Ibogaine addiction treatment: what is known?

Addictions to various substances are very difficult to treat. There are some therapeutic options such as ibogaine, which despite being effective, are still controversial.

Last update: 04 December, 2021

Drug overdose and physical dependence are a major cause of death worldwide. Fortunately, there are several methods used in managing addictions. Are you interested in learning more about ibogaine addiction treatment? Next we will tell you.

Ibogaine is a naturally occurring alkaloid-type chemical derived from the African tree Tabernanthe iboga. The plant was used since ancient times by religion bwiti and mbiri as part of their healing ceremonies. It is capable of acting as a mild stimulant, anesthetic and aphrodisiac in small doses. In addition, it induces hallucinogenic states at high doses.

Research confirms that ibogaine has been used for more than 40 years in the treatment of withdrawal and craving towards various drugs such as morphine and marijuana. However, its use still remains controversial due to its adverse effects on the heart and nervous system.

Effects of ibogaine on the body

Ibogaine is a psychoactive compound capable of stimulating the central nervous system. This substance is quickly catalyzed when entering the body and is transformed into a transitory metabolite, called noribogaine. It would be responsible for increasing the circulating levels of various neurotransmitters, such as dopamine.

This natural alkaloid promotes a feeling of well-being in the body. The effects of anti-addiction treatment with ibogaine may also be due to its ability to interact with central serotonin transporters and receptors.

Other effects associated with treatment with this compound are the following:

  • Decrease in fever.
  • Stimulation of sexual behavior.
  • Nervous excitement
  • Hallucinations and psychedelic states.
  • Anesthesia.

On the other hand, studies suggest that ibogaine significantly reduces symptoms and signs of heroin withdrawal and other opiate drugs. Similarly, it has shown great utility in treating various psychiatric disorders, such as depression and anxiety.

The treatment of opioid addictions is often using drugs that emulate some of the effects of the drug.

Use of ibogaine in the treatment of addiction

The use of ibogaine as an anti-addictive compound began in New York during the year 1960. However, it was declared an illegal substance in 1967, along with LSD and hallucinogenic mushrooms. It was also listed on Schedule I of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Years later, new open clinical trials were approved to study its efficacy and safety in controlling opiate dependence. Research in animal models has shown that ibogaine is able to stop the self-administration of cocaine, amphetamines and nicotine.

On the other hand, a retrospective investigation carried out in a small group of patients in Brazil showed an improvement in the signs of dependence. Of all the people studied, 61% of those who were treated with ibogaine and psychotherapy showed a marked improvement.

Various countries, such as New Zealand and Brazil, classify ibogaine as a pharmacological compound approved for use under medical supervision. This substance is believed intervenes in brain signaling responsible for regulating behavior and addiction response.

Similarly, the National Institute on Drug Abuse is developing a non-hallucinogenic version of ibogaine, called 18-methoxycoronaridine (18-MC). This research successfully completed Phase 1 human trials and is in the process of starting Phase 2.

Risks and adverse effects

This psychoactive alkaloid compound is associated with multiple adverse effects with a high risk of death. Secondary symptoms are generally due to the indirect effect of the compound on cardiac and nerve cells.

Some of the more common risks associated with ibogaine treatment include the following:

  • Seizures and epilepsy.
  • Difficulty coordinating movements.
  • Arrhythmias
  • Heart and respiratory failure.

In this sense, ibogaine therapy still continues to offer a fairly limited security profile. For this reason, it should only be used under strict medical supervision and with prior knowledge of the associated risks.

Cardiac adverse effects are dangerous with ibogaine, so its use is disputed.

Other options for treating addiction

There are different methods to counteract the damaging effects of drugs on the brain and compartment. The treatment protocol will depend on the severity of the clinical picture.

Behavioral therapies often provide the proper guidance to achieve a progressive and successful detoxification. Motivational stimulation therapy, family therapy, and 12-step programs are some of the most widely used. All seek to provide the tools to modify consumer behavior and deal with relapse-triggering situations.

Similarly, pharmacological methods are used to reduce withdrawal signs and improve health. Nicotine patches and inhalers are part of replacement therapies. Other medications used are methadone, buprenorphine, naltrexone, and disulfiram.

Ibogaine treatment: a promising future solution

Currently, ibogaine addiction treatment is controversial and still under study due to the lack of robust human data. This substance is considered illegal in most countries for its cardiotoxic and neurotoxic effects. However, in Brazil, New Zealand and South Africa, it has already been approved for use under medical supervision.

Fortunately, there are a wide variety of options for overcoming addictions. Affected people should only consult their trusted doctor before using any type of substance.

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