Non-Hallucinogenic Analog of Psychedelic Ibogaine May Have Potential to Treat Addiction, Depression, Other Psychiatric Disorders

A non-hallucinogenic version of the psychedelic drug ibogaine, with potential for treating addiction, depression, and other psychiatric disorders, has been developed by researchers at the University of California (UC), Davis, and colleagues. A paper describing the work was published online on December 9, 2020 in Nature. The article is titled “A Non-Hallucinogenic Psychedelic Analogue with Therapeutic Potential.” "Psychedelics are some of the most powerful drugs we know of that affect the brain," said David Olson, PhD, Assistant Professor of Chemistry at UC Davis and senior author on the paper. "It's unbelievable how little we know about them." Ibogaine is extracted from the plant Tabernanthe iboga (image). There are anecdotal reports that it can have powerful anti-addiction effects such as reducing drug cravings and preventing relapse. But there are also serious side-effects, including hallucinations and cardiac toxicity, and the drug is a Schedule 1 controlled substance under U.S. law. Dr. Olson's laboratory at UC Davis is one of a few in the U.S. licensed to work with Schedule 1 substances. His group set out to create a synthetic analog of ibogaine which retained therapeutic properties without the undesired effects of the psychedelic compound. Dr. Olson's team worked through a series of similar compounds by swapping out parts of the ibogaine molecule. They engineered a new, synthetic molecule which they named tabernanthalog or TBG. Unlike ibogaine, the new molecule is water-soluble and can be synthesized in a single step. Experiments with cell cultures and zebrafish show that it is less toxic than ibogaine, which can cause heart attacks and has been responsible for several deaths.
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