OPEN Foundation

J. Barsuglia

Psychedelic Treatment for Trauma-Related Psychological and Cognitive Impairment Among US Special Operations Forces Veterans

U.S. Special Operations Forces Veterans are at increased risk for a variety of mental health problems and cognitive impairment associated with military service. Current treatments are lacking in effectiveness and adherence. Therefore, this study examined psychedelic treatment with ibogaine and 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine for trauma-related psychological and cognitive impairment among U.S. Special Operations Forces Veterans.

We conducted a survey of Veterans who completed a specific psychedelic clinical program in Mexico between 2017 and 2019. Questions probed retrospective reports of mental health and cognitive functioning during the 30 days before and 30 days after treatment. A total of 65 people completed treatment during this time frame and were eligible for contact. Of these, 51 (78%) completed the survey and were included in data analyses (mean age = 40; male = 96%; married = 55%; Caucasian/White = 92%; Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom Service = 96%).

Results indicated significant and very large reductions in retrospective report of suicidal ideation (p < .001; d = −1.9), cognitive impairment (p < .001; d = −2.8), and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (p < .001; d = −3.6), depression (p < .001; d = −3.7), and anxiety (p < .001; d = −3.1). Results also showed a significant and large increase in retrospective report of psychological flexibility (p < .001; d = 2.9) from before-to-after the psychedelic treatment. Increases in the retrospective report of psychological flexibility were strongly associated with retrospective report of reductions in cognitive impairment, and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety (rs range −0.61 to −0.75; p < .001). Additionally, most participants rated the psychedelic experiences as one of the top five personally meaningful (84%), spiritually significant (88%), and psychologically insightful (86%) experiences of their lives.
Limitations: Several limitations should be considered including the retrospective, self-report, survey design of the study, and the lack of randomization and blinding, thus making these finding preliminary.

U.S. Special Operations Forces Veterans may have unique treatment needs because of the sequela of problems associated with repeated trauma exposure and the nature of the exposure. Psychedelic-assisted therapy with these under-researched psychedelics may hold unique promise for this population. However, controlled studies are needed to determine whether this treatment is efficacious in relieving mental health and cognitive impairment among U.S. Special Operations Forces Veterans.

Davis, A. K., Averill, L. A., Sepeda, N. D., Barsuglia, J. P., & Amoroso, T. (2020). Psychedelic Treatment for Trauma-Related Psychological and Cognitive Impairment Among US Special Operations Forces Veterans. Chronic Stress4, 2470547020939564; 10.1177/2470547020939564
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5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) used in a naturalistic group setting is associated with unintended improvements in depression and anxiety

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

A recent epidemiological study suggested that 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) used for spiritual and recreational reasons is associated with subjective improvement in depression and anxiety. Further exploration of the potential psychotherapeutic effects of 5-MeO-DMT could inform future clinical trials.

OBJECTIVES:

We examined self-reported improvement in depression and anxiety among people who use 5-MeO-DMT in a group setting with structured procedures guiding dose and administration of 5-MeO-DMT. Such procedures also include activities for the preparation of, and support during/following sessions, which are similar to procedures used in clinical trials of hallucinogen administration. Next, we examined whether depression or anxiety were improved following use, and whether the acute subjective effects (mystical/challenging) or beliefs about the 5-MeO-DMT experience were associated with improvements in these conditions.

METHODS:

Respondents (n = 362; Mage = 47.7; Male = 55%; White/Caucasian = 84%) completed an anonymous web-based survey.

RESULTS:

Of those reporting having been diagnosed with depression (41%) or anxiety (48%), most reported these conditions were improved (depression = 80%; anxiety = 79%) following 5-MeO-DMT use, and fewer reported they were unchanged (depression = 17%; anxiety = 19%) or worsened (depression = 3%; anxiety = 2%). Improvement in depression/anxiety conditions were associated with greater intensity of mystical experiences and higher ratings of the spiritual significance and personal meaning of the 5-MeO-DMT experience. There were no associations between depression or anxiety improvement and the intensity of acute challenging physical/psychological effects during the 5-MeO-DMT experience.

CONCLUSIONS:

Future prospective controlled clinical pharmacology studies should examine the safety and efficacy of 5-MeO-DMT administration for relieving depression and anxiety.

Davis, A. K., So, S., Lancelotta, R., Barsuglia, J. P., & Griffiths, R. R. (2018). 5-methoxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) used in a naturalistic group setting is associated with unintended improvements in depression and anxiety. The American journal of drug and alcohol abuse, 1-9., 10.1080/00952990.2018.1545024
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Intensity of Mystical Experiences Occasioned by 5-MeO-DMT and Comparison With a Prior Psilocybin Study

Abstract

5-MeO-DMT is a psychoactive substance found in high concentrations in the bufotoxin of the Colorado River Toad (Bufo alvarius). Emerging evidence suggests that vaporized 5-MeO-DMT may occasion mystical experiences of comparable intensity to those occasioned by more widely studied psychedelics such as psilocybin, but no empirical study has tested this hypothesis. Data was obtained from 20 individuals (Mage = 38.9, ± 10.7; male = 55%, Caucasian = 85%) who were administered 5-MeO-DMT as part of a psychospiritual retreat program in Mexico. All participants received 50 mg of inhaled vaporized toad bufotoxin which contains 5-MeO-DMT and completed the Mystical Experience Questionnaire (MEQ30) approximately 4–6 h after their session. Administration of 5-MeO-DMT occasioned strong mystical experiences (MEQ30 Overall Mintensity = 4.17, ± 0.64, range 0–5) and the majority (n = 15, 75%) had “a complete mystical experience” (≥60% on all MEQ30 subscales). Compared to a prior laboratory-based psilocybin study, there were no differences in the intensity of mystical effects between 5-MeO-DMT and a high dose (30 mg/70 kg) of psilocybin, but the intensity of mystical effects was significantly higher in the 5-MeO-DMT sample compared to moderate/high dose (20 mg/70 kg) of psilocybin (MEQ30 Total Score: p = 0.02, d = 0.81). Administration of vaporized 5-MeO-DMT reliably occasioned complete mystical experiences in 75% of individuals and was similar in intensity to high dose psilocybin administered in a laboratory setting. The short duration of action may be advantageous for clinical interventions and for studying mystical-type experiences.
Barsuglia, J. P., Davis, A. K., Palmer, R., Lancelotta, R., Windham-Herman, A. M., Peterson, K., … & Griffiths, R. R. (2018). Intensity of Mystical Experiences Occasioned by 5-MeO-DMT and Comparison With a Prior Psilocybin Study. Frontiers in psychology9, 2459., 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02459
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A case report SPECT study and theoretical rationale for the sequential administration of ibogaine and 5-MeO-DMT in the treatment of alcohol use disorder

Abstract

Ibogaine is a plant-derived alkaloid and dissociative psychedelic that demonstrates anti-addictive properties with several substances of abuse, including alcohol. 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) is a naturally occurring psychedelic known to occasion potent mystical-type experiences and also demonstrates anti-addictive properties. The potential therapeutic effects of both compounds in treating alcohol use disorder require further investigation and there are no published human neuroimaging findings of either treatment to date. We present the case of a 31-year-old male military veteran with moderate alcohol use disorder who sought treatment at an inpatient clinic in Mexico that utilized a sequential protocol with ibogaine hydrochloride (1550mg, 17.9mg/kg) on day 1, followed by vaporized 5-MeO-DMT (bufotoxin source 50mg, estimated 5-MeO-DMT content, 5-7mg) on day 3. The patient received SPECT neuroimaging that included a resting-state protocol before, and 3 days after completion of the program. During the patient’s ibogaine treatment, he experienced dream-like visions that included content pertaining to his alcohol use and resolution of past developmental traumas. He described his treatment with 5-MeO-DMT as a peak transformational and spiritual breakthrough. On post-treatment SPECT neuroimaging, increases in brain perfusion were noted in bilateral caudate nuclei, left putamen, right insula, as well as temporal, occipital, and cerebellar regions compared to the patient’s baseline scan. The patient reported improvement in mood, cessation of alcohol use, and reduced cravings at 5 days post-treatment, effects which were sustained at 1 month, with a partial return to mild alcohol use at 2 months. In this case, serial administration of ibogaine and 5-MeO-DMT resulted in increased perfusion in multiple brain regions broadly associated with alcohol use disorders and known pharmacology of both compounds, which coincided with a short-term therapeutic outcome. We present theoretical considerations regarding the potential of both psychedelic medicines in treating alcohol use disorders in the context of these isolated findings, and areas for future investigation.

Barsuglia, J. P., Polanco, M., Palmer, R., Malcolm, B. J., Kelmendi, B., & Calvey, T. (2018). A case report SPECT study and theoretical rationale for the sequential administration of ibogaine and 5-MeO-DMT in the treatment of alcohol use disorder. Progress in brain research242, 121-158., 10.1016/bs.pbr.2018.08.002

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A Mixed-Method Analysis of Persisting Effects Associated with Positive Outcomes Following Ibogaine Detoxification

We examined persisting effects, self-perceived challenges, and potential benefits associated with positive outcomes following ibogaine detoxification using data collected as part of a larger online retrospective study of 73 patients who received treatment for chronic opioid use in Mexico between 2012 and 2015. A mixed-methods design was used comparing treatment responders versus non-responders, as well as content coding of themes from open-ended questions. Most participants reported positive persisting effects of ibogaine detoxification (e.g., enhanced personal sense of gratitude and authenticity, and meaning and appreciation for life). Compared to non-responders, treatment responders endorsed greater persisting changes in their ability to tolerate difficult/painful feelings, capacity for coping with stress, and reduced unhealthy anger. Treatment responders reported greater change in subjective levels of inner peace, joy, feelings of love/openheartedness, and experiences of sacredness in life. Qualitative analyses revealed that treatment responders reported a heightened sense of spiritual awareness and greater connection to their intra-/interpersonal relationships after ibogaine detoxification. Notable challenges of ibogaine detoxification included psychological and health-related difficulties during treatment and challenges with post-treatment integration. Findings highlight the persisting effects associated with positive response to ibogaine detoxification and possible post-treatment needs (i.e., more integration/aftercare resources). Future research using rigorous experimental designs is needed.

Davis, A. K., Renn, E., Windham-Herman, A. M., Polanco, M., & Barsuglia, J. P. (2018). A mixed-method analysis of persisting effects associated with positive outcomes following ibogaine detoxification. Journal of psychoactive drugs50(4), 287-297., 10.1080/02791072.2018.1487607.
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The epidemiology of 5-methoxy- N,N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) use: Benefits, consequences, patterns of use, subjective effects, and reasons for consumption

Abstract

BACKGROUND/AIM:
5-Methoxy- N,N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) is a psychoactive compound found in several plants and in high concentrations in Bufo alvarius toad venom. Synthetic, toad, and plant-sourced 5-MeO-DMT are used for spiritual and recreational purposes and may have psychotherapeutic effects. However, the use of 5-MeO-DMT is not well understood. Therefore, we examined patterns of use, motivations for consumption, subjective effects, and potential benefits and consequences associated with 5-MeO-DMT use.
METHODS:
Using internet-based advertisements, 515 respondents ( Mage=35.4. SD=11.7; male=79%; White/Caucasian=86%; United States resident=42%) completed a web-based survey.
RESULTS:
Most respondents consumed 5-MeO-DMT infrequently (<once/year), for spiritual exploration, and had used less than four times in their lifetime. The majority (average of 90%) reported moderate-to-strong mystical-type experiences ( Mintensity=3.64, SD=1.11; range 0-5; e.g., ineffability, timelessness, awe/amazement, experience of pure being/awareness), and relatively fewer (average of 37%) experienced very slight challenging experiences ( Mintensity=0.95, SD=0.91; range 0-5; e.g., anxiousness, fear). Less than half (39%) reported repeated consumption during the same session, and very few reported drug craving/desire (8%), or legal (1%), medical (1%), or psychiatric (1%) problems related to use. Furthermore, of those who reported being diagnosed with psychiatric disorders, the majority reported improvements in symptoms following 5-MeO-DMT use, including improvements related to post-traumatic stress disorder (79%), depression (77%), anxiety (69%), and alcoholism (66%) or drug use disorder (60%).
CONCLUSION:
Findings suggest that 5-MeO-DMT is used infrequently, predominantly for spiritual exploration, has low potential for addiction, and might have psychotherapeutic effects. Future research should examine the safety and pharmacokinetics of 5-MeO-DMT administration in humans using rigorous experimental designs.
Davis, A. K., Barsuglia, J. P., Lancelotta, R., Grant, R. M., & Renn, E. (2018). The epidemiology of 5-methoxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) use: Benefits, consequences, patterns of use, subjective effects, and reasons for consumption. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 0269881118769063. 10.1177/0269881118769063
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The epidemiology of 5-methoxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) use: Benefits, consequences, patterns of use, subjective effects, and reasons for consumption

Abstract

Background/aim:

5-Methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) is a psychoactive compound found in several plants and in high concentrations in Bufo alvarius toad venom. Synthetic, toad, and plant-sourced 5-MeO-DMT are used for spiritual and recreational purposes and may have psychotherapeutic effects. However, the use of 5-MeO-DMT is not well understood. Therefore, we examined patterns of use, motivations for consumption, subjective effects, and potential benefits and consequences associated with 5-MeO-DMT use.

Methods:

Using internet-based advertisements, 515 respondents (Mage=35.4. SD=11.7; male=79%; White/Caucasian=86%; United States resident=42%) completed a web-based survey.

Results:

Most respondents consumed 5-MeO-DMT infrequently (<once/year), for spiritual exploration, and had used less than four times in their lifetime. The majority (average of 90%) reported moderate-to-strong mystical-type experiences (Mintensity=3.64, SD=1.11; range 0–5; e.g., ineffability, timelessness, awe/amazement, experience of pure being/awareness), and relatively fewer (average of 37%) experienced very slight challenging experiences (Mintensity=0.95, SD=0.91; range 0–5; e.g., anxiousness, fear). Less than half (39%) reported repeated consumption during the same session, and very few reported drug craving/desire (8%), or legal (1%), medical (1%), or psychiatric (1%) problems related to use. Furthermore, of those who reported being diagnosed with psychiatric disorders, the majority reported improvements in symptoms following 5-MeO-DMT use, including improvements related to post-traumatic stress disorder (79%), depression (77%), anxiety (69%), and alcoholism (66%) or drug use disorder (60%).

Conclusion:

Findings suggest that 5-MeO-DMT is used infrequently, predominantly for spiritual exploration, has low potential for addiction, and might have psychotherapeutic effects. Future research should examine the safety and pharmacokinetics of 5-MeO-DMT administration in humans using rigorous experimental designs.

Davis, A. K., Barsuglia, J. P., Lancelotta, R., Grant, R. M., & Renn, E. (2018). The epidemiology of 5-methoxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) use: Benefits, consequences, patterns of use, subjective effects, and reasons for consumption. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 0269881118769063.
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Changes in Withdrawal and Craving Scores in Participants Undergoing Opioid Detoxification Utilizing Ibogaine

Abstract

Opioid use disorder (OUD) is currently an epidemic in the United States (US) and ibogaine is reported to have the ability to interrupt opioid addiction by simultaneously mitigating withdrawal and craving symptoms. This study examined opioid withdrawal and drug craving scores in 50 participants with OUD undergoing a week-long detoxification treatment protocol with ibogaine. The Addiction Severity Index (ASI) was used for baseline characterization of participants’ OUD. Clinical Opioid Withdrawal Scale (COWS), Subjective Opioid Withdrawal Scale (SOWS), and Brief Substance Craving Scale (BSCS) scores were collected at 48 and 24 hours prior to ibogaine administration, as well as 24 and 48 hours after ibogaine administration. At 48 hours following ibogaine administration, withdrawal and craving scores were significantly lowered in comparison to baseline: 78% of patients did not exhibit objective clinical signs of opioid withdrawal, 79% reported minimal cravings for opioids, and 68% reported subjective withdrawal symptoms in the mild range. Ibogaine appears to facilitate opioid detoxification by reducing opioid withdrawal and craving in participants with OUD. These results warrant further research using rigorous controlled trials.
Malcolm, B. J., Polanco, M., & Barsuglia, J. P. (2018). Changes in Withdrawal and Craving Scores in Participants Undergoing Opioid Detoxification Utilizing Ibogaine. Journal of psychoactive drugs, 1-10. 10.1080/02791072.2018.1447175
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Subjective effectiveness of ibogaine treatment for problematic opioid consumption: Short- and long-term outcomes and current psychological functioning

Abstract

Background and aims

Very few studies have reported the effectiveness of ibogaine as a treatment for chronic opioid use. Therefore, this study evaluated the acute subjective effects of ibogaine, outcomes on problematic opioid consumption, and the long-term associations with psychological functioning.

Methods

Using online data collection, 88 patients who received ibogaine treatment in Mexico between 2012 and 2015 completed our survey.

Results

Most participants (72%) had used opioids for at least 4 years and 69% reported daily use. Most (80%) indicated that ibogaine eliminated or drastically reduced withdrawal symptoms. Fifty percent reported that ibogaine reduced opioid craving, some (25%) reporting a reduction in craving lasting at least 3 months. Thirty percent of participants reported never using opioids again following ibogaine treatment. And over one half (54%) of these abstainers had been abstinent for at least 1 year, with 31% abstinent for at least 2 years. At the time of survey, 41% of all participants reported sustained abstinence (>6 months). Although 70% of the total sample reported a relapse following treatment, 48% reported decreased use from pretreatment levels and an additional 11% eventually achieved abstinence. Treatment responders had the lowest rates of depressive and anxious symptoms, the highest levels of subjective well-being and rated their ibogaine treatment as more spiritually meaningful compared with treatment non-responders.

Conclusion

The results suggest that ibogaine is associated with reductions in opioid use, including complete abstinence, and has long-term positive psychological outcomes. Future research should investigate the efficacy of ibogaine treatment using rigorous longitudinal and controlled designs.

Davis, A. K., Barsuglia, J. P., Windham-Herman, A. M., Lynch, M., & Polanco, M. (2017). Subjective effectiveness of ibogaine treatment for problematic opioid consumption: Short-and long-term outcomes and current psychological functioning. Journal of Psychedelic Studies, (0), 1-9. 10.1556/2054.01.2017.009
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