The History of Ibogaine
It is uncertain exactly how long iboga has been used in African spiritual practice, but its activity was first observed by French and Belgian explorers in the 19th century. The first botanical description of the Tabernanthe iboga plant was made in 1889. Ibogaine was first isolated from T. iboga in 1901 by Dybowski and Landrin and independently by Haller and Heckel in the same year using T. iboga samples from Gabon. In the 1930s, ibogaine was sold in France in 8 mg tablets under the name “Lambarene”. The total synthesis of ibogaine was accomplished by G. Büchi in 1966. Since then, several further totally synthetic routes have been developed. The use of ibogaine in treating substance use disorders in human subjects was first observed by Howard Lotsof in 1962, for which he was later awarded U.S. Patent 4,499,096 in 1985. In 1969, Claudio Naranjo was granted a French patent for the use of ibogaine in psychotherapy.
Ibogaine was placed in US Schedule 1 in 1967 as part of the US government’s strong response to the upswing in popularity of psychedelic substances, though iboga itself was scarcely known at the time. Ibogaine’s ability to attenuate opioid withdrawal confirmed in the rat was first published by Dzoljic et al. (1988). Ibogaine’s use in diminishing morphine self-administration in preclinical studies was shown by Glick et al. (1991) and ibogaine’s capacity to reduce cocaine self-administration in the rat was shown by Cappendijk et al. (1993). Animal model support for ibogaine claims to treat alcohol dependence were established by Rezvani (1995).
The name “Indra extract”, in strict terms, refers to 44 kg of an iboga extract manufactured by an unnamed European industrial manufacturer in 1981. This stock was later purchased by Carl Waltenburg, who distributed it under the name “Indra extract”. Waltenburg used this extract to treat heroin addicts in Christiania, Denmark, a squatter village where heroin addiction was widespread in 1982. Indra extract was offered for sale over the Internet until 2006, when the Indra web presence disappeared. It is unclear whether the extracts currently sold as “Indra extract” are actually from Waltenburg’s original stock, or whether any of that stock is even viable or in existence. history of Ibogaine Ibogaine and related indole compounds are susceptible to oxidation when exposed to oxygen as opposed to their salt form, which is stable. The exact methods and quality of the original Indra extraction was never documented, so the real composition of the product remains uncertain.
Data demonstrating History of Ibogaine ibogaine’s efficacy in attenuating opioid withdrawal in drug-dependent human subjects was published by Alper et al. (1999) and Mash et al. (2000).
In 1972, journalist Hunter S. Thompson accused democratic candidate Edmund Muskie of being addicted to ibogaine in a satirical piece. Many readers, and even other journalists, did not realize that Thompson was being facetious. The claim, of course, was completely unfounded, and Thompson himself is documented in the movie Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson discussing the self-fabricated joke of Muskie’s alleged ibogaine use and his surprise that anyone actually believed the claim.
History of Ibogaine
The use of iboga in African spiritual ceremonies was first reported by French and Belgian explorers in the 19th century. The first botanical description of the Tabernanthe iboga plant was made in 1889. Ibogaine was first isolated from T. iboga in 1901 by Dybowski and Landrin and independently by Haller and Heckel in the same year using T. iboga samples from Gabon. Complete synthesis of ibogaine was accomplished by G. Büchi in 1966. Since then, several other synthesis methods have been developed.
From the 1930s to 1960s, ibogaine was sold in France in the form of Lambarène, an extract of the Tabernanthe manii plant, and promoted as a mental and physical stimulant. The drug enjoyed some popularity among post-World War II athletes. Lambarène was withdrawn from the market in 1966 when the sale of ibogaine-containing products became illegal in France.
In the late 1960s, the World Health Assembly classified ibogaine as a “substance likely to cause dependency or endanger human health”; the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) assigned it Schedule I classification, and the International Olympic Committee banned it as a potential doping agent.
Anecdotal reports concerning ibogaine’s effects appeared in the early 1960s. Its anti-addictive properties were discovered accidentally by Howard Lotsof in 1962, at the age of 19, when he and five friends—all heroin addicts—noted subjective reduction of their craving and withdrawal symptoms while taking it. Further anecdotal observation convinced Lotsof of its potential usefulness in treating substance addictions. He contracted with a Belgian company to produce ibogaine in tablet form for clinical trials in the Netherlands, and was awarded a United States patent for the product in 1985. The first objective, placebo-controlled evidence of ibogaine’s ability to attenuate opioid withdrawal in rats was published by Dzoljic et al. in 1988. Diminution of morphine self-administration was reported in preclinical studies by Glick et al. in 1991. Cappendijk et al. demonstrated reduction in cocaine self-administration in rats in 1993, and Rezvani reported reduced alcohol dependence in three strains of “alcohol-preferring” rats in 1995.
As the use of ibogaine spread, its administration varied widely; some groups administered it systematically using well-developed methods and medical personnel, while others employed haphazard and possibly dangerous methodology. Lotsof and his colleagues, committed to the traditional administration of ibogaine, developed treatment regimens themselves. In 1992, Eric Taub brought ibogaine to an offshore location close to the United States, where he began providing treatments and popularizing its use. In Costa Rica, Lex Kogan, another leading proponent, joined Taub in systematizing its administration. The two men established medically monitored treatment clinics in several countries.
In 1981, an unnamed European manufacturer produced 44 kg of iboga extract. The entire stock was purchased by Carl Waltenburg, who distributed it under the name “Indra extract” and used it in 1982 to treat heroin addicts in Christiania, a squatter village in Denmark where heroin addiction was widespread. Indra extract was available for sale over the Internet until 2006, when the Indra web presence disappeared. Various products are currently sold in a number of countries as “Indra extract”, but it is unclear if any of them are derived from Waltenburg’s original stock. Ibogaine and related indole compounds are susceptible to oxidation over time.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) began funding clinical studies of ibogaine in the United States in the early 1990s, but terminated the project in 1995. Data demonstrating ibogaine’s efficacy in attenuating opioid withdrawal in drug-dependent human subjects was published by Alper et al. in 1999. A cohort of 33 patients were treated with 6 to 29 mg/kg of ibogaine; 25 displayed resolution of the signs of opioid withdrawal from 24 hours to 72 hours post-treatment, but one 24-year-old female, who received the highest dosage, died. Mash et al. (2000), using lower oral doses (10–12 mg/kg) in 27 patients, demonstrated significantly lower objective opiate withdrawal scores in heroin addicts 36 hours after treatment, with self-reports of decreased cocaine and opiate craving and alleviated depression symptoms. Many of these effects appeared sustainable over a one-month post-discharge follow-up.