Powerful Psychedelic Gains Renewed Attention as a Treatment for Opioid Addiction

Ibogaine, a formidable hallucinogen made from the root of a shrub native to Central Africa, is not for the timid. It unleashes a harrowing psychedelic trip that can last more than 24 hours, and the drug can cause sudden cardiac arrest and death.

But scientists who have studied ibogaine have reported startling findings. According to a number of small studies, between a third and two-thirds of the people who were addicted to opioids or crack cocaine and were treated with the compound in a therapeutic setting were effectively cured of their habits, many after just a single session.

Ibogaine appears to provide two seemingly distinct benefits. It quells the agony of opioid withdrawal and cravings and then gives patients a born-again-style zeal for sobriety.

Now, after decades in the shadows, and with opioid overdose deaths exceeding 100,000 a year, ibogaine is drawing a surge of fresh interest from researchers who believe it has the potential to treat opioid use disorder.

“It’s not an exaggeration to say that ibogaine saved my life, allowed me to make amends with the people I hurt and helped me learn to love myself again,” said Jessica Blackburn, 37, who is recovering from heroin addiction and has been sober for eight years. “My biggest frustration is that more people don’t have access to it.”

That’s because ibogaine is illegal in the United States. Patients have to go abroad for ibogaine therapy, often at unregulated clinics that provide little medical oversight.

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