What is Ibogaine?Ancient Roots, Cutting-Edge Ibogaine Addiction Treatment
Ibogaine has been gaining more attention worldwide as the opioid epidemic sweeping through American destroys countless lives while pharmaceutical companies offer few effective solutions other than highly profitable maintenance medications, which do little to address the underlying disorder and simply replace one highly addictive substance, with another equally – or more – addictive drug. Meanwhile, addiction experts and researchers continue publishing monographs in peer-reviewed medical journals demonstrating ibogaine’s putative efficacy in interrupting drug dependence disorders.
If you’re here reading these words, you’ve probably heard something about ibogaine, but you may be uncertain what ibogaine actually is, or what the differences are between iboga and ibogaine. Whether you are seeking out addiction treatment for yourself or a loved one, or possibly you’re just curious about how these substances work for individuals fighting to free themselves of their addictions, this section will hopefully answer your questions.
Ibogaine is a naturally occurring psychoactive indole alkaloid derived from the roots of the African rain forest shrub Tabernanthe iboga. Ibogaine is part of the Apocynaceae family and traditionally used by the Bwiti, indigenous peoples of Western Africa; in low doses to combat fatigue, hunger and thirst. Use of higher doses of ibogaine is part of spiritual initiation ceremonies.
Ibogaine hydrochloride (ibogaine HCl) was first extracted from Tabernanthe iboga in 1901 by Dybowsky and Landrin. Research into the central nervous system and cardiovascular actions of ibogaine began appearing in scientific literature during the early 1900s. After the introduction of Rauwolfia and overall interest in the Apocynaceae family of which Tabernanthe iboga is a member, the pharmacology of ibogaine was extensively studied by French pharmacologists early in the 20th century.
Iboga vs. Ibogaine
Iboga doesn’t actually refer to a single plant; it can be a reference to multiple indigenous plants including Voacanga africana, Tabernanthe manii, and Tabernanthe iboga. All three of these have been used for hundreds of years in traditional initiation and coming of age ceremonies utilized by different African cultures. In this context, a large dose of root bark might be consumed as part of a vision quest to mark a rite of passage. Sometimes smaller amounts are consumed for hunting and healing ceremonies.
Traditional practices which often involve ingesting very large amounts of iboga root bark in order to achieve a psychoactive effect, tend to come with a plethora of side-effects such as vomiting, nausea, and gastric distress associated with consuming very large quantities of fibrous plant matter. While the “purging” experience can be likened to what is experienced with Ayahuasca, the reality is that all these variables are less than ideal when used in a clinical setting, on drug-dependent individuals who may not be in the best of health to begin with, and are ingesting ibogaine with the intention of breaking an intractable pattern of drug dependence and abuse.
Ibogaine is only one of multiple active alkaloids that can be found in the various plants used in these ceremonies — there are in fact at least eleven other active compounds found in various species of iboga. Some, such as tabernanthine, have similar active properties, but many other compounds present have questionable properties for which there is an absolute lack of scientific research; the mode of action of these alkaloids is not presently understood and may significantly contribute to adverse events while undergoing ibogaine treatment.
Spiritual initiation ceremonies and practices of traditional cultures can be profoundly interesting and enlightening to experience by healthy, non drug-dependent individuals, but are extremely difficult to integrate within medically-based treatment centers where we have a strong need for safety, consistency, predictability, and a controlled, clinically-monitored experience and outcome.
Nearly all ibogaine research published in peer-reviewed monographs has taken place with ibogaine hydrochloride. When we use the word “ibogaine” unless otherwise expressly stated, we are referring to ibogaine HCl, which is the “active ingredient” found within ibogaine that interrupts drug-dependence disorders. We utilize 99.8% pure ibogaine HCl produced in a cGMP lab, which appears as off-white crystals. Our safety protocols utilize multiple, staggered doses of ibogaine, including an initial “flood” dose at the maximum end of the safe dosing range which is determined by Mg/Kg of bodyweight. The first flood is followed by two additional ibogaine boosters to eliminate any residual withdrawal that heavily-addicted patients may experience.
For your third and final dose of ibogaine, we offer healthy guests who are physically stable, the opportunity to receive another dose of ibogaine HCl, or the chance to ingest Tabernanthe iboga TA (total alkaloid) extract, in a safe and medically-monitored environment. The situation and needs of every guest are unique and we are happy to dialogue with you regarding your wants and desires, balanced by what your medical condition makes possible at a given point in time.
The initial pharmacological, pharmacokinetic, chemical and behavioral studies led to the initial introduction of ibogaine in France during the 1930s, in the form of a pharmaceutical medication, introduced under the tradename Lambarene. Lambarene was marketed in France as a mental and physical stimulant, anti-depressant, and for healthy individuals during times of greater than normal physical or mental exertion.
Lambarene contained approximately 5-8mg. of ibogaine, per tablet. Lambarene was prescribed in cases of depression, asthenia, convalescence, and infectious disease. Lambarene was finally removed from the market in 1967 when the sale of ibogaine-containing products was prohibited.
Ibogaine’s Anti-Addictive Properties
The history of utilizing ibogaine to break the cycle of drug-dependence is relatively short. While it is likely that the U.S. government who dosed inmates with ibogaine at the Lexington, KY, federal “narcotics farm” under the auspices of Harris Isbell, M.D — as well as CIBA pharmaceuticals, who were investigating ibogaine as an anti-hypertensive agent — were both aware of ibogaine’s anti-addictive properties; neither entity chose to share this information with the rest of the world. It is unknown what exactly was contained within Dr. Harris Isbell’s data, because all records have been declared lost. The fact that the research took place, has been recorded; the actual data, purportedly no longer exists. CIBA abandoned further research, because they were unconvinced of ibogaine’s commercial viability.
Timeline of Ibogaine Development
Modern use of ibogaine for the purpose of interrupting drug-dependence, all stems from the anecdotal observations and discoveries made by Howard S. Lotsof. Mr. Lotsof was an opioid-dependent individual who was experimenting with psychedelic drugs. After doing ibogaine in 1962 he made the pivotal discovery that a single dose of ibogaine had apparently ended his physical dependence on heroin.
Based on anecdotal reports from groups of self-treating drug-dependent individuals in America and Europe, which indicated that a single dose of ibogaine completely obviated opiate withdrawal and produced significant reduction in cravings for opiates, opioids, cocaine, alcohol and other addictive drugs; in 1985 the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) granted Howard Lotsof a patent for using ibogaine as an ultra-rapid opioid detox.
The USPTO green-lighted Howard’s original patent for ibogaine vs. opiates and semi-synthetics that are derived from natural product chemistry, such as heroin, hydromorphone, and oxycodone; as well as fully synthetic opioids such methadone, meperidine, and fentanyl. After the initial ibogaine patent demonstrating efficacy for ultra-rapid opiate and opioid withdrawal was approved, Mr. Lotsof was granted an additional series of patents between 1986-1992 for utilizing the ibogaine molecule as an ultra-rapid method for interrupting or attenuating a large spectrum of poly-drug dependency syndromes.
Initial Series of Ibogaine Patents:
- 1985 – Rapid method for interrupting the narcotic addiction syndrome (USPTO #: 4,499,096)
- 1986 – Ibogaine vs. stimulants (cocaine and amphetamine. USPTO #: 4,587,243)
- 1989 – Ibogaine vs. alcohol (USPTO #: 4,857,523)
- 1991 – Ibogaine vs. nicotine (USPTO #: 5,026,697)
- 1992 – Ibogaine as a Rapid method for interrupting or attenuating poly-drug dependency syndromes (USPTO #: 5,152,994).
Research Within the United States:
- 1991 – the Medications Development Division of NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse), is impressed enough with the existing scientific evidence showing ibogaine’s putative ability to attenuate withdrawal symptoms, in animal testing, to start investigating ibogaine addiction treatment in human subjects.
- 1992 – July 15th, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) convenes a Drug Abuse Advisory Committee to review their policy on doing research with Schedule I drugs. The advisory committee recommends that Schedule I drugs should be evaluated using the same standards the FDA uses for all other molecules.
- 1993 – The FDA grants Dr. Deborah C. Mash and scientists at the University of Miami School of Medicine, permission to conduct a limited Phase 1 Pharmacokinetic and Safety Trial using ibogaine in human subjects (IND 39,680).
- 1995 – A review committee at NIDA decides to suspend further funding for ibogaine research. After several years of sustained interest, NIDA decides to cease all funding of the Ibogaine Research Project and marks grant submissions with “Not for Further Consideration.” The end. Due to a total lack of any financial support for clinical research, dose-escalation studies within the United States never progressed beyond this date.
Healing VisionsIbogaine Research Project & Healing Visions Institute for Addiction Recovery, St. Kitts, West Indies
When NIDA suspended funding for the FDA-approved clinical trials of ibogaine in 1995, Dr. Deborah Mash — the only scientist ever granted FDA approval to administer ibogaine to human, drug-dependent subjects within the United States — proceeded with her research via a revolutionary, patient-funded, experimental facility located in St. Kitts, the West Indies.
The Ibogaine Research Project collected data on over 300 treatment episodes between 1996-2003 and published a groundbreaking series of monographs appearing in peer-reviewed journals, regarding the efficacy of ibogaine in interrupting drug-dependence syndrome. We can unequivocally state that ibogaine has anti-addictive properties. Research further suggests that ibogaine may return the individual’s physical and psychological state to a pre-addictive modality. Anecdotal reports have continued to demonstrate immediate reduction in drug cravings, extreme attenuation of withdrawal symptoms and greater self-control. While studies are still preliminary, the results to date offer tremendous hope.
Dr. Alberto Solà, Howard S. Lotsof and Patrick K. Kroupa. Painting by Alex Grey.
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