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Obscure psychedelic substance called ibogaine can help defeat drug addiction, study suggests

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Could a mysterious hallucinogen used by shamans during healing ceremonies deep in the forests of Gabon be the key to defeating addiction? Though it sounds unlikely, preliminary research suggests a little-known psychedelic chemical called ibogaine could help people who abuse alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine overcome their substance dependence.

Ibogaine is one of the psychoactive chemicals found in the root bark of the African Tabernanthe iboga plant, which has been used in the shamanic rituals of the Bwiti religion in West Africa.

A team of researchers in Brazil has found that the use of ibogaine can facilitate prolonged periods of abstinence without serious complications when the drug is administered by a physician and accompanied with psychotherapy. Their findings were published September 29 in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

In the early 1960s, anecdotal reports surfaced that ibogaine could help defeat opiate addiction, prompting some researchers to begin examining the anti-addictive properties of the drug. However, the investigation into ibogaine’s potential has been severely limited due to its illegal status in many countries.

“After these initial uncontrolled case reports, non-clinical, clinical and laboratory-based research has sought to assess ibogaine’s efficacy in the treatment of opioid addiction. At least two case studies have demonstrated the drug’s effectiveness at reducing cravings during opioid withdrawal: one from 32 patients treated at a clinic, and another from 33 patients treated in non-medical settings,” Eduardo Ekman Schenberg of the Federal University of Sao Paulo and his colleagues explained in their study.

Ibogaine has not been outlawed in Brazil, and the drug has been used to treat addiction since at least 2001. For their research, Schenberg and his colleagues investigated 75 drug-dependent patients who attended a private clinic that used a combination of ibogaine and cognitive-behavioral therapy to fight substance abuse.

Patients at the clinic — who suffered addictions to alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, and crack — were evaluated by multi-professional team of therapists and doctors before being administered ibogaine in a controlled setting.

The patients were administered ibogaine in the morning in a private hospital room, where they stayed overnight. The psychedelic experience lasted approximately 10 hours, and the patients were provided with psychological or emotional support if needed.

“This typically involved reassuring clients that all effects and reactions were part of the experience. Patients were encouraged to be quiet, calm and confident,” the researchers explained.

After their psychedelic experience, the patient continued receiving psychotherapy from the clinic, and were sometimes given another dose of ibogaine in the months following the first session.

The patients reported “surprisingly long periods of abstinence,” the researchers remarked, “reaching a median of 5.5 months after the first ibogaine session and 8.4 months after all subsequent ibogaine sessions.”

The eight women in the study all “reported that they were abstinent at the time of contact, and only two reported having had a relapse after the initial ibogaine session,” Schenberg and his colleagues wrote. “Both of these women then took ibogaine a second time and have reportedly not relapsed since.”

A majority of the men in the study, 58 of the 67, also stated that they were abstinent, “but 10 of those were currently undergoing other treatment interventions,” the researchers said. “Except for those 10, 38 (57%) men achieved abstinence with no other treatments.”

None of the patients report serious adverse effects, but many of them did report mild adverse reactions to ibogaine such as nausea, ataxia, vomiting, tremors, headaches and mental confusion.

Though the results seem promising, Schenberg and his colleagues cautioned that more rigorous scientific research is needed before ibogaine becomes an accepted treatment.

“Indeed, only a randomized double-blind clinical trial could accurately assess” the true potential of ibogaine as a treatment for drug addiction, they wrote.

“Despite the limitations of the present report, outlined above, the present data are the first formal clinical report to our knowledge that suggests that ibogaine has a strong therapeutic potential in the treatment of dependence to stimulants and other non-opiate drugs and that the medical complications previously reported can be avoided by administering the compound in the presence of a physician in a safe and legal medical setting,” the researchers concluded.


  • Jonathan

    GABON Is in CENTRAL AFRICA

  • vini77

    I believe legalizing psychedelics is the next fight that will be fought after Marijuana, take mushrooms for example, the fact that the government even has the temerity to suggest banning plants that grow on cow poop, allowing you to explore your own consciousness without harming others is beyond ridiculous. The fact that these compounds are mostly immensely beneficial and nonaddictive just adds to the case.

  • desurt trippur

    Criminalize the problem, criminalize the cure: the government policy that has stonewalled research for decades while swelling the US prison population to the largest per capita in the world. It’s as bad as the Catholic Church in the days of Galileo, where dogma trumped science and wildly inaccurate proclamations were the law of the land.

    Ibogaine has been known about for many years, as the article mentions. More recently, better-known entheogens like LSD have shown similar promise to help addicts kick their habits.

    The war on drugs is its own worst enemy – and one of society’s greatest poisons.

  • Peter

    Love how they try to lump Cannabis addiction in with alcohol and heroine. Was that just a stupid mistake or an attempt to deliberately be misleading ? The writer of the article should of mentioned caffeine too, can I use Ibogaine to help cure my caffeine addiction cause I am drinking a cup right now and am a slave to the coffee and it’s dreaded pushers. But seriously Ibogaine has been known to be effective for years and is legal for this purpose in Canada in case anyone is wondering where they have to go for treatment.

    • ParallaxView

      Pot may not be as physically destructive as other drugs, but I’ve seen plenty of people who are are extremely addicted to it. By that I mean they can’t manage to go a day without it. They do it before they go to work or while on breaks. My cousin couldn’t leave the house without smoking it, and they can all tell themselves they couldn’t possibly be addicted because they have so many people claiming it’s not an addictive substance. Do I think it should be illegal? No. You should be able to have what ever vice you like in my opinion.

      • Peter

        In my younger years I have quit daily pot smoking cold turkey with no problem whatsoever on multiple occasions, try that with Heroine or a drinking problem and then we can talk about lumping marijuana in there with those types of drugs. Marijuana is about as hard to quit as chocolate.

  • Ar1k

    Having done Ayahuasca, LSD, mushrooms and many other psychedelics in my life I’m all for mind exploration, expansion and altering through plant medicines or substances. However I must note that there was a case of a guy my age (around 25) who died after taking Ibogaine, with no appearant reason, and that’s only the one I heard of having never heard of anything happening to anyone after ibo,aya or whatever. A team of doctors including my sister could not find the reason why he died, he was in perfect health. So when I see a post like this with only positive stories and promising results that are shown I feel the need to balance the whole thing a bit. It is not without risk taking Ibogaine, psychedelics never are just like everything in life I guess; but I know there will be young people looking at articles like this and ignore or never hear about possible side effects, so this little bitchy comment of mine hopefully prevents just that 😉

    • Kahlil

      So basically, a guy took ibogaine, and then he died from “unknown causes” which could very well be something totally unrelated to ibogaine. While I understand and agree with your point that you need an aspect of balance and reason to really accurately perceive things, saying something like this proves absolutely nothing. You failed to actually link the man’s death and ibogaine together. It’s not without risk? What are the specific risks of taking ibogaine? You’re not helping anyone by being so vague.

  • I found ‘God’ with psychedelics, there is my purpose for legalization.

  • Ibogaine will definitely help fight addiction!