Psychology of ayahuasca users in Estonia

MA thesis in psychology, defended in University of Tartu 29.01.2016

Helle Kaasik,


Objectives: The study aimed to describe psychology of ayahuasca users in Estonia. Their lifestyle, motivation for ayahuasca use, use-related activities and experiences, also subjective consequences of use were described. Indicators of personality, life quality and mental health of users were compared to those of non-users. Safety of use and attitudes of users about societal regulation of ayahuasca use were studied.

Method: 30 ayahuasca users (15 female) and 30 matched non-users completed questionnaires, tests of personality (EE.PIP-NEO, SNAP-2) and mental health (EEK-2, MoCA, Raven Standard Matrices and MINI neuropsychiatric interview). Textual answers were summarized by topics. Test scores were statistically analyzed.

Results: Ayahuasca use in Estonia occurred mainly in group ceremonies under guidance of experienced facilitators. Main motives for ayahuasca use were spiritual development, self-knowledge and spiritual experiences. No deterioration of mental or physical health of ayahuasca users in comparison to non-users was found. No abuse of ayahuasca or addiction to it was found. Screening test indicators of depression and anxiety were lower in ayahuasca-using group. Life satisfaction and happiness about life were higher in the ayahuasca using group. Personality of ayahuasca users was characterized by moderately lower neuroticism, higher openness and higher agreeability compared to test norms. Ayahuasca-using group had higher indicator of impulsivity and lower indicators of aggressiveness and propriety. Users see their use of ayahuasca as a serious and challenging spiritual practice that has mostly good influences on their mental health, social adjustment and personal development. Ceremonies were conducted in reasonably safe settings and users were aware of safety rules. Most users were dissatisfied with illegal status of ayahuasca, they preferred substantiated regulation of it.

Conclusions: No deterioration of mental health or quality of life in ayahuasca users was found. Differences found in their personality were moderate and benign. Users described their ayahuasca use as a serious spiritual practice that is mostly beneficial to their health and life.

Keywords: ayahuasca, psychedelics, ceremony, mental health, altered states of consciousness, personality, quality of life.

Website of the study (mostly in Estonian):

Full text of the thesis (in Estonian, summary in English)

Slides from the defense (in Estonian)

You can support my ongoing study of ayahuasca by bank transfer to:  Helle Kaasik, account number EE831010102003538001 in SEB bank (BIC/SWIFT: EEUHEE2X, bank address: Tornimäe 2, Tallinn, Estonia). All donations are by default confidential; if an acknowledgement on my webpage is OK for you, please send me e-mail about it to or write it into the explanation of the transfer.