Could a mysterious hallucinogen used by shamans during healing ceremonies deep in the forests of Gabon be the key to defeating addiction? Though it sounds unlikely, preliminary research suggests a little-known psychedelic chemical called ibogaine could help people who abuse alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine overcome their substance dependence.
Ibogaine is one of the psychoactive chemicals found in the root bark of the African Tabernanthe iboga plant, which has been used in the shamanic rituals of the Bwiti religion in West Africa.
A team of researchers in Brazil has found that the use of ibogaine can facilitate prolonged periods of abstinence without serious complications when the drug is administered by a physician and accompanied with psychotherapy. Their findings were published September 29 in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
In the early 1960s, anecdotal reports surfaced that ibogaine could help defeat opiate addiction, prompting some researchers to begin examining the anti-addictive properties of the drug. However, the investigation into ibogaine’s potential has been severely limited due to its illegal status in many countries.