Is Ayahuasca Effective?
Its a questions we all ask – Can this medicine really help me? We at New Life decided to try and fine some answers. We followed up with 52 former participants from our retreats with an anonymous survey of 16 questions to find out what they really thought of ayahuasca and how it effected them both short and long term.
We tried not to over complicate things and kept the questions simple to get a general understanding of how ayahuasca effects people. The results are a true testament to how effective ayahuasca really is. Here is brief breakdown of the responses.
1. Primary Interest in Ayahuasca Ceremonies
We asked participants to choose what their primary interest was for participating in ayahuasca ceremonies/retreats. Options included :
-To address depression/anxiety
-To address PTSD
-For Spiritual Connections / Understanding
-For General Personal Growth
-For Addiction Issues
-Just Curious about it
Participants were allowed to choose more than one options. The majority of people surveyed (64.7% – 33 people of 51) selected ‘For General Personal Growth’ followed closely by ‘For Spiritual Connections/Understanding’ (60.8% – 31 people of 51). Over one third of people surveyed (35.3% – 18 of 51) used ayahuasca as a means of addressing depression/anxiety. As we look at responses for ‘Addiction’ (19.6% – 10 of 51), ‘PTSD’ (13.7% – 7 of 51) or ‘Curiosity’ (7.8% – 4 of 51), we begin to see the percentages fall.
2. Age Group
We asked participants to select their age group. The results show us that people from all age groups have an interest in ayahuasca but the majority of the participants surveyed fell into the age group of 20-30 (36.5% – 19 of 52), followed by 30-40 (28.8% 15 of 52), and then 40-50 (21.2% – 11 of 52). We see the percentages start to fall as we reach 50-60 (9.6% – 5 of 52) and 60-70 (3.8% – 2 of 52).
Oddly enough we had a perfect split of 50%-50% men to women of participants surveyed. There is an equal interest in ayahuasca among both sexes.
4. Times Drank Ayahuasca
We asked participants how many times they have drank ayahuasca. Since all participants surveyed have attended a retreat with us, the majority of the responses (32.7% – 17 of 52) reported they have drank 3 times which coincides with our most popular retreat option. Those that selected 4 or more (26.9% – 14 of 52) are either guests that have returned to us more than one retreat or drank elsewhere either before or after attending New Life. Those results were equal to those that selected 2 times (26.9% – 14 of 52) and the smallest percentage of responses selected 1 time only (13.5% – 7 of 52) which shows us that they came for a retreat with the intention of drinking at lease twice but decided not to drink again after the first ceremony.
5. Benefit from drinking ayahuasca
These results are profound. When asked if the participants felt any benefit from drinking ayahuasca, an overwhelming majority (98.1% – 51 of 52) responded yes. Only ONE person (1.9%) of 52 participants surveyed responded ‘Maybe/Unsure’. There was not a single participant that felt they received NO benefit from drinking ayahuasca.
6. Intentions for the experience
Having intentions going into an ayahuasca ceremony is extremely important. We asked participants if they felt their intentions were addressed through the ayahuasca experience. A vast majority (73.1% – 38 of 52) people responded ‘Yes’ while 16.9% – 14 of 52 reported they were unsure/maybe. Zero of 52 survey participants selected ‘No’. This shows us that having a clear intention is important and is addressed in the majority of participants.
7. Expectations and Intentions
At New Life, we always tell people that while having intentions is paramount to the experience, it is also very important to keep an open mind and not have too many expectations. Often times there is a difference between the things we think we need and the things we actually need. The results show us that 70.6% – 30 of 51 people reported that the benefits they received were different from what they had expected while only 27.5% – 14 of 51 had their intentions addressed exactly as they had hoped. Only 1 person (2%) reported no benefit.
8. Benefits Received
We asked people to select a category for what they felt the benefits they received from ayahuasca most closely related to. Participants were allowed to select more than one option. The options were:
-Relationships with others
-View on life in general
-View of spirituality in general
A very large percentage (84.3% or 43 of 51) reported that ayahuasca had an impact on their view on life in general. Around 66% of people reported a benefit in the areas of mental health, confidence/self love, relationships with others and view of spirituality in general. 37.3% – 19 of 51 reported an impact on physical health and 15.7% – 8 of 51 received benefits relating to addiction of substance abuse. Comparing these numbers to the question asked in #1 – what was the primary interest in ayahuasca – we can see that most participants experienced benefits in multiple areas, not just in relation to the original intention.
9. How profound was the benefit?
We asked participants to rate on a scale of 1 – 10 how profound they felt the benefit they received was.
-1 being none or very little benefit
-10 being extremely profound/immensely beneficial
The results show us that the majority of people (38.5% – 20 of 52) rated their experience to be a 10, followed by an 8 (28.8% – 15 of 52), then 9 (15.4% – 8 of 52) and 7 (11.5% – 6 of 52). Only 2 people (3.8%) rated a 5 and just 1 person of 52 (1.9%) reported no or very little benefit. These results show us that the majority of participants ( a combined 94.2%) experienced a significant benefit (ratings of 7 or higher) from drinking ayahuasca.
Integration is a subject very often brought up in regards to ayahuasca therapy and/or psychedelic therapy in general. We asked participants to rate one a scale of 1-5 how successful they were in integrating their ayahuasca experience into their daily life. It is important to note that New Life Ayahuasca did not offer any integration support/follow up to any participants of the survey.
-1 being Not successful at all – I was not able to carry the things I learned back into my life
-5 being Extremely successful – I was able to take the things i learned and apply them to make changes to my life
Over half (54.9% – 28 of 51) participants rated their integration success as a 4 on the scale, with 11 participants (21.6%) rating themselves as being extremely successful. 9 participants (17.6%) rated their success as a 3, which could be considered moderate success. Only 3 participants (5.9%) selected a 2 or being unsuccessful in integration. These results shows us that even without integration support, the vast majority of people (a combined 76.6%) were successful in integrating their experience into their daily lives.
11. Difficulty in Integration
Here we asked people to rate on a scale of 1 -5 how difficult it was to make the integrations into their life.
-1 being Very Difficult – It was a lot of work to apply the things I had learned and make changes to my life
-5 being Very easy – The changes I made to my life came easily and without any obstacles.
Despite the majority of participants reporting they were successful in integrating their experience in #10, we see the majority here (30% – 15 of 50) selected 3 or moderate difficulty integrating the experience.28% – 14 of 50 selected 4 indicating they had little difficulty followed by 20% – 10 of 50 that selected 2 or much difficulty. 14% – 7 of 50 selected 5 or complete ease in their integration and the lowest percent of 8% – 4 or 50 found it extremely difficult to integrate. The results support our stance that ayahuasca is not a magic cure (as touched on in another blog post) and requires a lot of work by the individual to apply the things learned through the experience.
12. How long did the benefits last?
How long the benefits of ayahuasca last is always under contention. Keeping in mind that this survey was sent to participants of our retreats from as little as two week ago to as long as 2 years ago, this is probably the question that has the least reliable results. Obviously, if the survey was filled out by someone who was with us for a retreat only 2 weeks ago, their response for the duration of benefit would have to be two weeks or shorter, which affects the accuracy of what results would be compared to if we had only sent the survey to participants who attended a retreat 6 months ago or longer. Even considering that the flaw in our survey would tend to make reported result times shorter, we still see the majority 46.2% – 24 of 52 reported the benefits lasted 6 months or longer followed by 25% – 13 of 52 said the benefits lasted 3-6 months. From there we see the percentages drop to 15.4% – 8 of 52 selected 1 week – 1 month, 9.6% 5 of 52 selected 1-3 months and only 1 person (1.9%) selected each of the last two categories of 1-7 days or no benefit. We can see from the results the most people ( a combined 71.2%) experience some significant lasting benefit for 3 months or more.
13. Visions Vs. Visuals
There is so much information on the internet and personal stories reporting strong visual experiences. We wanted to know how many people experience actual visions vs just a visual experience. 86.5% – 42 of 52 participants surveyed reported having visions, which we defined here as a dream-like experience, a whole picture, having distinct imagery or receiving a message of value. Only 9.5% – 5 of 52 reported only experiencing visuals such as colors, patters and lights. Only 2 participants (3.8%) reported no visuals or visions. This shows us that while it is most common for participants to have clear visions on ayahuasca, it is not a 100% guarantee. There is always a possibility that you will only experience visuals, or nothing at all.
14. Importance of Ceremony
Ayahuasca is growing in popularity all over the world. And with its popularity comes people who wish to try and buy the brew online and drink it at home, or have groups drink together. New Life has always felt that the ceremony plays an extremely prominent role in how the medicine is experienced by the individual, and these results further support that claim. We asked participants to rate on a scale of 1-10 the importance of the ceremony to their experience.
-1 being Not important at all – would rather have done it without ceremony
-5 being Very important – I would never want to do it without ceremony
We can clearly see that the ceremony is an important part of the experience. 67.3% – 35 of 52 gave the importance the highest rating of 10 – that they would never want to experience ayahuasca with out proper guidance. Smaller percentages rated 8 (11.5%), 7 (7.7%), 9 (5.8%) and 6 (1.9%). Only 2 of 52 rated 2 (3.8%) and one person of 52 (1.9%) gave the ceremony no value with a rating of 1 – preferring to have done it without. The results show that a combined 92.3% of people surveyed selected a 7 or higher on the scale, clearly indicating the extreme importance of ceremony in regards to the experience of the medicine.
15. Religious Views
We asked participants how they would describe their religious views. 76.9% (40 of 52) reported being Spiritual but not religious, 13.5% (7 of 52) reported being Agnostic, 5.8% (3 of 52) reported being Christian, 1.9% (1 of 52) reported being Jewish and 1.9% (1 of 52) preferred not to say. The purpose of including this question in our survey was to show that people among diverse groups of faith are interested and could potentially benefit from ayahuasca.
16. Would you do it again?
We wanted to see how many of the participants in this survey had an interest in drinking ayahuasca again. 80.8% (42 of 52) said yes, no hesitation. 17.3% (9 of 52) said maybe/unsure and only one person out of 52 surveyed said they would not do it again.
We have seen the benefits of this medicine rage from mild to extreme. We, at New Life, never needed these numbers to confirm what we can see with our own eyes. The guests we have had return and the stories we have been told are evidence enough. We made this survey to help others understand how effective ayahuasca is, or can be. We wanted all people surveyed to feel comfortable by making all responses anonymous and help ensure that the responses given were honest and without obligation. We would like to extend our gratitue to all former guests who took the time to to complete this survey and contribute to our understanding on ayahuasca effectiveness.