Psychedelic Compounds Like Ecstasy
May Be Good for More Than Just a High
BY JYLLIAN KEMSLEY
Psychedelic drugs were studied for medical uses in the 1950s and 1960s before being banned in the 1970s. Now researchers are looking again to the compounds as possible treatments for patients that do not respond to conventional therapies for mental health conditions. Read on for some of the research underway with five common psychedelics.
This article was adapted from “Psychedelic medicines.”
C&EN. 94 ( 13) March 28, 2016, pp. 28-32.
To read more from or subscribe to C&EN, visit cen.acs.org
Ibo, iboga root
NATURAL PRODUCT SOURCE:
roots of plants in the Apocynaceae family
(for example, Tabernanthe iboga)
CURRENT MEDICAL USE:
POTENTIAL MEDICAL USE:
In the early 1990s, University of Miami neurology professor Deborah C. Mash traveled to Amsterdam to see ibogaine treatments firsthand. “A single dose of ibogaine could completely block
the signs and symptoms of opiate withdrawal,” says Mash, who has
spent her career studying the effects of drugs and alcohol on the
brain. She and others are now studying ibogaine as a treatment for
opiate, cocaine, alcohol, and nicotine addiction.
Ibogaine was first isolated in 1901. It interacts with glutamate
receptors in the brain that are involved in learning, memory, and creation of new neural pathways. The receptor interactions are likely the
source of ibogaine’s consciousness-altering effects.
But ibogaine is metabolized within 24 hours: A hydroxyl replaces
ibogaine’s methoxy group, producing noribogaine. Noribogaine
binds to serotonin transporter, opioid, and nicotinic receptors and is
cleared from the body slowly. Consequently, noribogaine is likely the
compound that’s responsible for reducing patients’ withdrawal symptoms and cravings over the long term, as well as the accompanying
anxiety and depression (Neuropharmacology 2015, DOI: 10.1016/j.
Mash has patented noribogaine and related compounds, as well as
their formulations. She founded a company, DemeRx, to bring them
into clinical treatment. DemeRx is currently running a Phase II clinical
trial to evaluate noribogaine’s use as an alternative to methadone or
Suboxone to help opioid addicts transition to sobriety in combination
with support for behavioral changes.