Brian Anderson, MD, MSC

Brian Anderson, MD, MSC

Ayahuasca Communities & 12-Step Programs.

Brian Anderson is a resident physician in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. He earned his MD at Stanford University. He also has an MSc in Biomedicine, Biotechnology and Society from the London School of Economics where he wrote his thesis “Classifying Ayahuasca: The Role of Subjective Experience in Psychiatric Research with Psychedelics” under the orientation of Dr. Ilina Singh. He has a BA in Biochemistry with a minor in Latin American and Latino Studies from the University of Pennsylvania.

He speaks English, Spanish and Portuguese, and he has been conducting ethnographic research with different communities of drug users since 2005.

He has studied migrant Mexican communities in the United States, the Uniao do Vegetal ayahuasca religion in Brazil, cognitive enhancer use in the UK, and mutual aid groups for addiction recovery in Mexico.


Presentation Abstract:

A Higher Power: What can ayahuasca communities learn from 12-step fellowships?

What can the ayahuasca-drinking communities learn from the successes and shortcomings of the 12-step fellowships like Alcoholics Anonymous? Long before ayahuasca circles populated the spiritual imaginaries of North America, 12-step groups served as safe containers wherein individuals could encounter a Higher Power and find healing in a spiritual community. And while maintaining its independence from modern allopathic medicine, the 12-step movement has made more progress than any other new religious movement in terms of being accepted by mainstream medicine, collaboratively generating research that demonstrates its benefits, and receiving referrals from medical professionals. Drawing on my participant-observation-based research conducted over the last 10 years with different ayahuasca-drinking communities and 12-step recovery groups, I offer some suggestions for how ayahuasqueros might wish to develop their organizational structure and spiritual practices in order to most benefit the communities they serve.

More About Brian Anderson

Brian’s goal as a researcher has long been to put qualitative methods to work in helping scientists, health practitioners and policy makers better understand marginalized spiritual movements, particularly those that partake of entheogenic substances or otherwise engage in ecstatic spiritual practices. Brian is highly appreciative of the many communities that have collaborated with him over the years, especially the different legally-sanctioned entheogen religions that have graciously shared with him their teachings, prayers and sacraments.

Recommended Reading

Statement on Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca as Antidepressant?

Ayahuasca and Depression


Núcleo de Estudos Interdisciplinares sobre Psicoativos

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