Ibogaine is a psychoactive alkaloid naturally occurring in the root bark of the West African shrub iboga. While ibogaine is a mild stimulant in small doses, in larger doses it induces a profound psychedelic state. Historically, it has been used in healing ceremonies and initiations by members of the Bwiti religion in various parts of West Africa. Since 1960 it has been administered in the western world to people with problem substance use. Reduction of withdrawal symptoms have recently been reported and a temporary elimination of substance-related cravings.
Reports on therapeutic use
Iboga and ibogaine are used to treat opiate, stimulant, alcohol and nicotine dependence as well as other psychological disorders.
In 2005 it was reported that ibogaine expresses the growth factor GDNF — glial cell derived neurotrophic factor – and that GDNF not only regenerates damaged dopamine neurons, but back-signals to the cell nuclei to express more GDNF. The idea is that in this way, a benign, self-sustaining loop is established that obviates the need for artificial elevation of dopamine levels and persists without administration of additional ibogaine.
Recently positive anti-viral and immune-modulatory effects have been reported in the treatment of hepatitis C, herpes simplex, asthma, and even multiple sclerosis.
In some countries (USA, UK, France) iboga is prohibited. Meanwhile, some 30-40 clinics or solo practicians around the world are administering ibogaine, mostly for the treatment of addiction.
In the absence of large doubly-blinded, randomized clinical trials of ibogaine for treatment of substance dependence, access to ibogaine which is now unregulated, but condoned in a few countries, is actually threatened.
Before ibogaine can be made available as a regular medication. clinical trials are necessary. Both public entities and pharmaceutical companies have refused to invest in such clinical research until now. It is unclear why some practitioners of maintenance therapies support this resistance to research.
We call upon the international harm reduction movement to eschew any role in the further banning of ibogaine access or research into its use against addiction and diseases such as hepatitis C, which currently kills more people in the advanced world than AIDS.
Naturally, we encourage proper observance of safety measures. But good clinical data can be obtained, even in the absense of placebo-controlled, randomized trials, by careful longitudinal record-keeping of ibogaine after-effects, which prohibition discourages.
The dissemination of safety information to treatment providers worldwide virtually eliminated adverse medical events in 2008-9.
Given its particular effects there is little chance that iboga will be used recreationally.