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Ibogaine, Then and Now

Third Wave · February 12th, 2021

The world is full of naturally-occurring psychedelic compounds. From the blue lotus at the edges of the Nile, and the Peyote cactus in the deserts of Central America, to the multitude of psilocybin mushrooms found across the globe, our planet is filled to the brim with trippy substances. Some have entered popular culture, either due to accessibility, general notoriety, or intensive marketing (see Joe Rogan and DMT). Others, however, remain more obscure. So chances are you may not be terribly familiar with ibogaine.

A Brief History

Extracted from the bark of the west African shrub iboga, ibogaine has been used for centuries by Native African tribes, specifically within the Bwiti tradition. While featured in healing ceremonies, its chief use is as part of an intensive multi-day coming-of-age ritual for those in the tradition on the cusp of adulthood. The hallucinations that the drug induces are meant to symbolize death and rebirth, a common theme among intense psychedelic experiences. And while ibogaine is less familiar to many North Americans, it was actually sold over-the-counter in European pharmacies between the 1930s and the 1960s.

First ‘discovered’ by researchers in the early 1900s, it was brought back to France where, decades later, it would be marketed as a stimulant, under the name Lambarène. Although ibogaine can act as a stimulant at lower doses, increasing wakefulness and mental stamina, back in the mid-1900s Lambarène was often prescribed for depression or as an anaesthetic. In the years before 1966, when it was prohibited from sale, several researchers also tried to use the compound for psychotherapeutic purposes. More recently, it has been shown to have the ability to effectively treat severe opioid addiction.

Where We Are Now

Ibogaine remains a Schedule-I drug in the United States, classified as having a “high potential for abuse” and with “no current accepted medical uses”, in the same category as LSD (but surprisingly not cocaine, which is a Schedule-II drug). This is not the case around the world. While it is illegal in the US, Netherlands, Italy, Israel, and the UK (except in the case of minor possession), it’s considered a controlled substance in Canada, Australia, South Africa, and Brazil, and is even fully legalized in New Zealand. In fact, some people with severe opioid addictions from the UK and US, where access to the drug is limited or non-existent, have travelled to acclaimed clinics in South Africa and Mexico to receive treatment.

Yet reports remain mixed. On the one hand, ibogaine has been used successfully to help reduce dependence on substances ranging from methamphetamines and opiates to alcohol and cocaine. On the other hand, research into the efficacy of ibogaine remains nascent.

To help you separate fact from fiction, on February 19, Microdose.buzz is hosting a virtual Molecular Masterclass about the compound, featuring presentations from leading researchers, scientists, and doctors. If you’d like to delve into the ins and outs of ibogaine, we’ve arranged a 20% discount on tickets for Third Wave followers. Just use this link to sign up.

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