Federal agencies want psychedelic research

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NIDA curious about the potential of ibogaine

An African plant used by indigenous peoples in rites of passage contains a substance, ibogaine, which many who have struggled with opioid addiction claim to have cured their condition.

Now, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is taking notice and working with a pharmaceutical startup to determine exactly how ibogaine and its analogues could best be used to beat drug addiction.

Recovered Addict Praises Ibogaine

The healing power of ibogaine is a story whispered – and, at times, shouted – by people in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction for some time.

The late Howard Lotsof, a former heroin user who became one of ibogaine’s biggest advocates, was initially looking to get high when he tried ibogaine.

However, the plan backfired when the substance ended up relieving Lotsof of his addiction – permanently.

“The next thing I knew,” Lotsof told The New York Times after taking ibogaine, “I was straight.”

According to the Times, Lotsof started a foundation in hopes of “developing ibogaine as a medicine, spreading information about chemical addiction, and directing people to treatment…[he helped to treat] 30 drug addicts from around the world, two-thirds of whom stopped using drugs for periods ranging from four months to four years.

Eliminate the “trip” of tripping

One of the reasons why some people who live with problematic drug use have not taken ibogaine (besides the fact that they may not know of its existence) is that the substance can produce powerful, disorienting, terrifying and even ego-destroying hallucinogens.

But the pharma startup now working with NIDA, Massachusetts-based Delix Therapeutics, is on a mission to create a chemical clone of ibogaine that works as well as the original for treating opioid addiction; the psychedelic component of the experience, however, could be removed entirely.

The “chemical clone” Delix Therapeutics is working on, called Delix-7, may work to boost neuroplasticity in the brain; in other words, it could help addicts’ brains make new connections, learn new ways, and break out of cognitive or neural “ruts” that can perpetuate addiction.

Research is unfolding at a breakneck pace as some of the brightest minds and most compassionate hearts in the world work to solve a mystery of consciousness’ inner puzzle that, when calculated, could bring relief to millions – even time, some voices are calling for temperance.

“We’re very excited that this is a possibility,” Dr. Wilson Compton, deputy director of NIDA, told Forbes. “But that remains very speculative and a possibility, not a reality.”

Donating money can save lives

In the end, it seems the possibility of a breakthrough of such magnitude and what the world already knows about psychedelics like ibogaine so far was enough to capture the imagination and ambition of a large part of the scientific community – and funding is beginning to find its way into the pockets of microscope holders.

Not only does NIDA work with Delix Therapeutics, but the National Institutes of Health (NIDA’s parent agency) last October endowed Johns Hopkins Medicine with a grant to study psilocybin, another mind-altering compound credited with anti-addiction.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, “This is the first NIH grant in more than half a century to directly investigate the therapeutic effects of a classic psychedelic, consistent with a recent study published online that sought a funding from NIH and found that no grants were awarded between 2006 and 2020.”

Apparently, in the field of addiction science and treatment, this is the beginning of a new era. The timing couldn’t come too soon: More than 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in the 12 months between April 2020 and April 2021.

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