Ibogaine’s anti-addictive effects related to both its pharmacology and induced subjective effects
A newly released study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review discusses how the psychological insights facilitated by ibogaine may play a substantial role in the therapeutic process concerning substance use disorders (SUD).
Researchers from the International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research and Service (ICEERS) and the Medical Anthropology Research Center (Rovira i Virgili University, Tarragona), in collaboration with the Autonomous University of Madrid and São Paulo University at Ribeirão Preto, carried out interviews with 13 participants with SUD motivated by their self-treatment with ibogaine.
"Ibogaine is increasingly being used for the treatment of substance use disorders," said José Carlos Bouso, the study's principal investigator. "What this study points to is that ibogaine's anti-addictive effects seem to be related not only to its complex pharmacology but also to the subjective experience it induces. The main aspects of this experience seem to be related to autobiographical memories, transpersonal experiences, and valuable personal insights which help individuals to confront their SUD more comprehensively."
Ibogaine is an alkaloid found naturally in plants such as Tabernanthe iboga, which has been used in traditional medicine and spiritual lineages in Central Africa, for example, Bwiti. Since Howard S. Lotsof discovered ibogaine's anti-addictive properties in 1962, it has been used experimentally to treat SUD, particularly those involving opioids.
The mechanisms of action through which ibogaine exerts its anti-addictive effects are not yet clear. However, it is evident at this time that ibogaine modulates SUDs via multiple targets. This study reports that the psychological effects and subjective experiences of ibogaine seem to play a central role in its anti-addictive effects.
"Ibogaine may provide certain meaningful insights, such as showing someone the reasons that led to their substance use disorder. This can help them come to terms with their own mortality and offer immense relief and self-acceptance," said Dr. Bouso.
Administering high doses of ibogaine (commonly known as "flood doses") that are highly visionary may be necessary to achieve benefits from the initial treatment. But this may also increase the risk of adverse effects. Research into efficacy and safety is therefore needed. ICEERS is currently undertaking the first-ever clinical trial examining the safety of low, repeated doses of ibogaine in the treatment of methadone dependence. At the same time, the University of São Paulo is conducting the first clinical trial examining the safety of low and repeated doses of ibogaine in the treatment of alcohol dependence.
The study has been published with open access thanks to the agreement between the Universitat Rovira i Virgili and Wiley publishing house.
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Dr. José Carlos Bouso
Scientific Director, ICEERS