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Ayahuasca ceremonies: set and setting features across Italy and Colombia

Federica Ambrosini (Department of Education Studies “G. M. Bertin”, Università di Bologna, Bologna, Italy)
Laura Pariset (Department of Education Studies “G. M. Bertin”, Università di Bologna, Bologna, Italy)
Roberta Biolcati (Department of Education Studies “G. M. Bertin”, Università di Bologna, Bologna, Italy)

Drugs, Habits and Social Policy

ISSN: 2752-6739

Article publication date: 16 October 2023

Issue publication date: 28 November 2023




Ayahuasca ceremonies are currently practiced all over the world. This study aims to investigate ayahuasca ceremonies in Colombia (where ayahuasca use is culturally entrenched) and Italy (where ayahuasca use has only recently spread).


In total, 32 Italian (53% males; 47% females) and 28 Colombian (79% males; 21% females) ayahuasca ceremony participants completed an online survey. Ceremonial setting and set (motivations for ayahuasca use, ayahuasca perceived effects and features of participants, i.e. drug use and problematic use, interpersonal dependency, spiritual orientation and quality of life) were investigated. Mann–Whitney U test, Pearson’s χ2 test and Fisher’s exact test were used to compare the Italian and Colombian samples.


No differences emerged in the ceremonial setting. Slight differences were observed in motivations for ayahuasca intake and religious beliefs, but not in the preparation for ceremonies, quality of life, interpersonal dependence and spiritual orientation. Italians showed greater use of other psychoactive substances and more drug use problems.

Practical implications

Prevention regarding safer practices of consumption should be promoted to avoid improper uses.


Few studies have explored ayahuasca ceremonies (set and setting characteristics) in countries with different traditions on ayahuasca consumption. The results highlight that the use and experience of ayahuasca can take on different meanings depending on the cultural context.




Conflict of interest: On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethics approval: The present research was performed in line with the principles of the Declaration of Helsinki and was approved by the Bioethical Committee of the University of Bologna (Prot. n. 69843, 25/03/2022).

Consent to participate: Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


Ambrosini, F., Pariset, L. and Biolcati, R. (2023), "Ayahuasca ceremonies: set and setting features across Italy and Colombia", Drugs, Habits and Social Policy, Vol. 24 No. 4, pp. 351-371.



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