The Anti-Addiction Drug Ibogaine and the Heart: A Delicate Relation

This review (2015) examines how the anti-addictive drug ibogaine affects the heart and the cardiovascular system and outlines a sequence of deleterious events that lower heart rate and selectively block cardiac ion channels which pave the way for life-threatening arrhythmias. Due to the longevity of noribogaine—ibogaine’s active metabolite—in human plasma, cardiac adverse events may also occur several days after, which highlights the need for developing less toxic variants of ibogaine such as 18-MC.

Abstract

“The plant indole alkaloid ibogaine has shown promising anti-addictive properties in animal studies. Ibogaine is also anti-addictive in humans as the drug alleviates drug craving and impedes relapse of drug use. Although not licensed as therapeutic drug and despite safety concerns, ibogaine is currently used as an anti-addiction medication in alternative medicine in dozens of clinics worldwide. In recent years, alarming reports of life-threatening complications and sudden death cases, temporally associated with the administration of ibogaine, have been accumulating. These adverse reactions were hypothesised to be associated with ibogaine’s propensity to induce cardiac arrhythmias. The aim of this review is to recapitulate the current knowledge about ibogaine’s effects on the heart and the cardiovascular system, and to assess the cardiac risks associated with the use of this drug in anti- addiction therapy. The actions of 18-methoxycoronaridine (18-MC), a less toxic ibogaine congener with anti-addictive properties, are also considered. “

Authors: Xaver Koenig & Karlheinz Hilber

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