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February 24, 2024

Promising Results for Ibogaine Therapy in Veterans with Brain Injuries

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Jan 5, 2024

Groundbreaking study shows significant improvements in PTSD, anxiety and depression

A groundbreaking new study published this week in Nature Medicine demonstrates, for the first time, that ibogaine therapy resulted in significant improvements in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression and overall functioning in a group of combat veterans suffering from mild traumatic brain injury (TBI).

The study, led by researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine, administered a synthesized derivative of ibogaine called 18-methoxycoronaridine (18-MC) to 10 veterans over a 12-week period. All of the veterans had been previously diagnosed with mild TBI and were experiencing PTSD symptoms, depression and/or anxiety.

By the end of the 12-week treatment period, the veterans showed a 30% improvement in PTSD symptoms based on the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS-5), a 42% improvement in depressive symptoms per the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAMD-17), and a 37% improvement in anxiety based on the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAMA). The veterans also showed significant gains in day-to-day functioning.

“The results are striking – this is the first time we’ve seen such a rapid, robust and sustained response from any PTSD treatment,” said lead study author Dr. Scott Woodward. “And the fact that the improvements also extended to anxiety, depression and daily functioning make this even more promising.”

How Ibogaine Therapy Works

Ibogaine is a naturally occurring psychoactive indole alkaloid derived from the root bark of the Tabernanthe iboga shrub, native to West Africa. In small doses, ibogaine acts as a stimulant, but in larger doses it induces a profound psychedelic state that can last up to 24 hours.

Ibogaine’s psychedelic effects are believed to help disrupt abnormal brain circuits associated with addiction and PTSD, essentially “resetting” the brain to a healthier state. The extended psychedelic state allows for new neural pathways to form.

18-MC is a synthetic derivative that retains ibogaine’s medical benefits while removing its psychedelic effects. This makes it optimal for therapeutic use.

While ibogaine itself remains illegal in the US, its synthetic derivatives can be produced for research purposes under FDA and DEA oversight. The Stanford study was conducted under strict ethical guidelines with the authorization of the FDA and DEA.

Promising Results, But More Research Needed

Dr. Woodward cautioned that more research is needed before ibogaine therapy can be considered a standard treatment for TBI-related conditions.

“This was a small pilot study with just 10 participants and no placebo control group,” Woodward said. “We can’t draw definitive medical conclusions just yet. But these dramatic improvements certainly warrant further study on a larger scale.”

Indeed, the lack of a placebo control group makes it impossible to determine precisely how much of the improvement was directly attributable to the 18-MC treatment versus other factors. The study also relied heavily on patient self-assessments and clinician observations rather than objective measures.

Nonetheless, the consistency of the results across all 10 participants is highly suggestive that 18-MC had a genuine therapeutic effect. All 10 veterans showed reductions in PTSD, anxiety and depression while maintaining full physical health throughout the 3-month study.

The next step is a larger phase 2 clinical trial with 50-100 participants to more rigorously evaluate 18-MC’s efficacy as an adjunctive treatment for TBI-related conditions. The research team has already begun development of such a study thanks to a $2.1 million grant from Veteran Exploring Treatment Solutions (VETS), a non-profit dedicated to funding alternative therapies for veterans.

If future studies replicate these results, ibogaine therapy may one day be incorporated into the standard of care offered through the Veterans Health Administration for TBI-related conditions.

The Need for New TBI Treatments

Traumatic brain injury has been dubbed the “signature wound” of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is estimated between 300,000 and 390,000 US service members have been diagnosed with TBI since 2000.

TBI occurs when an external force such as a blow, blast pressure wave, jolt or penetrating object disrupts normal brain function. This disruption of neurological pathways can result in significant cognitive, behavioral and emotional impairments.

Some common signs and symptoms of TBI include:

  • Headaches, dizziness, nausea
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Irritability, anxiety, depression
  • Sleep disturbances

While most mild TBI patients recover within days to weeks, 10-20% struggle with persistent post-concussive syndrome lasting months to years after initial injury.

TBI Severity % of TBI Patients
Mild 80-90%
Moderate 8-12%
Severe 3-12%

Current treatments for TBI leave much to be desired. Outside of rest, over-the-counter pain relievers and psychiatric medications for mood disorders, there are no evidence-based treatments for the cognitive and emotional sequalae of mild TBI. Better therapies are urgently needed.

“TBI is an invisible wound that is incredibly debilitating and can devastate veterans’ lives, marriages, parenting and employment,” said Jennifer Lee, Executive Director of the non-profit VETS.

This is why VETS is dedicating millions of dollars specifically to fund research on alternative therapies like ibogaine for TBI-related conditions.

“The early success seen in this trial underscores the need to keep pushing forward innovative treatments for the signature wound of recent wars,” Lee said. “We owe it to the hundreds of thousands of veterans afflicted.”

What’s Next?

In the wake of these promising preliminary findings, we can expect to see a groundswell of interest, funding and research activity focused on leveraging ibogaine for therapeutic purposes.

“This changes the conversation on what’s possible in terms of quickly and dramatically alleviating psychological trauma,” Woodward said.

In addition to further TBI/PTSD trials, there will likely also be investigations examining ibogaine’s potential for substance abuse disorders. Anecdotal reports suggest ibogaine can help rapidly detox patients from drugs like heroin or alcohol while also curbing cravings and withdrawal symptoms 75% of the time.

The apparent long-term nature of ibogaine’s effects may lend it advantages over existing medications used for addiction treatment like methadone or buprenorphine. But again, more rigorous data is needed.

Overall, this week’s study results represent an exciting development for veterans struggling with the devastating effects of traumatic brain injury. While questions remain, ibogaine therapy looks to be a promising avenue that may finally offer hope to those without any other reliable treatment options.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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