Does Ayahuasca Change Personality Like Other Psychedelics?

The story may not be so simple, as it has been demonstrated with psilocybin.

Evan Lewis-Healey

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Photo by Joshua Fuller on Unsplash

A recent study has found an inconsistent change in participants’ personalities following a session with the powerful psychedelic, ayahuasca.

This study comes off of a long string of research, attempting to underpin whether psychedelics have the ability to fundamentally change an individual’s personality.

A Brief Psychedelic History of Personality Change

As children, our brains are easily perturbed by the outside world. New experiences intersect with our genetic predispositions, ultimately shaping who we are. However, as we grow older, our personality starts to stabilize, and generally doesn’t change after the age of 30.

However, previous work with substances such as psilocybin has found that psychedelics have the potential to fundamentally change who we are.

One such study, conducted over a decade ago at Johns Hopkins University, found that psilocybin, the psychoactive component in magic mushrooms, could make participants’ more open. That is, after taking psilocybin, participants’ were likely to value aesthetics such as art and dance more highly, and become more tolerant of others viewpoints.

However, these findings have been criticized — the authors only found significant changes in personality when they pooled two samples of participants together. So, the question still looms for scientists: Can a psychedelic experience really change someone’s personality?

The Study in Question

The recent study, published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, aimed to test just this, by investigating the effects of ayahuasca, a psychedelic brew combined from plants found in the Amazonian basin, on personality.

Two samples were also pooled together in this study — each was originally designed to assess the effects of ayahuasca on emotion, face recognition, and empathy, and used slightly different study designs.

In total, there were 30 volunteers who on one occasion took ayahuasca, and on the other took a placebo. Prior to…

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Evan Lewis-Healey

PhD candidate at Cambridge University. Studying the cognitive neuroscience of altered states of consciousness.