OPEN Foundation

Iboga / Ibogaine

Mechanisms of antiaddictive actions of ibogaine


Ibogaine, an alkaloid extracted from Tabemanthe iboga, is being studied as a potential long-acting treatment for oploid and stimulant abuse as well as for alcoholism and smoking. Studies in this laboratory have used animal models to characterize ibogaine’s interactions with drugs of abuse, and to investigate the mechanisms responsible. Ibogaine, as well as its metabolite, noribogaine, can decrease both morphine and cocaine self-administration for several days in some rats; shorter-lasting effects appear to occur on ethanol and nicotine intake. Acutely, both ibogaine and noribogaine decrease extracellular levels of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens of rat brain. Ibogaine pretreatment (19 hours beforehand) blocks morphine-induced dopamine release and morphine-induced locomotor hyperactivity while, in contrast, it enhances similar effects of stimulants (cocaine and amphetamine). Ibogaine pretreatment also blocks nicotine-induced dopamine release. Both ibogaine and noribogaine bind to kappa opioid and N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors and to serotonin uptake sites; ibogaine also binds to sigma-2 and nicotinic receptors. The relative contributions of these actions are being assessed. Our ongoing studies in rats suggest that kappa agonist and NMDA antagonist actions contribute to ibogaine’s effects on opioid and stimulant self-administration, while the serotonergic actions may be more important for ibogaine-induced decreases in alcohol intake. A nicotinic antagonist action may mediate ibogaine-induced reduction of nicotine preferences in rats. A sigma-2 action of ibogaine appears to mediate its neurotoxicity. Some effects of ibogaine (e.g., on morphine and cocaine self-administration, morphine-induced hyperactivity, cocaine-induced increases in nucleus accumbens dopamine) are mimicked by kappa agonist (U50,488) and/or a NMDA antagonist (MK-801). Moreover, a combination of a kappa antagonist and a NMDA agonist will partially reverse several of ibogaine’s effects. Ibogaine’s long-term effects may be mediated by slow release from fat tissue (where ibogaine is sequestered) and conversion to noribogaine. Different receptors, or combinations of receptors, may mediate interactions of ibogaine with different drugs of abuse.

Glick, S. D., & Maisonneuve, I. S. (1998). Mechanisms of antiaddictive actions of ibogaine. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 844, 214-226.
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Hallucinogenic botanicals of America: A growing need for focused drug education and research


Botanical sources for medicines in America have been known since long before the arrival of Columbus. Nevertheless, both scientists and the general public are often unaware that some of these botanical drugs are also potent intoxicants. We provide a quick overview of hallucinogenic and dissociative drugs harvested from nature or that are openly and legally cultivated in the United States. Examples of harmful outcomes reported in the media are contrasted with existing responsible ingestion by others, some of whom have the protected right to do so for traditional or sacramental religious purposes. Despite an ongoing and expensive effort to warn people of the potential harms of recreational drug use, little is known about the extent of use of these psychoactive botanicals, and the recent explosion of information available via the Internet could herald a storm of morbidity to come. Mounting more targeted research and educational efforts today may reduce later use and abuse, inform society about the special circumstances of religious use, and better prepare clinicians and other health care providers about the issues involved when people choose to indigenously source psychoactive drugs for human consumption.

Halpern, J. H., & Sewell, R. A. (2005). Hallucinogenic botanicals of America: A growing need for focused drug education and research. Life sciences, 78(5), 519-526.
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Do entheogen-induced mystical experiences boost the immune system? Psychedelics, peak experiences, and wellness


Daily events that boost the immune system (as indicated by levels of salivary immunoglobulin A), some instances of spontaneous remission, and mystical experiences seem to share a similar cluster of thoughts, feelings, moods, perceptions, and behaviors. Entheogens – psychedelic drugs used in a religious context – can also produce mystical experiences (peak experiences, states of unitive consciousness, intense primary religious experiences) with the same cluster of effects. When this happens, is it also possible that such entheogen-induced mystical experiences strengthen the immune system? Might spontaneous remissions occur more frequently under such conditions? This article advances the so called “Emxis hypothesis” – that entheogen-induced mystical experiences influence the immune system.

Roberts, T. B. (1999). Do entheogen-induced mystical experiences boost the immune system? Psychedelics, peak experiences, and wellness. Advances in Mind-Body Medicine, 15, 139-147.
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Receptor binding profile suggests multiple mechanisms of action are responsible for ibogaine's putative anti-addictive activity


The indole alkaloid ibogaine (NIH 10567, Endabuse) is currently being examined for its potential utility in the treatment of cocaine and opioid addiction. However, a clearly defined molecular mechanism of action for ibogaine’s putative anti-addictive properties has not been delineated. Radioligand binding assays targeting over 50 distinct neurotransmitter receptors, ion channels, and select second messenger systems were employed to establish a broad in vitro pharmacological profile for ibogaine. These studies revealed that ibogaine interacted with a wide variety of receptors at concentrations of 1-100 microM. These included the mu, delta, kappa, opiate, 5HT2, 5HT3, and muscarinic1 and 2 receptors, and the dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin uptake sites. In addition, ibogaine interacted with N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) associated ion and sodium ion channels as determined by the inhibition of [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][3H]MK-801 and [3H]bactrachotoxin A 20-alpha-benzoate binding (BTX-B), respectively. This broad spectrum of activity may in part be responsible for ibogaine’s putative anti-addictive activity.

Sweetnam, P. M., Lancaster, J., Snowman, A., Collins, J. L., Perschke, S., Bauer, C., & Ferkany, J. (1995). Receptor binding profile suggests multiple mechanisms of action are responsible for ibogaine’s putative anti-addictive activity. Psychopharmacology, 118(4), 369-376.
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Placeboing with Psychedelics

Letter to the editor

When we consider the so-called “placebo effect,” we should realize that it is not something mysterious that merely happens on its own. It is something we do with our minds that effects our bodies. To be more accurate: we placebo. To placebo is a verb. Our minds plus our bodies do this, and like any other human activity we can speak of placeboing. When looked at this way, we can ask: How do we placebo? and Can we learn placeboing more skillfully?

A clue comes from studies of stress and emotions in the immune system. It is widely known that negative emotions and stressful life events weaken the immune system, while positive emotions and life events strengthen it. Since positive life events strengthen our immune system, here is a clue to learning to placebo.

A common healing cluster of positive feelings and thoughts accompany many instances of spontaneous remission and spiritual healing. These include feelings of exceedingly positive mood, being cared for in the hands of a loving power, dropping stress, feelings of sacredness, feeling at home in the world, among others. Thoughts include a sense of temporarily transcending one’s identity, forgiving oneself and others, overwhelming gratitude, and increased sense of reality—this is the way things really are and ought to be.

If we can reproduce this cluster, we will be on the way to learning to placebo. Various mindbody techniques including meditation, imagery, contemplative prayer, yoga, the martial arts, breathing techniques, hypnosis, and chanting all suggest a yes answer to this question, and more research to follow these apparent leads may lead to learning how to use these mindbody methods to increase our placeboing skills by strengthening our immune systems.

Do examples of extreme positive emotional states produce extreme healing? The recent flurry of articles about current research into exploring the psychotherapeutic use of psychedelics for post traumatic stress disorder, death anxiety, and other disorders show that these substances are successful when they produce states of unitive consciousness (mystical experiences) and not successful when they do not.

Lost in this discussion is that fact that mystical experiences are the most powerful emotionally positive experiences humans can have, and if normal daily positive events boost the immune system somewhat, do these strongest positive experiences boost it a great deal?

Can this spontaneous cluster of healing thoughts and feelings be recreated in a medical setting? As a 2008 Johns Hopkins study of psilocybin induced mystical experiences showed, under the right conditions and with careful screening, preparation, and professional guidance, psychedelic sessions can produce mystical experiences and a similar cluster of emotions and experiences in normal, healthy, adult volunteers. In a 14-month following up, volunteers’ comments illustrated this healing cluster:

– The utter joy and freedom of letting go—without anxiety—without direction— beyond ego self.
– The understanding that in the eyes of God—all people—were equally important and equally loved by God.
– When I confronted my shadow and yelled “What do you want?” and it disappeared in a puff smoke.

Among the other outcomes were positive mood changes, improved sense of well-being and life satisfaction, positive attitudes about life and/or self, and altruistic social effects. About two-thirds of healthy adults rated as one of the five most important spiritual experiences of their lives, including about one-third who rated them as the single most important spiritual experience of their lives. However, the researchers did not measure possible effects on the immune system.

A question on placeboing: Do overwhelmingly powerful peak experiences stimulated by psychedelics as part of professionally guided sessions boost the immune system? A possible major advance in mindbody health awaits an answer.

Roberts, T. B. (1987). Is There a Placebo Ability? Advances: Journal of the Institute for the Advancement of Health, 4(1), 5.

27 June - Spiritual & Existential Dimensions in Psychedelic Care: Challenges & Insights