Updated: Feb 5
Ibogaine is an indole alkaloid extracted mainly from the Tabernanthe iboga plant that grows in West Africa. It has been used traditionally for centuries in Gabon for its healing effects and as part of rituals and initiation ceremonies.
In 1962 Howard Lotsof discovered the anti-addictive properties of ibogaine since then there’s a growing culture that uses ibogaine for treating addiction to heroin, methadone, alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine and other drugs while it is also used for treating mood disorders (e.g. depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc.) and for psycho-spiritual development.
Ibogaine works in the mind and psychological self, allowing a person to release stories and patterns clearing the path to start developing new ways of being and behaving, and connecting spiritually.
Ibogaine is a tryptamine, an alkaloid believed to play a role in the brain as a neuromodulator and neurotransmitter, it acts as an agonist (binding to the receptor and triggering a response) to the serotonin receptor 5-HT2A. The serotonin receptors are found in the central and peripheral nervous systems modulating the release of many neurotransmitters, including glutamate, GABA, dopamine, epinephrine/norepinephrine and acetylcholine, as well as hormones including, oxytocin, prolactin, vasopressin and cortisol, among others. The serotonin receptors influence various biological and neurological processes such as aggression, anxiety, appetite, cognition, learning, memory, mood, nausea, sleep, and thermoregulation (Popik & Skolnick, 1998).
Ibogaine affects many different neurotransmitter systems simultaneously, it also acts as an antagonist (blocks agonists’ effects) of the NMDA receptor set (a glutamate receptor that is the predominant molecular device for controlling synaptic plasticity and memory function) and an agonist for the κ-opioid receptor set (a protein that binds opiate-like compounds in the brain, mediating the perception of pain, consciousness, motor control and mood) (Popik & Skolnick, 1998).
Studies show that ibogaine promotes the production of GDNF. The glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) is a secreted protein, best known for its role in the development of the central and peripheral nervous systems and the survival of adult dopaminergic neurons. GDNF is elemental for brain plasticity and for the health of the nervous system, repairing and rewiring the brain after disease or injury. A person with a drug abuse damages the brain’s ability to repair itself and weakens the nervous system, making it very hard for the body to become healthy and find balance.
In the Chacruna article by Ignacio Carrera, he writes:
“What does ibogaine do in the brain to promote these anti-addictive effects? Using a computer as a metaphor, ibogaine has effects on both the “hardware” (e.g., neural circuitry, and neurotransmitters and their receptors) and “software” (e.g., personality, ego structure) of the brain. Effects on the “software” are very potent because of the psychedelic nature of the drug, and a lot of users have claimed that the insight gained by these effects has allowed them to pursue profound changes in their lives, including changing their relationship with their drugs of abuse. This potential has also been deeply explored in psychotherapeutic settings.
Regarding the “hardware”, ibogaine has effects on several receptors in the brain and in the neurotransmitter systems. Especially important for our ongoing research is that ibogaine can promote the release of small proteins called “neurotrophic factors” in some parts of the brain.”
These are substances that promote survival, repair and protection processes in the brain tissue.
Substance abuse or addiction is considered a chronic condition due to the long-term effects it has on the reward system of the brain, ibogaine restores the brain to a healthy balanced state. Ibogaine beneficial effects stay in the body for weeks after its initial administration since it is converted into noribogaine by the liver and it is released into the body. Noribogaine longer-acting nature contributes to the therapeutic benefits of ibogaine treatment by rewiring the affected areas of the brain damaged by the abuse of drugs.