Ibogaine Shows Promising Results in Treating PTSD in Veterans

Could this be the next big psychedelic therapy?

A recent clinical trial suggests a promising new way to treat PTSD.
Wengang Zhai/Unsplash

For veterans living with the effects of PTSD, an unexpected treatment has recently come into sharp focus: psychedelics. As the New York Times reported last year, some veterans have become enthusiastic advocates for psychedelic legalization, citing the effect substances like psilocybin have had on their mental health. That’s not the only drug that showed promise in clinical settings, however — and now, a new study has pointed to positive results for a very different substance.

Specifically, as Max Kozlov reports for Nature, the drug in question is ibogaine. The article cites “a small trial in military veterans” in which ibogaine was used to treat symptoms in veterans who had experienced traumatic brain injuries. As Kozlov writes, symptoms like PTSD and depression dropped by up to 80% over the course of a month. (Though there’s also one big caveat: Kozlov writes that the study did not involve a control group.)

Ibogaine having significant effects is not necessarily newsworthy, but the results in this context are. In recent years, ibogaine — which has a long history of use in religious ceremonies in Gabon — has developed a reputation for its therapeutic properties in helping treat addiction.

For those who have experienced such treatments, ibogaine can still sound more surreal than not. Musician and writer Geoff Rickly, who wrote about his own experience using ibogaine therapeutically in his recent autobiographical novel, made this point in a recent interview. “I’ve read several other accounts of fictional drugs,” Rickly told BOMB. “So I decided to treat ibogaine as if it was fictional, because it sounds fictional and fishy.”

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Still, this recent study isn’t the only evidence that ibogaine can have a positive effect on people living with depression. Maria Steenkamp of the NYU School of Medicine told Nature, “We are desperately in need of new interventions” when it comes to treating PTSD. Could this one be the latest piece in a larger puzzle?

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