Fox News: “African plant outlawed in US may offer treatment for addicts”

Is information and misinformation about Ibogaine about to go mainstream? Yesterday Fox News published an unusually informative (for them) piece about Ibogaine, closely following a sensational and muck racking piece in the Daily Beast published a few days previously.

Sadly Fox only seems to want some information to emerge. This comment by ibogaine treatment advocate Dana Beal was deleted from the Fox News site after 12 hours:

Ibogaine’s receptor “reset” (the reason it can work after a single dose) stems from expression of a nerve growth factor–the peptide GDNF–that actually causes dopamine neurons to re-sprout dendrites and receptors. That’s why ultra-low-dose ibogaine reverses Parkinson’s neuro-degeneration. See Like Parkinson’s victims, addicts have lost the ability to “feel” dopamine arousal. For heroin, ibogaine works in 3 stages: 1) within 30 minutes, thru a little understood mechanism, ibogaine suppresses the ADENOLATE CYCLASE spike responsible for withdrawal symptoms. 2) ibogaine, a methoxyl, crosses the blood brain barrier and enzymes turn it into the long-lasting hydroxyl NOR-IBOGAINE, which up-regulates serotonin for weeks to months like a sticky prozac, banishing post-addiction depression. 3) Nor-ibogaine not only keeps generating the nerve growth factor, GDNF itself back-signals to cell nuclei telling them to pump out more GDNF, setting up a benign, self-reinforcing loop that continues dopamine regeneration even as the nor-ibogaine washes out of the body. See .The initial GDNF spike frequently involves REM-mimesis (the visualizations) as tens of thousands of neurons model adjoining neurons, and the experience of “Ah-hah” moments as they connect. But at the same time, GDNF spikes commandeer a particular MAP kinase pathway that engenders some potassium channel blockade. Which only means ibogaine MUST be given under medical supervision. But that is what makes it work for methamphetamine, cocaine, PTSD, bipolar and a host of other conditions for which we have no good medications.

Meanwhile the Daily Beast published a rather weak ‘expose’ of the Rhythmia Life Advancement Centre which sells $1000 a day Ibogaine treatments in Costa Rica for very rich addicts via a suspiciously (for cynics) flashy website.

The Daily Beast article attempts to smear the multi millionaire Gerard Armond Powell who has financially supported the establishment of the RLAC, it seems for no more than being very financially successful. It also mentions the involvement in the clinic of Bwiti shaman Patrick Makala:

The other main figure in RLAC — the Bwiti shaman who leads the ibogaine ceremonies, Patrick Zamba Makala, also known as Moughenda — is under investigation by local authorities, according to Costa Rican press reports. A 10th-generation Bwiti who grew up in Gabon, he was the first person to bring ibogaine to the West. Once a trusted shaman in the ibogaine world, he’s now criticized as irresponsible for an incident that occurred at Iboga House, a clinic he founded in 2009.

Is this really fair? While we advocate a strictly medical model of ibogaine treatment, Moughenda at least had the initiative to being a top flight treatment team together with someone (Powell) who had the resources and the will to actually get stuff done. Over the last decade there have been less than 20 reported deaths associated with the use of Ibogaine as an addiction treatment. Meanwhile an article in the Scottish Daily Record with the headline “Methadone has killed more Scots than heroin for the second year running” reports official UK government figures which show that in 2011 alone the highly addictive drug Methadone, which is commonly used to treat addicts, killed 274 people, considerably more  than died of heroin overdoses!

The Daily Beast also quotes Dr. Stanley Glick, director of the Center for Neuropharmacology and Neuroscience at Albany Medical College,  who is one of the foremost authorities on ibogaine. Glick voiced his concerns about Ibogaine’s hallucinogenic properties:

Overall, Glick said he sees the psychoactive and hallucinogenic aspect of ibogaine to be nothing more than an impediment. “It became clear to me at an early stage that the FDA was never going to approve this drug because of its neurotoxicity,” he said. “I knew we had to try to divorce ourselves from the ibogaine story. It’s baggage that doesn’t do us any good.

It is certainly true that Ibogaine’s reputation for being “one of the most powerful psychedelics known to humanity” has hindered it’s development as a medical drug, especially in the US where it is illegal. However it’s “LSD like” reputation may not be entirely accurate. Some researchers argue that in fact Ibogaine is not strictly speaking hallucinogenic, but REM-mimetic – i.e, it induces a true waking dream state.

Ken Alper of New York University who works with Glick has pointed out these differences in a paper for the Journal for Forensic Sciences:

“Although ibogaine contains an indole ring and is designated as a “hallucinogen,” it is pharmacologically distinct from the “classical” hallucinogens such as LSD, mescaline or psilocybin, which are thought to act by binding as agonists to the serotonin type 2A (5-HT2A) receptor. Serotonin agonist or releasing activity does not appear to explain ibogaine’s effects in opioid withdrawal. There is no anecdotal or preclinical evidence for a significant  effect of classical  hallucinogens in acute opioid withdrawal, and in the animal model ablation of 90% of the raphe, the major serotonergic nucleus of the brain does not significantly affect the expression of opioid withdrawal. Descriptions of subjective experiences associated with ibogaine differ from those associated with the classical hallucinogens. The visual effects of classical hallucinogens are typically most strongly experienced with eyes open and limited to alterations of colors, textures and patterns. In contrast, the psychoactive state associated with ibogaine is most intensely experienced with the eyes closed and has been described as “oneiric” and likened to a “waking dream,” with interrogatory verbal exchanges involving ancestral and archetypal beings, and movement and navigation within visual landscapes. Another frequently described experience is panoramic memory, the recall of a rapid, dense succession of vivid autobiographical visual memories. Mechanistically, these subjective experiences associated with ibogaine might possibly suggest functional muscarinic cholinergic effects, which are prominent in the mechanisms of dreaming and memory. In animals, ibogaine is reported to enhance spacial memory retrieval, and to produce an atropine-sensitive EEG rhythm, commonly regarded as a model of REM sleep.”



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