapy

Researcher / Responsible : Anne Denys

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

In South America, therapies using techniques of traditional medicine for the treatment of addictions have expanded. Literature suggests that 6 key points underpin one of these therapies: an experience of initiatory death; the release of an emotional charge; the discovery of one's purpose; the acknowledgement of its responsibility; of the sacred aspect of life or nature and that only the ritual use of natural psychoactive substances can be beneficial. The objective is to test the validity of the 6 key points of this therapy and to demonstrate, for each key-point, that patients reaching the key point have better follow-up results than other patients after one year post-treatment.

Music and Ayahuasca Shamanism: The Politics of Indigeneity and Cultural Tourism in the Huallaga of Peru

Researcher / Responsible : Owain J. Graham

Partner Institutions: PhD Candidate, Ethnomusicology, University of California Riverside, United States.

Tourism is an integral pillar of Peru’s economy and its importance is forecast to continue to grow. As such, it is increasingly important to study and understand the cross-cultural encounters that tourism engenders and the effects of these encounters on the local and international level. To this end, the current project focuses on shamanic tourism centered around the city of Tarapoto, Peru and the nearby town of Lamas, at the northern end of the Huallaga valley region. This study seeks to understand how shamanic tourism is operating (as a circular process or otherwise) in the case of Peru’s Huallaga valley. Thus, the purpose of this study is to (1) investigate the motivations of tourists and hosts participating in shamanic rituals and ceremonies, (2) to investigate the specifics of changes to ritual music and structure and the logic behind these changes, (3) to investigate the processes of shamanic tourism both locally, in the area around Tarapoto, and in the lives of tourists as they return home. The primary questions guiding these research goals are the following: Given that these rituals are being exported through the networks of tourism, what factors active in the local community and encounters within ritual spaces determine the version(s) of shamanic practices that are exported? What are the political, cultural, and economic concerns influencing these determinations in each phase of the tourism process? If the data gathered in this study suggest a circular process at work within shamanic tourism, how does the on-tour phase affect and overlap with the post-tour and pre-tour phases, shaping how tourism is practiced as the process propagates forward? How does tourism shape international discourses and understandings of South American shamanism and indigeneity? How does shamanic tourism figure into current processes of “re-indigenization” as the Huallaga region is recovering from not only a history of colonization but more recent political violence that drove expressions of indigeneity underground. By focusing on the role of music and ritual in the process of cultural production in the border zone of shamanic tourism this research seeks to ameliorate a number of gaps within the existing literature on ayahuasca shamanism and tourism in the contemporary moment. This project is based in participant-observation ethnography. It is primarily a qualitative study, though it will collect demographic information from participants to better understand who is involved in shamanic tourism and why.

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