Novel Class of Psychedelic Iboga Alkaloids Disrupts Opioid Addiction States

This preprint (2021) animal in vivo and human in vitro study examines a new class of oxa-iboga alkaloids (10 & 40 mg/kg) with respect to their effects on opioid addiction in rats and their cardiotoxic effects on human heart cells. In contrast to noribogaine, oxa-iboga analogs exhibited no risk of inducing arrhythmia in adult human primary cardiomyocytes, and oxa-noribogaine induced acute and long-lasting suppression of morphine self-administration in rats in response to both single and repeated dosing regimes.


Introduction: Substance use and related mental health epidemics are causing increasing suffering and death in diverse communities. Despite extensive efforts focused on developing pharmacotherapies for treating substance use disorders, currently approved medications do not reverse the persistent neurocircuitry and psychological changes that underlie addiction states, highlighting an urgent need for radically different therapeutic approaches. Ibogaine provides an important drug prototype in this direction, as a psychoactive iboga alkaloid suggested to have the ability to interrupt maladaptive habits including opioid use in drug-dependent humans. However, ibogaine and its major metabolite noribogaine present considerable safety risk associated with cardiac arrhythmias.

Methods: We introduce a new class of iboga alkaloids – “oxa-iboga” – defined as benzofurancontaining iboga analogs and created via structural editing of the iboga skeleton.

Results: The oxa-iboga compounds act as potent kappa opioid receptor agonists in vitro and in vivo but exhibit atypical behavioral features compared to standard kappa psychedelics. We show that oxa-noribogaine has greater therapeutic efficacy in addiction models and no cardiac pro-arrhythmic potential, compared to noribogaine. Oxa-noribogaine induces long-lasting suppression of morphine intake after a single dose in rat models of addiction and persistent reduction of morphine intake after a short treatment regimen.

Discussion: Oxa-noribogaine maintains and enhances the ability of iboga compounds to effect lasting alteration of addiction-like states while addressing iboga’s cardiac liability. As such, oxa-iboga compounds represent candidates for a new kind of anti-addiction pharmacotherapeutics.”

Authors: Vaclav Havel, Andrew C. Kruegel, Benjamine Bechand, Scot McIntosh, Leia Stallings, Alana Hodges, Madalee G. Wulf, Melissa Nelson, Amanda Hunkele, Mike Ansonoff, John E. Pintar, Christopher Hwu, Najah Abi-Gerges, Saheem A. Zaidi, Vsevolod Katritch, Mu Yang, Jonathan A. Javitch, Susruta Majumdar, Scott E. Hemby & Dalibor Sames

Study details

Compounds studied

Topics studied
Addiction Opioid Use Disorder

Study characteristics
Animal Study Bio/Neuro