Addictive Potential: None
Emergency Room Visits Yearly: Unknown
Mandatory Minimum Sentence: Unknown
Mechanism of Action: Noncompetitive antagonist at α3β4 nicotinic receptors; NMDA antagonist; Sigma2 and 5HT2A agonist, among others (see a more detailed discussion below)
Ibogaine is a psychoactive indole alkaloid from root bark of the rain forest shrub Tabernanthe iboga. Like other hallucinogens, it can be made synthetically. Natives of western Africa cultivate and use iboga as a stimulant, aphrodisiac, hunting aid, and in higher doses as a sacrament in religious rituals.
The researchers identified ibogaine as the bark’s main psychoactive agent in 1901, then studied its central nervous system effects and cardiovascular pharmacology through the early twentieth century. In the nineteen fifties, CIBA Geigy Pharmaceutical Co. investigated ibogaine’s ability to lower blood pressure. At the same time, some French mountaineers used it on long expeditions to fight hunger and fatigue.
In 1962-63 Howard Lotsof, now head of a company called NDA International, held a series of group experiments to show ibogaine’s effect on cocaine and heroin addiction. In 1969 and 1973, psychiatrist Claudio Naranjo was first to report using ibogaine as a hallucinogen in experimental psychotherapy. Then in 1985, Lotsof applied for utility patents on ibogaine for the treatment of opiate-narcotics addiction, cocaine addiction, and as a treatment for polydrug dependence disorders.
While ibogaine’s prohibition has slowed scientific research into ibogaine’s anti-addictive properties, the use of ibogaine for drug treatment has grown in the form of a large worldwide harm reduction medical subculture. Ibogaine is now used by treatment clinics in 12 countries on 6 continents to treat addictions to heroin, alcohol, powder cocaine, crack cocaine, and methamphetamine as well as to facilitate psychological introspection and spiritual exploration.
The graph below (Ray, 2010) shows the affinity of Ibogaine for forty-two receptors, arranged in order of decreasing affinity (click the image to enlarge).
As explained by Ray (2010), “The black vertical bar represents a 100-fold drop in affinity relative to the receptor with the highest affinity. As a rule of thumb, this is presumed to be the limit of perceptible receptor interaction. Receptors to the right of the black bar should be imperceptible, while receptors to the left of the black bar should be perceptible, increasingly so the further left they are” (p. 14).
Side Effects and Adverse Reactions:
One of the first noticeable effects of large-dose ibogaine ingestion is ataxia, a difficulty in coordinating muscle motion which makes standing and walking difficult without assistance. Xerostomia (dry mouth), nausea, body tremors, and vomiting are also possible.
According to MAPS.org, “…ibogaine use has a mortality rate of about 1 in 300. Deaths from ibogaine have been attributed to bradycardia (slowing of the heart), lethal combinations with other substances, liver problems, and other conditions. Anyone interested in using ibogaine to treat substance abuse should carefully weigh the risks and benefits of treatment, and should ensure that medical assistance is available during the session.”