The Need For Ibogaine In Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment By Jennifer R. Donnelly

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The Need For Ibogaine In Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment By Jennifer R. Donnelly

Ibogaine is a naturally occurring psychoactive substance derived from the roots of the Tabernanthe iboga shrub and other West African plant species generally found in rain forests.  It has been used for centuries by the indigenous peoples of Western Africa, mainly for use as a sacrament in spiritual initiation ceremonies.  It has also been used in traditional medicine, however, to combat such things as fatigue, hunger, and thirst.  Additionally, ibogaine was used as a mental and physical stimulant in France, under the name Lambarene, until 1970 and was popular with post World War II athletes before being banned by the Olympic Committee as a potential doping agent.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, American psychologist Leo Zeff and Chilean psychiatrist Claudio Naranjo used ibogaine in their psychotherapy practices.  Naranjo conducted several studies to determine the psychotherapeutic effects ibogaine had on patients seeking closure for unresolved emotional issues.  These studies illustrated that ibogaine allowed patients to revisit their past experiences objectively and without the negative emotions experienced during the actual incident, which, in turn, enabled them to confront and resolve deep personal conflicts.  During the same time, the CIBA Corporation was also evaluating ibogaine’s usefulness as an anti-anxiety drug.

When taken at low doses, ibogaine causes a stimulant effect eliciting increased alertness, and reducing fatigue, hunger, and thirst. Within three hours after ingesting a higher dose of ibogaine, the user will enter into the “acute phase,” typically lasting four to eight hours.  It is during this phase that the user experiences ibogaine’s most intense effects, characterized as the “panoramic recall of a large amount of material relating to prior life events from long-term memory, primarily in the visual modality,” or the “waking dream” state.  If the user is an addict, he or she will usually be taken back to the place and time where the underlying issue leading to the addiction arose,  allowing the addict to gain critical insight into the reasons why he or she abuses. 

Donnelly, Jennifer R.(2011) ‘The Need for Ibogaine in Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment’, Journal of Legal Medicine, 32: 1, 93 — 114

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