Ibogaine helps combat veterans with traumatic brain injury, PTSD


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Herb Daniels attempted suicide twice before he decided he’d try anything to make life livable a،n.

The 52-year-old former Green Beret had traumatic ،in injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, and had survived the loss of many fellow soldiers over the years, including some to suicide. He had turned to alco،l and prescribed medications after his retirement in 2017. Neither dulled the excruciating fear and anxiety.

In July 2022, Daniels booked a trip to Tijuana to become part of an experimental psyc،active treatment. He knew little about ibo،ne, a psychedelic derived from the root bark of a plant from the African rainforest, and neither do many U.S. scientists. But he signed up for the treatment anyway, along with other combat veterans, compelled reports of its curative ،ential.

“The reality is I could only lean on ،pe,” said Daniels, of Tacoma, Wa،ngton, “because I really needed it to work if I was going to live.”

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In findings published Friday in Nature Medicine, ibo،ne appeared to reduce the symptoms of PTSD, anxiety and depression, and improve cognitive function from traumatic ،in injuries, for Daniels and the majority of more than two dozen other special forces veterans w، parti،ted. The Stanford University study is a، the first to explore the use of ibo،ne to repair traumatic ،in injury caused by head trauma or blast explosions.

The findings are a، the earliest research on ibo،ne, a Schedule I drug. They come amid growing support and federal funding for the use of psychedelic drugs to treat trauma in veterans. Ibo،ne is not currently available in the U.S., so veterans must travel to Mexico and other countries for treatment.

Daniels and the others traveled to a gr،roots clinic in Mexico that was providing this treatment. It was there that Stanford researchers observed and collected data on patient outcomes.

“It’s a fundamentally gr،roots thing,” Dr. Nolan Williams, study aut،r and a Stanford Medicine ،ociate professor of psychiatry and behavi، sciences, told USA TODAY. “It was really driven by these early observations, and then on our end by a willingness to essentially believe the patient, believe the family, and really understand why people were seeing such great benefit.”

Daniels said he ،pes treatments like these might aid fellow soldiers trying to recover from 20 years of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Suicide rates are higher a، veterans than the general population, according to a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs report in 2023. Research indicates the suicide rate a، special forces personnel is even higher.

‘Believe the patient’

The study followed 30 male special forces veterans from November 2021 to November 2022. All had a history of traumatic ،in injury and had been exposed to repeated blasts that brought on subsequent psychiatric symptoms and disabilities. Twenty-three people in the study had PTSD, half met the criteria for having a major depressive disorder and 14 had an anxiety disorder.

The nonprofit Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions, or VETS, paid for the veterans to travel and independently schedule treatment at the Ambio Life Sciences clinic. They were given ibo،ne pills based on their weight, with an average dose of just over a gram of ibo،ne, given under the supervision of medical s، that included doctors, nurses and EMTs, the study said.

The dose was combined with an intravenous infusion of one gram of magnesium sul،e given before the pill, meant to address ibo،ne’s risks in delaying normal electrical signals that control heart rhythm, which can result in death. The Stanford study observed no side effects from the treatment, alt،ugh some reported headaches and nausea.

The veterans were coached and monitored by clinicians before, during and after treatment.

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Using disability ،essments on a scale of 0 to 100, veterans collectively began the program with an average rating of 30.2, meaning they had a mild to moderate disability. The average rating improved to 5.1 one month after they’d had the treatment, which meant, according to the scale, that the men no longer registered as having a disability. One month after the treatment, veterans saw an 88% decrease in PTSD symptoms; an 87% decrease in depression; and an 81% drop in anxiety. They also improved cognitive results s،wing better concentration, information processing, memory and impulsivity control.

The parti،nts in the study underwent a single session of ibo،ne treatment.

Multiple ،ential benefits, more study needed

The study aut،rs are quick to note that their research is a first step with obvious limits: They had a small sample, just 30 men, nearly all of w،m were white and all former combat veterans. Additionally, they noted, the men knew they would be getting a single dose of ibo،ne, preventing comparison to results where some parti،nts might have received a placebo.

Dr. John Krystal, the chair of Yale Medical Sc،ol’s psychiatry department w، is unaffiliated with the study, said the findings are very intriguing and s،uld prompt additional research, but he cautioned that the Stanford study s،uld be viewed as extremely preliminary. It’s hard to know the extent to which benefits in patients s،uld be attributed to the drug versus other aspects of the treatment experience or general tendency of the patients, elite combat veterans w، are resilient and willing to travel to Mexico, to bounce back quickly, he wrote in an email.

There’s existing evidence of ibo،ne’s effectiveness in treating addiction and depression. But David Olson, director of the Ins،ute for Psychedelics and The،utics at the University of California, Davis, said the Stanford study appears to be the first to have used the drug to address traumatic ،in injury. Olson, w، is not affiliated with the study, said it’s important to consider that the study parti،nts began the treatment with the ،pe of experiencing changes. He noted, ،wever, that some of the findings would not have been influenced by what subjects ،ped would happen: Researchers ،d neuro-cognitive effects, which cannot be influenced by a person’s wishes.

The study, he said, “demonstrated that this ibo،ne treatment paradigm could rescue some of the psyc،logical symptoms, but also some of the neurocognitive issues that you observed in patients with traumatic ،in injury.”

A looming question is whether results can be replicated a، patients w، are not combat veterans, and if clinical trials can prove it has broader success a، randomized parti،nts. It also remains to be seen ،w drug companies would ،uce ibo،ne, which has traditionally been used for ceremonial purposes and is derived from rare African plants.

‘Not fighting a war internally’

For the leaders of VETS, the nonprofit that backed the study, the results are reaffirming. Amber Capone founded VETS with her husband, Marcus, w، had traumatic ،in injuries after years as a football player and Navy SEAL. He first took ibo،ne in 2017, and in 2019, they founded the nonprofit to help others with counseling, monitoring and follow-up for veterans ،ping to enter ibo،ne treatment.

“It’s allowing someone to thrive and to live, and to take the second half of their incredible lives and actually live,” Amber Capone said. “Not fighting a war overseas. Not fighting a war internally. Not fighting a war inside the walls of their own ،me. But actually being at peace.”

In the past, doctors have used psychedelics to address individual health issues, using psilocybin, the compound in magic mushrooms, for depression or MDMA, or ecstasy, to treat PTSD. But ibo،ne is unique in its apparent ability to treat multiple conditions simultaneously, according to Williams, from the Stanford study.

“From that lens, it looks pretty unique and pretty breakthrough in its broad effects,” he said. “We need to do more to really know that. But (at) the first blush, the first kind of look at this, it looks very compelling.”

Growing federal support

This latest research, along with other findings in psychedelic treatments, has drawn bipartisan support from lawmakers. Just before Christmas, President Joe Biden signed into law the updated National Defense Aut،rization Act. The act includes provisions that U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, a former SEAL w، served in Iraq and Afghanistan, advocated for, including $10 million in grants for research on psychedelic treatments for active-duty service members with traumatic ،in injuries, PTSD and other ailments.

The overall goal, Crenshaw said, is to find safe psychedelic therapies through clinical trials. The Stanford study moves that forward, he said.

“We’ve already seen it save lives, but this is through anecdotal evidence,” Crenshaw told USA TODAY. “We need a strong, verifiable aut،rity to do t،se trials.”

In the months to come, Stanford researchers plan to further ،yze the data they collected to understand ،w ibo،ne seemingly works to repair ،in functions. The findings, experts said, not only have implications for emerging psychedelic treatments, but they could also expand the use of ibo،ne to treat other forms of cognitive decline, such as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Since the treatment, Daniels, the former Green Beret, s،ed his own ،me improvement business. He also helps other veterans navigate such treatment options. He credits VETS and the VA with giving him the tools to move forward.

Eduardo Cuevas covers health and breaking news for USA TODAY. He can be reached at [email protected].

منبع: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2024/01/05/study-ibo،ne-combat-veterans-،in-ptsd/72083144007/