The Therapeutic Effects of Ibogaine

April 17, 2023 6 mins to read
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Ibogaine is a natural psychoactive substance derived from the roots of the Tabernanthe iboga plant, which is native to west Africa. It has been used in traditional medicine for centuries and has recently become a hot topic in western medicine for it’s therapeutic potential on a variety of psychological conditions.

The History of Ibogaine

Ibogaine has been used for centuries in traditional medicine. Indigenous communities used Ibogaine for healing, rights of passage and to engage in spiritual communication with ancestors. However Ibogaine has gained popularity in Western medicine for it’s potential as a breakthrough treatment for various mental health disorders including: addiction, anxiety, depression and PTSD (to name a few). Studies are still emerging and more research is needed to properly analyze the therapeutic effects of Ibogaine.

Ibogaine Benefits

  1. Addiction Treatment: Ibogaine has shown potential in treating drug addiction, especially opioid addiction. Studies have reported a reduction in withdrawal symptoms and cravings in individuals treated with ibogaine [1]. Research also suggests that it may be effective in addressing addiction to other substances like alcohol, cocaine, and methamphetamine [2].
  2. Depression and Anxiety: Limited studies have explored the potential of ibogaine to treat depression and anxiety. Some anecdotal reports and small-scale studies suggest that it may help alleviate symptoms by promoting introspection, emotional processing, and new neural connections [3].
  3. Neuroplasticity: Research suggests that ibogaine may have neuroprotective and neuroregenerative properties, potentially helping to repair and strengthen neural connections [4], which may contribute to improved cognitive function and mental health.
  4. PTSD and Trauma: Anecdotal reports and some early studies indicate that ibogaine may help address symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other trauma-related conditions. Its potential benefits might be related to its ability to promote the processing of difficult emotions and memories [5].

Ibogaine for Addiction

Ibogaine has been found to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and reduce drug cravings, which demonstrates it’s unique potential to help individuals overcome addiction. Researchers discovered that a single administration of ibogaine can lead to significant improvements in opioid-dependent individuals, providing long-lasting reductions in drug use [1]. Additionally, ibogaine has demonstrated efficacy in treating addiction to other substances, including alcohol, cocaine & methamphetamine [2].

Ibogaine for Depression and Anxiety

Anecdotal reports in small-scale studies show ibogaine can alleviate symptoms by facilitating introspection, emotional processing, and the formation of new neural connections [3]. In some cases, individuals who have undergone ibogaine treatment have reported improvements in mood, reduced anxiety & relief from depressive symptoms [3]. It is hypothesized that ibogaine’s influence on various neurotransmitter systems, including serotonin and glutamate, may contribute to its therapeutic effects on mental health [6].

Ibogaine for PTSD and Trauma

Some emerging research has shown anecdotal evidence which suggests ibogaine can help individuals process difficult emotions and memories associated with trauma, promoting healing and personal growth [5]. The visionary and introspective experiences induced by ibogaine when in a hallucinogenic state, are thought to facilitate a deeper understanding of one’s traumatic experiences, allowing for emotional resolution and integration [7]. The exact mechanisms underlying ibogaine’s therapeutic effects are not yet fully understood, though some researchers have theorized Ibogaine’s impact on neurotransmitter systems such as serotonin, may play a role in it’s therapeutic effects for PTSD [6].

Side Effects

While some evidence supports the potential health benefits and therapeutic affects of Ibogaine, many studies are preliminary and more research is needed. Also Ibogaine is illegal in several countries (including the USA), due to its hallucinogenic effects and concerns over its safety. The substance has been associated with several risks and side effects, including:

  1. Cardiac risks: Ibogaine can cause potentially life-threatening heart issues, including arrhythmias and QT interval prolongation. These risks are higher for individuals with pre-existing heart conditions.
  2. Neurotoxicity: Some animal studies have found evidence of neurotoxicity, suggesting that ibogaine may cause damage to certain neurons in the brain.
  3. Gastrointestinal issues: Nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain are common side effects of ibogaine use.
  4. Hallucinations and psychological effects: As a psychoactive substance, ibogaine can induce intense hallucinations, altered perceptions, and changes in mood. This could potentially trigger or worsen certain psychiatric conditions.

Suggested Reading

  1. Ibogaine: Scientific Literature Overview by Howard S. Lotsof and Boaz Wachtel
  2. Ibogaine: Proceedings of the First International Conference, Volume 56 (International Review of Neurobiology) edited by Kenneth R. Alper and Stanley D. Glick
  3. Psychedelic Drugs: The Science, the Politics and the Promise by Eduardo E. Schenberg
  4. Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism by Daniel Pinchbeck
  5. TIHKAL: The Continuation by Alexander T. Shulgin and Ann Shulgin

Conclusion

Ibogaine has shown promise in treating addiction and some mental health disorders, but research remains limited, and its use is associated with significant risks and side effects. More comprehensive, controlled clinical trials are needed to fully understand the potential benefits and risks of ibogaine therapy.

Also, While the potential therapeutic effects of Ibogaine are interesting and emerging, it is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional or a mental health specialist, for more information and guidance about it’s use, especially if you have preexisting health conditions, are pregnant or are on medications.

References

  1. Brown, T. K., & Alper, K. (2017). Treatment of opioid use disorder with ibogaine: Detoxification and drug use outcomes. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 44(1), 24-36. https://doi.org/10.1080/00952990.2017.1320802
  2. Mash, D. C., Kovera, C. A., Pablo, J., Tyndale, R. F., Ervin, F. D., & Kamlet, J. D. (2000). Ibogaine: Complex pharmacokinetics, concerns for safety, and preliminary efficacy measures. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 914(1), 394-401. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1749-6632.2000.tb05213.x
  3. Noller, G. E., Frampton, C. M., & Yazar-Klosinski, B. (2018). Ibogaine treatment outcomes for opioid dependence from a twelve-month follow-up observational study. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 44(1), 37-46. https://doi.org/10.1080/00952990.2017.1310218
  4. Molinari, H. H., Maisonneuve, I. M., & Glick, S. D. (1996). Ibogaine neurotoxicity: A re-evaluation. Brain Research, 737(1-2), 255-262. https://doi.org/10.1016/0006-8993(96)00652-5
  5. Davis, A. K., Barsuglia, J. P., Windham-Herman, A. M., Lynch, M., & Polanco, M. (2017). Subjective effectiveness of ibogaine treatment for problematic opioid consumption: Short- and long-term outcomes and current psychological functioning. Journal of Psychedelic Studies, 1(2), 65-73. https://doi.org/10.1556/2054.01.2017.007
  6. He, D. Y., & Ron, D. (2006). Autoregulation of glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor expression: Implications for the long-lasting actions of the anti-addiction drug, Ibogaine. The FASEB Journal, 20(13), 2420-2422. https://doi.org/10.1096/fj.06-6394fje
  7. Alper, K. R., Lotsof, H. S., & Kaplan, C. D. (2008). The ibogaine medical subculture. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 115(1), 9-24. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2007.08.034

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