Examining the Psyche in Ibogaine Treatment for Addiction
Thomas Kingsley Brown, Ph.D.
Historically, the quest to achieve legitimacy for ibogaine-assisted treatment of addiction has met with strong resistance in the US and other nations. The dearth of firm scientific evidence of ibogaine’s efficacy has been a severe hindrance. Also problematic is a view, prevalent within the medical and scientific communities, that regardless of ibogaine’s efficacy, its psychoactive properties are either irrelevant or constitute undesirable side effects. Recent multi-million dollar funding by NIDA of Phase I trials of the non-psychoactive ibogaine congener 18-MC is consistent with this bias. With the completion of two MAPS-funded studies, the evidence of ibogaine’s efficacy in treating opioid dependence is in. The results of these prospective long-term studies provide clear evidence that ibogaine is effective as an aid in both detoxification and in long-term reductions in opioid use. A substantial proportion of those treated achieved significant reductions in drug use severity—and sometimes complete abstinence—lasting one year. Questions remain, however, regarding whether ibogaine confers psychotherapeutic effects that contribute to its efficacy in treating addiction, and whether the visions reported experientially have any impact on treatment outcomes or on psychiatric health and well-being. This presentation explores evidence for the psychological impacts of iboga and ibogaine, and for the possibility that the experiential components of ibogaine treatment affect outcomes for patients in terms of addiction recovery and improvements in psychological and social well-being. It further considers methods for improving our understanding of such effects, as well as other avenues for future research with the iboga alkaloids.
Thomas Kingsley Brown, Ph.D., began his education at the University of Pittsburgh where he earned a BS in Chemistry with a minor in Psychology. He then attended Caltech where he earned an MS in Chemistry while working in a neurobiology lab. His thesis topic was the structure and function of post-synaptic densities, specifically proteins involved in memory and learning. He later entered the PhD program in Anthropology at UCSD, focusing on psychological anthropology. His master’s thesis was a cross cultural phenomenological and brain-states comparison of shamanic and trance states. His doctoral thesis, “Spiritual Seekers and ‘Finding a Spiritual Home,’” detailed the life histories and religious practices of people who experienced mystical experiences and converted to Christian Spiritualism. In 2009 he started anthropological research on ibogaine treatment when he conducted interviews with patients at Pangea Biomedics in Playas de Tijuana, Mexico and collected data for the purpose of studying quality of life for those patients. Since 2010 he has been working with MAPS on a Mexico-based observational study of the long-term outcomes for people receiving ibogaine-assisted treatment for opioid dependence. That study is complete, and the first research article on the study has been submitted for publication. In 2013, he published a review article on ibogaine treatment in Current Drug Abuse Reviews. He has presented his research at numerous conferences, including anthropological meetings, the 2nd International Congress on Traditional Medicine and Public Health, and conferences of the Global Ibogaine Therapy Alliance.