Brazilian scientists test plant in drug rehab

A study found that ibogaine – a substance extracted from an African

Published in 14/10/2014 - 13:01 By Daniel Mello reports from Agência Brasil - São Paulo

Rio de Janeiro Usuários de crack concentram-se nas imediações das obras da Trasncarioca, na Avenida Brasil, próximo ao Complexo da Maré, zona norte da cidade (Tânia Rêgo/Agência Brasil)

The study involved 75 patients who have used crack, cocaine, or alcohol, and took place between January 2005 and March 2013Tânia Rêgo/Agência Brasil

A study conducted by the Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP) found that ibogaine – a substance extracted from the root of the iboga plant found in some African countries – is at least five times more effective to stop addiction than conventional treatments. “It [iboga] has been used in rituals by tribes in Gabon, Africa, since prehistoric times,” explained Bruno Chaves, one of the medical doctors in charge of the study.

The effects of ibogaine are similar to those caused by ayahuasca, a drink made from Amazon plants which is used in religious ceremonies. “The difference is ibogaine is much more powerful than ayahuasca. To give you an idea, the effect of ayahuasca lasts for four hours, whereas that of ibogaine lasts 24-48 hours,” said Chaves. He explained that users experience a feeling of expanded consciousness. “The patient begins to develop a sharper perception of who they really are meant to be, what their role is in the world, and which of the things they have done are right or wrong,” said the doctor, who monitored patients who were administered the drug.

Talking about how the subjects were recruited, the doctor explained that they have a track record of difficulty overcoming addiction. “Some of our subjects count over 30 rehab stays at age 30,” Chaves said. Before joining the experiment, they had to take psychiatric tests and undergo psychological preparation. “It is important that the patients feel motivated to benefit from ibogaine therapy,” he completed.

The study involved 75 patients who have used crack, cocaine, or alcohol, and took place between January 2005 and March 2013. Out of a total 67 male patients, 55% have remained free from addiction for at least one year. Among the eight female subjects, the rate was 100%. For a comparison, conventional treatments interrupt addiction from 5% to 10% of cases. The results of the groundbreaking study were published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, a major UK publication in the field.

In most cases, just one dose of ibogaine was enough to cut off wanting for drugs and prevent withdrawal reactions. “It balances the amount of neurotransmitters within the brain, and this creates a permanent feeling of well-being that outlasts the period of administration. It looks as though ibogaine interrupts the process leading to addiction,” said Chaves.

Once patients lose the appetite for other drugs, it becomes easier for them to proceed with treatment and psychological counseling and resume their daily activities. But the doctor warned gainst independent use of the substance, which may cause such side effects as dizziness, nausea, and confusion during the period of administration.

The team's next step is to obtain funding for a broader study, with a larger subject group, and more tests that can verify the effects of ibogaine on the brain.

Translated by Mayra Borges

Fonte: Brazilian scientists test plant in drug rehab

Edition: Graça Adjuto / Augusto Queiroz

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