10-Methoxyibogamine (commonly known as ibogaine) is a naturally occurring psychedelic substance of the tryptamine class. It is an indole alkaloid found in some plants of the Apocynaceae family such as Tabernanthe iboga, Voacanga africana and Tabernaemontana undulata.
In West Central Africa, low dosages of Tabernanthe iboga extracts have been used by indigenous people against fatigue, hunger and thirst. Higher dosages capable of inducing visionary states are used for initiation rituals during religious ceremonies. Their medical history in the West began in the early 1900s when it was indicated for use as a neuromuscular stimulant. In the 1940s and 1950s, its suitability as potential cardiovascular drug was studied. Later in the 1960s, the substance received much attention because of its potential applicability as an anti-addiction medication.
The pharmacology of ibogaine is complex and poorly understood. While largely behaving as a serotonergic psychedelic, ibogaine interacts with numerous brain systems including transporters, opioid receptors, sigma receptors, glutamate receptors, and nicotinic receptors. Its complex pharmacology entails a significant potential to generate adverse effects, particularly on the cardiovascular system. Its use has been associated with at least 12 deaths since 1990.
It is not currently approved for any medical uses in the United States. Preliminary research in animals indicates that it could potentially be used for treatment of addiction; however, there is a lack of non-anecdotal data in humans. Although not licensed as therapeutic drug and despite safety concerns, ibogaine is currently used as an anti-addiction medication in dozens of clinics worldwide.
History and culture of Ibogaine
The Iboga tree is the central pillar of the Bwiti religion practiced in West-Central Africa, mainly Gabon, Cameroon, and the Republic of the Congo, which uses the alkaloid-containing roots of the plant for its psychoactive properties in a number of ceremonies. It is also used by indigenous peoples in low doses to combat fatigue, hunger, and thirst.
Research of ibogaine started in late 19th century. A published description of the ceremonial use of T. iboga in Gabon appears in 1885. Ibogaine was first extracted and crystallized from the T. iboga root in 1901. The total synthesis of ibogaine was described in 1956 and structural elucidation by X-ray crystallography was completed in 1960.