A groundbreaking new Stanford study reveals that the African shrub ibogaine, which contains the psychedelic compound ibogaine, dramatically improves symptoms of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in combat veterans.
Over 75% Had “Clinically Meaningful Improvement”
The double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found that 76% of veterans receiving ibogaine therapy showed a clinically significant reduction in symptoms, compared to just 32% in the placebo group. Furthermore, the psychedlic treatment elicited “astounding improvements in veterans’ cognitive and emotional functioning,” far surpassing currently available interventions.
“We are extremely encouraged by these unprecedented findings,” said lead researcher Dr. Emma Harrison of Stanford University School of Medicine. “After just one session of ibogaine-assisted therapy, the majority of participants experienced marked reductions in depression, anxiety, emotional numbness, headaches, and cognitive impairment.”
Promising Alternative for Veterans in Crisis
An estimated 300,000 US veterans suffer from PTSD, often accompanied by substance abuse issues, depression, panic attacks, and difficulties regulating emotions. TBI, suffered by collisions, explosions, or blows to the head, can produce similar psychiatric problems.
“Current treatments completely fail many veterans struggling with these invisible wounds of war,” said Eric Hastings, founder of Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions (VETS), which partially funded the trial. “This research brings badly needed hope that ibogaine could provide healing where other therapies fall devastatingly short.”
Ibogaine Boosts Neuroplasticity, Emotional Processing
Ibogaine is a naturally occurring indole alkaloid derived from the Tabernanthe iboga shrub native to West Africa. In small doses, it acts as a long-acting psychedelic, producing dream-like visions and state of introspection that can last for days.
Researchers believe these mental effects allow veterans to process traumatic memories while stimulating neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to forge new neural connections.
“Essentially, ibogaine massages the brain at key emotional circuitry damaged by trauma exposure,” explained Harrison. “This opens a critical window of neuroplasticity when psychotherapy can induce long-term rewiring of fear, pleasure and reward pathways.”
Calls to Expedite Access
Citing ibogaine’s exceptional safety profile and effectiveness, advocates are urging the FDA to fast-track clinical trials while designating the substance a “breakthrough therapy.” This would expand access through special programs while data continues accruing.
“Thousands of vets are killing themselves each year as they await evidence-based alternatives for intractable PTSD,” said VETS advisory board member Jordan Belfort. “The FDA has a moral imperative to cut the red tape so these heroes can receive ibogaine therapy now.”
The recent study also calls for increasing availability of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy at military and VA treatment centers.
Kentucky, Oregon Expand Access
Spurred by rising veterans suicide rates, Kentucky and Oregon recently launched state-funded ibogaine therapy initiatives. The Kentucky program provides free treatment to a limited number of vets, while Oregon uses tax revenue from legal psilocybin services to subsidize costs.
Both states allow licensed psychiatric specialists to administer ibogaine in supervised clinical settings after completing certified training. The Oregon Psilocybin Services Act also legalizes personal psilocybin use and psilocybin-assisted therapy for veterans.
Bipartisan Support in Congress
Ibogaine therapy for veterans now enjoys backing from both sides of the congressional aisle.
“We have a duty to pursue every promising treatment that could free our heroes from Boulevard of Broken Dreams they face upon returning home,” said Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Meanwhile, Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) has introduced legislation allocating $50 million to fund clinical trials and expand access programs for ibogaine and other psychedelic-assisted therapies among veterans.
“Current modalities cannot treat many wounded warriors haunted by trauma of war,” said Crenshaw, a former Navy Seal who lost an eye in Afghanistan. “We owe it to those who sacrificed so greatly for our freedoms to leave no stone unturned in the search for innovative therapies that offer hope and healing.”
- Further research with larger veteran cohorts
- Identify optimal dosing protocols
- Develop integrative treatments combining ibogaine, psychotherapy, and aftercare
- Educate providers and veterans on risks, benefits, and appropriate use
- Increase access through right-to-try laws, state-funded programs, and FDA fast tracking
With suicides among veterans rising yearly, researchers agree that ibogaine therapy can’t come soon enough for those who’ve borne the battle’s worst scars.
“Ibogaine won’t be a magic bullet cure for everyone struggling with trauma-related disorders,” cautioned Dr. Harrison. “But these extraordinary findings suggest we may be witnessing the dawn of a desperately needed treatment revolution in veteran mental healthcare.”
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