Ibogaine, a compound derived from a shrub in western Central Africa, may help reduce symptoms of drug and alcohol withdrawal, relieve cravings, and reduce the risk of repeated use, according to some anecdotal and preliminary research evidence.
Despite the fact that some researchers believe ibogaine may be an excellent alternative therapy, it is classified as a Schedule I substance by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). This classification indicates that it is actually illegal in the United States and has no licenced medical use.
This article delves further into ibogaine, including what the literature suggests about using it to treat addiction so far, as well as the risks. It also includes a list of other psychedelic substances that may be useful in the treatment of addiction.
Ibogaine is an alkaloid, a type of compound. Tabernanthe iboga, a medium-sized shrub native to western Central Africa, contains the most abundant alkaloid.
T. iboga is used in various ways by the Bwiti religion for healing and religious purposes. In addition to having hallucinogenic properties, the shrub’s roots and root bark can be used to:
- restoring good health
- increasing sexual arousal or behavior
- reducing fever
T.iboga leaves are sometimes used as an aphrodisiac. Furthermore, their anaesthetic properties allow them to numb pain.
Ibogaine appears to be a mild stimulant in small doses, according to research. Larger doses, on the other hand, can cause hallucinations and a profound psychedelic state. This condition has the potential to dramatically minimise opioid withdrawal symptoms and block drug cravings.
Ibogaine became common in Europe and the United States as a nonaddictive treatment choice for drug addiction in the 1980s. Ibogaine has also been linked to the treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders, alcoholism, and depression, according to some studies.
Addiction treatment with ibogaine
Despite the fact that ibogaine is classified as a Schedule I opioid, researchers re-examined the substance as an addiction treatment in the late 1990s.
Scientists have not yet studied ibogaine in placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trials, according to a 2020 report in Nature. Instead, they’ve just looked at ibogaine’s possible advantages in open-label trials, in which everybody knows what kind of treatment they’re getting.
Anecdotal evidence about ibogaine’s medical applications often suggest that it has potential as a medication, although these reports are often focused on hearsay, observations, or historical accounts, rather than clinical studies and trials.
Even if researchers determine ibogaine’s medicinal properties, other major issues can prevent it from being used as a therapeutic. For example, humans have overexploited T. iboga, making large quantities of ibogaine difficult to obtain. There are currently only three methods for synthesising ibogaine, all of which require several steps and yield extremely low yields.
Ibogaine’s safety profile is also currently unacceptable. The compound builds up in fatty tissues and can block potassium channels, resulting in heart attacks. Ibogaine toxicity has also claimed the lives of many individuals. Ibogaine may also cause extreme hallucinations that last for more than 24 hours.
Ibogaine’s possible medical applications are still being investigated by researchers all over the world, especially as a treatment for addiction and neuropsychiatric disorders. Thousands of research have looked into the various properties of ibogaine, as well as its possible applications and effectiveness. Ibogaine is currently classified as a prescription drug that can only be used by approved medical practitioners in Brazil, South Africa, and New Zealand.
According to some studies, ibogaine alters the brain’s addiction-related or facilitating pathways between nerve cells. It can also influence signalling in brain regions involved in the addictive behavioural effects of drugs.
In a 2014 study in Brazil, 75 people who had previously used cannabis, cocaine, crack cocaine, or alcohol were recruited. Participants who obtained one ibogaine treatment said they had been drug-free for 5.5 months on average. Those who had numerous ibogaine treatments stayed off the drugs for an average of 8.4 months.
In 2017, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Research (MAPS) contributed to the funding of two observational studies supporting the use of ibogaine as a treatment for opioid abuse.
Ibogaine therapy strengthened opioid withdrawal symptoms and decreased subsequent drug use in people who had failed to respond to other treatment methods in the first of these trials, which took place in Mexico.
In the other study, researchers in New Zealand found that a single ibogaine treatment decreased opioid withdrawal symptoms in people who were addicted to opioids over the course of a year. It also assisted people in quitting or reducing their opioid use. However, one participant in the study died as a result of the procedure.
Some scientists are currently working on ways to make psychedelic compounds like ibogaine safer by lowering their ability to induce hallucinations.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse promised $6.5 million in 2012 to produce 18-methoxycoronaridine, a nonpsychoactive form of ibogaine (18-MC). Researchers have completed a phase 1 human clinical trial of 18-MC, and phase 2a clinical trials are in the works.
Ibogaine is classified as a Schedule I controlled drug by the DEA. Ibogaine is classified as follows by this classification:
- has no currently accepted medical use
- lacks evidence to show that it is safe for use under medical supervision
- has a high risk of abuse and addiction
- can be a dangerous substance
Ibogaine is also poisonous, and it has the ability to cause paralysis, convulsions, and death from respiratory or heart failure.
In peer-reviewed scientific works, 30 people have died as a result of ingesting ibogaine, according to MAPS. However, the association argues that most of these deaths could have been prevented if researchers had adequately screened for medical problems, monitored electrolyte levels, and monitored cardiac health.
Other psychedelics to treat addiction
The use of psychedelic medications for addiction recovery, such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and psilocybin, which includes the active ingredient psilocin, is also supported by open-label trials and anecdotal accounts.
Other psychedelics that have been proposed as addiction therapies by the medical community include:
- peyote (mescaline)
- substituted N-benzyl phenylalkylamines
- N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT)
- 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)
While early research on ibogaine has shown promise, the DEA has classified it as an illicit and hazardous drug in the United States.
The explanation for this classification is that there isn’t enough large-scale clinical evidence to back up ibogaine’s efficacy or protection as a drug or validate how to use it therapeutically.
Ibogaine, on the other hand, seems to have a lot of promise, and researchers are continuing to investigate its therapeutic applications, with more and more studies appearing.
At this time, it is important to remember that people should never attempt to buy or use ibogaine without first consulting a licenced healthcare professional. It is against the law and can result in death.
- Brown, T. K., et al. (2017). Treatment of opioid use disorder with ibogaine: Detoxification and drug use outcomes.
- Cameron, L. P., et al. (2020). A non-hallucinogenic psychedelic analogue with therapeutic potential.
- Drugs of abuse: A DEA resource guide. (2017).
- What to know about ibogaine treatment for addiction. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/ibogaine-for-addicition
- Ibogaine. (2021).
- Ibogaine therapy. (n.d.).
- Kim, K., et al. (2020). Structure of a hallucinogen-activated Gq-coupled 5-HT2A serotonin receptor.
- Nigam, K. B., et al. (2021). Do hallucinations have a role in the treatment of addictions? A review of the current literature [Abstract].
- Noller, G. E., et al. (2017). Ibogaine treatment outcomes for opioid dependence from a twelve-month follow-up observational study.
- Other psychedelic research. (n.d.).
- Schenberg, E. E. (2014). Treating drug dependence with the aid of ibogaine: A retrospective study [Abstract].
- Tabernanthe iboga — Baill. (n.d.).
- Underwood, M. S., et al. (2021). A narrative review of the pharmacological, cultural and psychological literature on ibogaine.