Ibogaine is a naturally occurring psychoactive substance found in plants in theA pocynaceae family such as Tabernanthe iboga, Voacanga africana andTabernaemontana undulata.
A psychedelic with dissociative properties, the substance is banned in some countries; in other countries it is used by proponents of psychedelic therapy to treat addiction to methadone, heroin,ethanol, cocaine, methamphetamine, anabolic steroids, and other drugs. Ibogaine is also used to treat depression and post traumatic stress disorder. Derivatives of ibogaine that lack the substance's psychedelic properties are under development.
Ibogaine-containing preparations are used for medicinal and ritual purposes within African spiritual traditions of the Bwiti, who claim to have learned it from the Pygmy peoples. Although it was first commonly advertised as having anti-addictive properties in 1962 by Howard Lotsof, its western use predates that by at least a century. In France it was marketed as Lambarène, a medical drug used as a stimulant. Additionally, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) studied the effects of ibogaine in the 1950s.
Ibogaine is an indole alkaloid that is obtained either by extraction from the iboga plant or by semi-synthesis from the precursor compound voacangine,another plant alkaloid. A full organic synthesis of ibogaine has been achieved and was published in a patent in 1956. The synthesis process is too expensive and challenging to be used to produce a commercially significant yield. The free base and the HBr salt have both been characterised by X-ray crystallography.
While ibogaine's prohibition in several countries has slowed scientific research into its anti-addictive properties, the use of ibogaine for drug treatment has grown in the form of a large worldwide medical subculture. Ibogaine is also used to facilitate psychological introspection and spiritual exploration.
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. The total synthesis of ibogaine was accomplished by G. Büchi in 1966.Since then, several further totally synthetic routes have been developed.
Since the 1930s, ibogaine was sold in France in 8 mg tablets in the form of Lambarène, an extract of the Tabernanthe maniiplant. Lambarène was advertised as a mental and physical stimulant and was "...indicated in cases of depression, asthenia, in convalescence, infectious disease, [and] greater than normal physical or mental efforts by healthy individuals". The drug enjoyed some popularity among post World War II athletes.
The drug was removed from the market in 1966, when the sale of ibogaine-containing products was prohibited. 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 ibogaine Schedule I classification, and the International Olympic Committee banned ibogaine as a potential doping agent.