OPEN Foundation

M. Polanco

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


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

Link to full text

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.
Link to full text

Changes in Withdrawal and Craving Scores in Participants Undergoing Opioid Detoxification Utilizing Ibogaine


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
Link to full text

Subjective effectiveness of ibogaine treatment for problematic opioid consumption: Short- and long-term outcomes and current psychological functioning


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.


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


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.


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
Link to full text