Author: Will Yakowicz
In a country where 100,000 people die from drug overdoses each year—the majority of deaths caused by illicitly made fentanyl—Americans need more ways to treat addiction.
Massachusetts-based Delix Therapeutics, a startup trying to turn non-psychedelic analogs of powerful hallucinogens into medicines to treat psychiatric and neurological conditions, will be working with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to test its patented version of ibogaine as a potential treatment for a range of substance-use disorders.
“The therapeutic potential for ibogaine is huge,” says David Olson, the co-founder of Delix. “There are some indications that a single dose can keep people with opioid use disorder drug-free for months.”
Ibogaine is a powerful psychedelic substance. Derived from the iboga shrub native to West Africa, it has a history as a spiritual sacrament in the Bwiti religion in the country of Gabon. But it has also been found—anecdotally and through a slate of studies—to help people get off heroin and other opioids. Ibogaine is not the ideal addiction-treatment drug; it can cause cardiac arrhythmia (an irregular heartbeat) and its intense psychedelic experience is not for everyone.