Sen. Salomon funds First-in-the-Nation Ibogaine Study

Friday, April 12, 2024

Ibogaine is a naturally occurring plant medicine derived from the iboga shrub. It is the only substance in the world known to allow a person to substantially reduce most of the withdrawal symptoms from opioids. Not many people have heard of ibogaine treatment, which is available in Mexico and Brazil, but initial studies have shown it to be a cheap and startlingly effective treatment option for Opioid Use Disorder (OUD).

If this is the first time you’re hearing about ibogaine, I recommend this Ted Talk as an excellent way to learn more about its potential. Current treatment options are mostly relegated to long-term rehabilitation centers and medication-assisted therapy, where a person struggling with heroin or fentanyl dependence is prescribed a safer alternative opioid, such as methadone or buprenorphine. 

Studies have shown ibogaine to be 30% more effective than buprenorphine while exhibiting fewer side effects. In research undertaken at UC San Diego, 30% of participants maintained their sobriety a year after their ibogaine treatment. (While this may sound like a low number, the sad truth is this is a very high success rate for a treatment approach for this type of addiction).

As exciting as these numbers are, the direct lived experience of those who overcame OUD using ibogaine treatment is what motivated me to work on directing state funds toward ibogaine research. When the Kentucky Opioid Abatement Commission considered using addiction relief dollars for ibogaine research, many came forward to speak in support.

“I consider my life pre-ibogaine and post-ibogaine,” said Paria Zandi, a family therapist from Los Angeles. “The best way I can explain it is that Ibogaine gave me a fresh pair of eyes with which to see the world and myself; this year I’ll be ten years sober.”

“I tried every traditional treatment that was out there,” said Jessica Blackburn, who described multiple unsuccessful attempts at sobriety through rehabilitation centers using buprenorphine and methadone treatment before successfully achieving sobriety with ibogaine. “My first treatment gave me years of freedom. I no longer felt powerless, and I’ve never felt powerless since.”

This medicine shows real promise as another tool for treating opioid addiction, but since this does not require taking pharmaceuticals on a long-term basis, there has not been much interest from pharmaceutical companies to invest in the research that would bring a drug to market through traditional means. 

The responsibility falls to us, and this year’s budget directs $250,000 to establish the nation’s first state-funded study into the use of ibogaine therapy for those suffering from opioid addiction.


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