Plant-based psychoactive drug treats traumatic brain injury

Traumatic brain injury

New research has found that plant-based psychoactive drug ibogaine improved depression, anxiety and functioning among veterans with traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

TBI from head trauma or blast explosions are a leading cause of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression and suicide among veterans.

Stanford Medicine researchers have discovered that ibogaine, when combined with magnesium to protect the heart, safely and effectively reduced PTSD, anxiety and depression and improved functioning in veterans with TBI.

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

Ibogaine is a naturally occurring compound found in the roots of the African shrub iboga, and has gained interest from the medical and scientific communities for its potential to treat opioid and cocaine addiction.

In this study, on average, treatment with ibogaine immediately led to significant improvements in functioning, PTSD, depression and anxiety. Moreover, those effects persisted until at least one month after treatment — the endpoint of the study.

Before treatment, the veterans had an average disability rating of 30.2 on the disability assessment scale. One month after treatment, that rating improved to 5.1, indicating no disability. Similarly, one month after treatment participants experienced average reductions of 88% in PTSD symptoms, 87% in depression symptoms and 81% in anxiety symptoms relative to how they were before ibogaine treatment.

“In addition to treating TBI, I think this may emerge as a broader neuro-rehab drug,” Williams said. “I think it targets a whole host of different brain areas and can help us better understand how to treat other forms of PTSD, anxiety and depression that aren’t necessarily linked to TBI.”

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