From Skepticism to Hope: How Ibogaine is Changing the Face of Addiction Treatment

Published on:
June 29, 2023

They say everything old is new again, and the rise of psychedelics in therapy and healing is no different. Enter Dr. Deborah Mash, who’s been studying ibogaine since the early 90s. A self-proclaimed “iboganaut,” she originally was led to ibogaine by studying brains post mortem. After witnessing brains affected by Alzheimer's disease, she was alarmed by the number of newer brains in her lab for study impacted by  the crack-cocaine epidemic. This impact was so profound, she knew she had to study addiction. 

Deborah was initially skeptical when an African man approached her at a conference to tell her about a drug (ie Ibogaine) that could be extremely effective in fighting addiction. A drug to get people off drugs? She wasn’t sold. 

To her surprise, Professor Stanley Glick fed rats ibogaine in front of her and she witnessed their urge to use cocaine stopped.. The thoughts of the man who’d approached her before came flooding back.

Although Dr. Mash hasn’t taken ibogaine herself, she is well-versed in its effects on the brain and has personally overseen hundreds of treatments herself along with positive outcomes. In St. Kitts, an ibogaine facility she started in the 1990’s, people who were drowning in their addiction sought the efforts of her clinical research. . 

“What is this molecule, how can this be working?”

She saw the transformation right in front of her eyes. Many who sought this help were in the trenches of their addiction – someome for decades. They were able to experience clarity and a cessation of cravings.. Of course, this is just the first step. Ibogaine isn’t a miracle-worker she conveys. However, it clears the path to start running for the exit. She realized after hundreds of these successful cases that she couldn’t stop this research. 

From a science perspective, ibogaine is an indole-alkaloid. Indole mimicking serotonin, a big neurotransmitter we’re familiar with when talking about depression. Its effects on the brain are similar to ketamine treatments and serotonin effects, and there is a growing interest in its potential to "reset" the brain during sleep.

In her initial research between 1996 and 2003 in St. Kitts and Nevis, everything was brand new. because of the lack of studies related to dosage responses. Mash and her team were able to study the effects and how they differ in people with different metabolism speeds. 

It’s now 2023 and while we’ve come further in research and trials. Imagine the hump we are crossing as the stigma around these alternative forms of medicine melt away.

We have an extreme fentanyl crisis targeting and killing some of our most vulnerable populations in North America, and not enough is being done to stop this. And it’s spreading worldwide. Until we move towards rescheduling ibogaine and other traditional and experimental ways of health, we’re at a standstill in the US. Families and individuals are suffering, and there are too many people in power not doing enough to prevent what is happening.. 

Listen to this powerful episode to hear how Dr. Deborah Mash breaks down the many intricate details of the science of ibogaine, and how now there is a need for safe and effective treatment with ibogaine more than ever.