An ibogaine research project was funded by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse in the early 1990s. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) abandoned efforts to continue this project into clinical studies in 1995, citing other reports that suggested a risk of brain damage with extremely high doses and fatal heart arrhythmia in patients having a history of health problems, as well as inadequate funding for ibogaine development within their budget. However, NIDA funding for ibogaine research continues in indirect grants often cited in peer-reviewed ibogaine publications.
In addition, after years of work and a number of significant changes to the original protocol, on August 17, 2006, a MAPS-sponsored research team received “unconditional approval” from a Canadian Institutional Review Board (IRB) to proceed with a long-term observational case study that will examine changes in substance use in 20 consecutive people seeking ibogaine-based therapy for opiate dependence at the Iboga Therapy House in British Columbia, Canada.
The most-studied therapeutic effect of ibogaine is the reduction or elimination of addiction to opioids. An integral effect is the alleviation of symptoms of opioid withdrawal. Research also suggests that ibogaine may be useful in treating dependence on other substances such as alcohol, methamphetamine, and nicotine, and may affect compulsive behavioral patterns not involving substance abuse or chemical dependence. Researchers note that there remains a “need for systematic investigation in a conventional clinical research setting.”
Many users of ibogaine report experiencing visual phenomena during a waking dream state, such as instructive replays of life events that led to their addiction, while others report therapeutic shamanic visions that help them conquer the fears and negative emotions that might drive their addiction. It is proposed that intensive counseling, therapy, and aftercare during the interruption period following treatment is of significant value. Some individuals require a second or third treatment session with ibogaine over the course of 12 to 18 months. A minority of individuals relapse completely into opiate addiction within days or weeks. A comprehensive article (Lotsof 1995) on the subject of ibogaine therapy detailing the procedure, effects, and aftereffects is found in “Ibogaine in the Treatment of Chemical Dependence Disorders: Clinical Perspectives”. Ibogaine has also been reported in multiple small-study cohorts to reduce cravings for methamphetamine.
There is also evidence that this type of treatment works with LSD, which has been shown to have a therapeutic effect on alcoholism. Both ibogaine and LSD appear to be effective for encouraging introspection and giving the user occasion to reflect on the sources of their addiction, while also producing an intense, transformative experience that can put established patterns of behavior into perspective; ibogaine has the added benefit of preventing withdrawal effects.
Chronic pain management
In 1957, Jurg Schneider, a pharmacologist at CIBA (now a division of Novartis), found that ibogaine potentiated morphine analgesia. No additional data was ever published by CIBA researchers on ibogaine–opioid interactions. Almost 50 years later, Patrick Kroupa and Hattie Wells released the first treatment protocol for concomitant administration of ibogaine with opioids in human subjects, indicating that ibogaine reduced tolerance to opioid drugs. Their paper in the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies journal demonstrated that administration of low “maintenance” doses of ibogaine HCl with opioids decreases tolerance, but noted that ibogaine’s potentiating action could make this a risky procedure.
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