Metabolite of psychedelic drug ibogaine reduces nicotine self-administration in rats

An obscure psychedelic drug could help people end their cravings for one of the most addictive drugs in the world, nicotine.

New research has found that noribogaine reduces nicotine self-administration in rats who are addicted to the drug. The study was published online May 20 in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

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 Africa. Preliminary research has found ibogaine can help defeat addictions to alcohol, cannabis, cocaine and other drugs — but scientists are still in the very early phases of understanding the drug’s effects and efficacy.

Noribogaine, the primary human metabolite of ibogaine, “displays a slow pharmacokinetic clearance rate in humans and was proposed to be responsible for many of the human in vivo effects seen after ibogaine therapy,” the researchers explained.

The rats in the study were able to self-administer nicotine by pressing a lever in their cage. For two hours after receiving a dose of noribogaine, the rats reduced self-administration of nicotine by up to 64 percent. A group of rats used as controls, who could self-administer food rather than nicotine, also showed a moderate decrease in self-administration of food after receiving a high dose of noribogaine.

“The findings indicate that noribogaine attenuates the reinforcing effects of nicotine,” the researchers said, adding that further studies to assess noribogaine’s efficacy and side effects are warranted.