Ede Frecska is Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Debrecen, Hungary. He received his medical degree in 1977 from the Semmelweis University in Hungary. He then earned qualifications as certified psychologist from the Department of Psychology at Eötvös Lóránd University in Budapest. Dr. Frecska completed his residency training in Psychiatry both in Hungary (1986) and in the United States (1992). He is a qualified psychopharmacologist (1987) of international merit with 17 years of clinical and research experience in the United States. During his early academic years, Dr. Frecska’s studies were devoted to research on schizophrenia and affective illness. He published more than 75 scientific papers and book chapters on these topics. In his recent research he is engaged in studies on psychointegrator plants and techniques. He is particularly interested in the physiological role of endohallucinogen compounds (DMT, 5MeO-DMT, and bufotenin). Dr. Frecska is a member of several professional organizations (APA, ECNP, CINP), and has received grants and awards from a variety of sources (NARSAD, NIAA).
TITLE: The therapeutic potentials of ayahuasca against various diseases of civilization
Ayahuasca is an Amazonian psychoactive brew of two main components. Its active agents are β-carboline and tryptamine derivatives. As a sacrament, ayahuasca is still a central element of many healing ceremonies in the Amazon Basin and its ritual consumption has become common among the mestizo populations of South America. Ayahuasca use amongst the indigenous people of the Amazon is a form of traditional medicine and cultural psychiatry. During the last two decades, the substance has become increasingly known among both scientists and laymen, and currently its use is spreading all over in the Western world. The presentation will describe the chief characteristics of ayahuasca, discuss important questions raised about its use, and provide a brief overview of the scientific research supporting its potential therapeutic benefits. A growing number of studies indicate that the psychotherapeutic potential of ayahuasca is based mostly on the strong serotonergic effects, whereas the sigma-1 receptor agonist effect of its active ingredient dimethyltryptamine raises the possibility that the ethnomedical observations on the diversity of treated conditions can be scientifically verified. Moreover, in the right therapeutic or ritual setting with proper preparation and mindset of the user, followed by subsequent integration of the experience, ayahuasca has proven effective in the treatment of substance dependence. The presentation has two important take-home messages: 1) the therapeutic effects of ayahuasca are best understood from a bio-psycho-socio-spiritual model, and 2) on the biological level ayahuasca may act against chronic low grade inflammation and oxidative stress via the sigma-1 receptor which can explain its widespread therapeutic indications.