Article image

Psychoactive drug is the only known treatment that heals traumatic brain injuries

In an important medical study study, Stanford researchers have discovered a potential psychoactive druge treatment for the invisible wounds of war. In particular, the study focused on traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), such as concussions, that often lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and suicide.

Published in the journal Nature Medicine, the study reveals that the plant-based psychoactive drug ibogaine, in combination with magnesium, can significantly reduce symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, and depression, and improve functioning in veterans with traumatic brain injury.

Studying ibogaine and traumatic brain injury

TBIs are commonly caused by external forces such as blast explosions, vehicle collisions, or other physical impacts, leading to significant neuropsychiatric symptoms.

With mainstream treatments falling short, researchers have been exploring alternative therapies. 

Ibogaine, derived from the African shrub iboga, has traditionally been used in spiritual ceremonies and has recently caught the attention of the medical community for its potential in treating opioid and cocaine addiction.

Dr. Nolan Williams, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford, highlighted the uniqueness of the study.

“No other drug has ever been able to alleviate the functional and neuropsychiatric symptoms of traumatic brain injury. The results are dramatic, and we intend to study this compound further.”

Ibogaine treatment assessments 

The researchers, collaborating with VETS, Inc., a foundation that facilitates psychedelic-assisted therapies for veterans, conducted a study on 30 U.S. special forces veterans. 

These veterans, having sustained TBIs and experiencing severe psychiatric symptoms and disabilities, underwent treatment with magnesium and ibogaine at a clinic in Mexico.

Pre- and post-treatment assessments at Stanford showed significant improvements in PTSD, anxiety, depression, and overall functioning.

Transformative results

“These men were incredibly intelligent, high-performing individuals who experienced life-altering functional disability from TBI during their time in combat,” Williams said. “They were all willing to try most anything that they thought might help them get their lives back.”

Craig, a 52-year-old study participant and Navy veteran, shared his transformative experience: “Since [ibogaine treatment], my cognitive function has been fully restored. This has resulted in advancement at work and vastly improved my ability to talk to my children and wife.” 

Similarly, Sean, a 51-year-old veteran, said that ibogaine treatment “saved his life,” lifting him from a state of hopelessness to clarity.

Exciting potential and future research

The study noted no serious side effects from ibogaine, with veterans reporting only typical symptoms like headaches and nausea.

The researchers plan to further analyze additional data, including brain scans, to understand how ibogaine led to cognitive improvements.

They also aim to explore the drug’s potential for treating other neuropsychiatric conditions beyond traumatic brain injury.

This research, independently funded by philanthropic donations and not associated with VETS, Inc., opens a promising avenue for treating TBI and related conditions, potentially revolutionizing the approach to mental health challenges faced by veterans.

More about ibogaine 

As discussed above, ibogaine, a naturally occurring psychoactive substance found in the African iboga shrub, has garnered significant attention for its potential in treating addiction.

Origins and discovery

Ibogaine originates from the root bark of the iboga tree (Tabernanthe iboga), native to West Central Africa. Indigenous communities have long used it for ritualistic and medicinal purposes.

Its psychoactive properties were discovered by Western science in the late 19th century, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that its potential for treating substance addiction was explored.

How ibogaine works

Ibogaine is unique in its ability to interrupt addiction. It acts on multiple neurotransmitter systems, including serotonin, dopamine, and opioid receptors, making it particularly effective against a range of substances, including opioids, alcohol, and stimulants.

Its users often experience a profound psychedelic state, during which they report revisiting past traumas or gaining insights into their addiction.

Therapeutic use

In addition to the new research discussed previously, studies have shown that ibogaine can significantly reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings for drugs and alcohol.

It’s not a cure for addiction but a tool that can provide a window of opportunity for deep psychological healing and habit change.

Treatment typically occurs in specialized clinics, as the administration of ibogaine requires careful monitoring due to its potent effects and potential health risks.

Controversies and risks

Ibogaine treatment is not without controversy. The main concerns revolve around its safety, as the substance can cause cardiac complications and has been linked to several deaths.

Its hallucinogenic properties also raise questions about its psychological impact. Because of these risks, ibogaine remains illegal or tightly controlled in many countries, including the United States.

Despite its controversial status, ibogaine continues to be an area of interest for researchers.

In countries where it is legal, such as Mexico and New Zealand, studies are underway to better understand its efficacy and safety profile.

The growing opioid epidemic has also fueled interest in alternative treatments like ibogaine.

In summary, ibogaine stands at the crossroads of traditional medicine, psychedelic therapy, and addiction treatment. While promising, it requires careful consideration and further research to fully understand its benefits and risks.

For many, it offers a chance at a new life, free from the chains of addiction, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution and must be approached with caution and respect for its power.


Like what you read? Subscribe to our newsletter for engaging articles, exclusive content, and the latest updates.

Check us out on EarthSnap, a free app brought to you by Eric Ralls and


News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day