The History Of Ibogaine

Ibogaine Shrub

In Gabon, iboga is seen as a sacred medicine (the original word boghaga literally means “to care for”). Sometimes referred to as the “Holy Wood”, each community has a nganga (chief healer) who is responsible for leading ceremonies of initiation and other healing ceremonies. Iboga has been used as a sacrament by the Bwiti for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

In 1864 a French doctor is the first Westerner to discover the root and bring it to France, where a botanist names it Tabernanathe iboga H. bn (as is often done, he gave the plan his initials, because clearly he discovered it even though African people have been using it intentionally for eons).

But it’s not until 1901 that two French scientists extract the easiest alkaloid to produce from the plant and name it ibogaine. Ibogaine then goes through several manifestations as a prescription drug to combat fatigue in low doses under the name Lambarene, which remains on the market until ibogaine is eventually banned in the United States in the 1960’s.

Large pharmaceutical laboratories show no interest either. Between the fact that Ibogaine comes from a plant (so any patent can only be for its applications) and the fact that it is a Schedule I illegal substance, getting Ibogaine to market would mean a lot of investment for a relatively small return. As an example, the official response from pharmaceutical company Ciba-Geigy was: “While the indication for narcotic addiction withdrawal is almost certainly worthwhile, it has not been identified as a strategic commitment for our company”. It’s strange to think of the ramifications of private medicine, of all the peoples’ lives that could have been saved or at least who could’ve benefited from Ibogaine had it only been a more “strategic commitment” to private corporations.

The first human experiments with Ibogaine were done in Holland, the only country at the time to have a real policy for the prevention of drug addiction. At the same time, research with Dr. Stanley Glick back in the U.S. shows that Ibogaine will reduce self-administration of morphine in rats, which is very promising.

Time Line

1864

The first description of T. iboga is published. A specimen is brought to France from Gabon. A published description of the ceremonial use of T. iboga in Gabon appears in 1885.

1901

Ibogaine is isolated and crystallized from T. iboga root bark.

1901-1905

Ibogaine is isolated and crystallized from T. iboga root bark.

1939-1970

Ibogaine is sold in France as Lambarene, a “neuromuscular stimulant,” in 8 mg tablets, recommended for indications that include fatigue, depression, and recovery from infectious disease.

1955

Harris Isbell administers doses of ibogaine of up to 300 mg to eight already detoxified morphine addicts at the U.S. Addiction Research Center in Lexington, Kentucky.

1957

The description of the definitive chemical structure of ibogaine is published. The total synthesis of ibogaine is reported in 1965.

1962-1963

In the United States, Howard Lotsof administers ibogaine to 1-9 individuals at dosages of 6 to 19 mg/kg, including 7 with opioid dependence who note an apparent effect on acute withdrawal symptomatology.

1967-1970

The World Health Assembly classifies ibogaine with hallucinogens and stimulants as a “substance likely to cause dependency or endanger human health.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) assigns ibogaine Schedule I classification. The International Olympic Committee bans ibogaine as a potential doping agent. Sales of Lambarene cease in France.

1969

Dr. Claudio Naranjo, a psychiatrist, receives a French patent for the psychotherapeutic use of ibogaine at a dosage of 4 to 5 mg/kg.

1985

Howard Lotsof receives a U.S. patent for the use of ibogaine in opiate withdrawal. Additional patents follow for indications of dependence on cocaine and other stimulants, alcohol, nicotine, and polysubstance abuse.

1988

U.S. and Dutch researchers publish initial findings suggestive of the efficacy of ibogaine in animal models of addiction, including diminished opioid self-administration and withdrawal, as well as diminished cocaine self-administration.

1989-1993

Treatments are conducted outside of conventional medical settings in the Netherlands involving the International Coalition of Addict Self-Help (ICASH), Dutch Addict Self Help (DASH), and NDA International.

1991

Based on case reports and preclinical evidence suggesting possible efficacy, NIDA Medication Development Division (MDD) begins its ibogaine project. The major objectives of the ibogaine project are preclinical toxicological evaluation and development of a human protocol.

August 1993

FDA Advisory Panel meeting, chaired by Medical Review Officer Curtis Wright, is held to formally consider Investigational New Drug Application filed by Dr. Deborah Mash, Professor of Neurology at the University of Miami School of Medicine. Approval is given for human trials. The approved Ibogaine dosage levels are 1, 2, and 5 mg/kg. The Phase I dose escalation study begins December 1993, but activity is eventually suspended due to lack of funds.

October 93- December 94

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) holds a total of four Phase I/II protocol development meetings, which include outside consultants. The resulting draft protocol calls for the single administration or fixed dosages of ibogaine of 150 and 300 mg versus placebo for the indication of cocaine dependence.

1995

NIDA Ibogaine Review Meeting is held in Rockville, Maryland, chaired by the MDD Deputy Director, Dr. Frank Vocci. The possibility of NIDA funding a human trial of the efficacy of ibogaine is considered. Opinions of representatives of the pharmaceutical industry are mostly critical, and are a significant influence in the decision not to fund the trial. NIDA ends its ibogaine project but it does continue to support some preclinical research on iboga alkaloids.

Mid 1990’s- 2001

Ibogaine becomes increasingly available in alternative settings, in view of the lack of approval in the Europe and the United States. Treatments in settings based on a conventional medical model are conducted in Panama in 1994 and 1995 and in St. Kitts from 1996 to the present. Informal scenes begin in the United States, Slovenia, Britain, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic. The Ibogaine Mailing List begins in 1997 and heralds an increasing utilization of the Internet within the ibogaine medical subculture.

History from A Review by Kenneth R. Apler