Introduction: This paper reports results from a preliminary observational study of ayahuasca-assisted treatment
for problematic substance use and stress delivered in a rural First Nations community in British Columbia, Canada.
Methods: The “Working with Addiction and Stress” retreats combined four days of group counselling with two expert-led
ayahuasca ceremonies. This study collected pre-treatment and six months follow-up data from 12 participants on several
psychological and behavioral factors related to problematic substance use, and qualitative data assessing the personal
experiences of the participants six months after the retreat.
Findings: Statistically significant (p < 0.05) improvements were demonstrated for scales assessing hopefulness,
empowerment, mindfulness, and quality of life meaning and outlook subscales. Self-reported alcohol, tobacco and cocaine
use declined, although cannabis and opiate use did not; reported reductions in problematic cocaine use were statistically
significant. All study participants reported positive and lasting changes from participating in the retreats.
Conclusions: This form of ayahuasca-assisted therapy appears to be associated with statistically significant improvements
in several factors related to problematic substance use among a rural aboriginal population. These findings suggest
participants may have experienced positive psychological and behavioral changes in response to this therapeutic approach,
and that more rigorous research of ayahuasca-assisted therapy for problematic substance use is warranted.