With COVID-19, it’s easy to forget that other health crises are happening around the world. One of them is the opioid epidemic, which is causing thousands of drug overdose deaths every year.
That’s why the medical community has been searching high and low for a safe and effective drug addiction treatment. Often overlooked are psychedelic compounds, such as ibogaine.
Now, medical researchers are beginning to find out that psychedelic compounds may be the answer they were looking for. That led them to a compound known as 18-MC, which is a non-psychoactive analog of ibogaine.
However, what’s the difference between 18-MC and ibogaine, and which one is an effective treatment for drug addiction?
Find out all that and more as we explore and explain everything you need to know about 18-MC and ibogaine.
What is Ibogaine?
Before we get into 18-MC, we need first to understand ibogaine because ibogaine is the blueprint for 18-MC. Ibogaine is a psychoactive compound found in the root bark of the Tabernanthe iboga plant, native to West Africa.
Ibogaine isn’t like other classic psychedelics like LSD, psilocybin (magic mushrooms), or DMT. That’s because it has a different effect that experts have called panoramic recall.
A Panoramic recall is described as ‘watching a movie of your life playing in your head.’ That’s why many people feel that ibogaine isn’t a psychedelic but a dream-inducing substance.
As Dr. Bruno Rasmussen, a researcher in ibogaine therapy, says,
“Ibogaine doesn’t make you hallucinate; Ibogaine makes you dream, but you are awake when you are dreaming.”
How Does Ibogaine Work?
It’s not fully understood exactly how ibogaine works, but it works differently than other psychedelics. Although it also works on the same serotonin receptors in the brain as other psychedelics, ibogaine targets many different receptors in the body.
We can think of ibogaine sort of like cannabis since cannabis also has many different effects on the body.
The main use of ibogaine in medicine is as a treatment for drug addiction. It can reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms and control cravings.
Studies have shown that it can also help reduce cravings for cocaine, nicotine, and alcohol. That means that ibogaine must be able to work in different areas of the brain.
What Are The Risks of Ibogaine?
As fantastic as ibogaine sounds, there are some concerns about its safety. That’s because at least 19 people have died during ibogaine treatments between 1990 and 2008.
However, 11 of those who died had other drugs in their system, which were known to be dangerous when mixed with ibogaine.
On top of that, some patients who died also had health risks such as obesity, heart disease, liver disease, and other illnesses that are a risk when using ibogaine.
Recent ibogaine research stresses the need for complete safety during ibogaine research. That means genetic tests, blood tests, EKGs, and even surgical examinations.
Overall, the most significant risk of ibogaine is its effect on the heart. Ibogaine can cause dangerous cardiac arrhythmias, which are irregular heartbeats.
What Is 18-MC?
18-MC is a derivative of ibogaine that has almost the exact same chemical structure as ibogaine. 18-MC doesn’t have any psychoactive effects and doesn’t have a dream-inducing effect.
The apparent risks of ibogaine are the reason that 18-MC exists in the first place. In 1996, a team led by Stanley Glick created 18-MC at the Albany Medical College.
18-MC is a patented molecule and was bought by a Canadian pharmaceutical company called MindMed in 2019. MindMed is focused on using psychedelic and psychedelic-inspired medicines to treat various illnesses.
How Does 18-MC Work?
On a technical level, 18-MC doesn’t connect to serotonin receptors, which is a crucial part of psychedelics. That’s why 18-MC doesn’t have any apparent psychoactive effects.
Besides that, it has the same effects as ibogaine and is effective at reducing drug addiction. 18-MC is also not showing the same heart risks as ibogaine.
Is 18-MC Safe?
So far, studies have shown that 18-MC is safe and well-tolerated. However, this study was performed on lab rats.
In 2020 MindMed started a phase 1 trial of human studies on 18-MC to test its safety. The company hasn’t released the data but says that the drug is safe.
Is the Psychedelic Experience Necessary?
Those involved with ibogaine treatment are concerned that the psychedelic effects of ibogaine are necessary for successful treatment.
Perhaps the psychedelic experience that’s so effective at treating drug addiction rather than the raw effects of the chemicals. Others aren’t so sure and think that 18-MC will be effective at reducing drug addiction.
However, some people are concerned with 18-MC because of the lack of real data. MindMed finished its phase 1 clinical trial of 18-MC in early 2020 and began its phase 2 trial during the same year.
Although MindMed is touting 18-MC’s success, they haven’t yet shared the clinical data.
There are already piles of data that show the effectiveness of ibogaine.
All About the Money?
One major concern among many people is the question about money. Since ibogaine is a natural compound, it can’t be patented.
Large pharmaceutical companies make a lot of money by buying the rights to compounds. Perhaps money is part of the reason that ibogaine treatments were dropped in favor of 18-MC.
After all, MindMed now owns the patent to 18-MC and is pushing it as a revolution in drug addiction treatment. However, we need to remember that ibogaine has some health risks, which is why ibogaine treatment was dropped.
At the end of the day, it’s all about saving lives. If either drug effectively reduces drug addiction, then it can be considered a success.
That’s because the drug addiction crisis in the US is reaching levels never seen before. 2019 was already the highest year for drug overdose deaths at 72,000.
2020 was even worse, and drug overdose deaths increased by a whopping 13 percent.
It’s obvious that the US and the world need an effective drug addiction treatment sooner rather than later. Whether that’s ibogaine or 18-MC, it doesn’t matter, as long as people get the help they need.