Is Ibogaine Legal In The United States?
Contents of this article
Ibogaine As A Psychedelic
Originating from West Central Africa, local tribes use ibogaine as a stimulant, tracing back hundreds of years. The Bwiti tribe of Gabon are known to have eaten iboga bark shavings during initiations and spiritual ceremonies. Users reported visions and contact with their ancestors, spirits, and even God.
It wasn’t until the 1900s that Western cultures began looking into ibogaine’s effects. This led researchers to show an interest in its uses.
Ibogaine became known as an antidepressant and stimulant, and, in France, it was sold and prescribed under the name Lambarene. At the beginning of the 1960s, Howard Lotsof experimented with ibogaine and realized it helped him deal with his own heroin addiction. This stemmed further research into its potential role in treatment for addiction.
Ibogaine therapy has shown incredible results in those struggling with opioid addiction. It led to excitement among scientists, seeing it as a potential new way of solving the opioid crisis. Unfortunately, all research stopped in 1967, when psychedelics became banned.
Finally, 25 years later, new studies emerged. The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) was the first to develop trials with ibogaine. All of this was fully funded, with pre-clinical research beginning in animals.
Outside of the U.S., studies on humans are underway. Trials in Spain are helping people try to get off methadone. Additionally, studies in Brazil are in seeing how ibogaine can help ease alcohol addiction.
Although the interest exists, there still has been no completed clinical trial in the U.S. to test ibogaine in people. The reasons are vast, with the lack of funding and FDA approvals being on the top of the list. Still, one of the major reasons ibogaine is not as researched as other psychedelics is the question of its safety.
Ibogaine poses a threat to cardiovascular health as it can potentially block certain channels in the heart and slow down heart rate, causing dangerous and even fatal arrhythmias.
ATAI Life Sciences are in Phase I trials with ibogaine and its effect on opioid abuse disorder. Dr. Srinivas Rao, co-founder, and chief scientific officer at ATAI explains their interest in ibogaine as “I’ve viewed it a little skeptically in the beginning, but the stories with ibogaine keep surfacing and [keep] being very similar. People seem to get a lot out of this experience.”
That’s why the company is working on making it safer by pursuing noribogaine, the substance ibogaine breaks down to in the body, as a possible addiction treatment. “Careful dosing and monitoring can lessen the risk,” Dr. Rao says, “and trials will eventually uncover ibogaine’s true cardiovascular impact.”
A Synthetic Ibogaine Option
On the other hand, MindMed developed a synthetic derivative of ibogaine called 18-MC — which many perceive as a “safer version of ibogaine.”
This derivative of ibogaine “corrects the dysregulation in the brain’s reward/pleasure center” in order to treat addiction. This is all done without the hallucinogenic and potential negative cardiovascular side effects. A Phase I trial found no adverse cardiovascular effects with 18-MC.
All this is beginning to look like there’s a possibility of creating synthetic compounds that will have a similar effect as ibogaine — all without the risk of cardiovascular complications.
Researchers at the University of California engineered a non-hallucinogenic compound that’s structurally similar to ibogaine but appears to be less damaging to the heart. The compound is tabernanthalog, or TBG.
In a study in mice, TBG increased neural plasticity, reduced heroin-and alcohol-seeking behavior, and had an impact on antidepressant effects. Researchers are pushing for taking the next step and performing studies on human subjects. This may help where ibogaine is legal around the world — in certain settings, of course.
Is Ibogaine Legal?
So, is ibogaine legal in the U.S.? According to the DEA., ibogaine is a Schedule I Substance. This means it’s currently unacceptable for medical use, has a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and has a high potential for abuse. Therefore, it’s still illegal to use in treatment.
Unfortunately, without more research and a larger number of large-scale, randomized clinical trials, it’s impossible to learn about its real success rate in helping those with opioid addiction.
Ibogaine is not legal in many countries. However, it has a bit of a gray area, allowing some treatment centers to use it for addiction issues.
How Treatment Supports Ibogaine’s Legal Push
Many people are trying ibogaine for opioid addiction. These hopeful patients are willing to travel for treatment, even if the legal status of ibogaine is cloudy.
However, new pharmaceutical companies are trying to create a safer way to administer ibogaine in treatment, hoping to find a way to keep it regulated and controlled. But if ibogaine is to become legal, it will take a big push and many studies.
The legal status of psychedelics is murky, no matter which hallucinogenic drug we’re discussing. With classification hanging over each state, it’s hard to figure out what falls under the decriminalization act. This impacts whether or not any type of treatment becomes accessible. Without explicit approval, it’s hard to gauge how elastic the system is, and so far, each state is getting its way of doing things mostly under the radar.
Five years ago, none of the things we read and hear about today was even possible, and with everything speeding up so exponentially, there’s a great chance we might get some real FDA approvals in the next year or two.
Disclaimer: We do not endorse the illicit use of Schedule 1 psychedelic compounds in a non-therapeutic setting. We do, however, hope the regulations look at the research to understand how these drugs can used in powerfully positive ways.