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Kentucky to Use Psychedelic Medicine to Fight the Opioid Crisis
June 1, 2023

Kentucky to Use Psychedelic Medicine Ibogaine to Fight the Opioid Crisis

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Be Wary of Fentanyl-Contaminated Drugs.

The United States is experiencing a synthetic opioid epidemic that has claimed thousands of lives due to street drugs being adulterated with other drugs, such as fentanyl. Fentanyl is an incredibly powerful and deadly narcotic, with doses as low as two milligrams (a dose so small it could fit on the tip of a pencil) being potentially deadly. While it is never recommended to consume any illicit substances, it is critical that you or the people you know test any drugs you may ingest for fentanyl. Several non-profit harm reduction organizations, such as DanceSafe, offer fentanyl testing strips and at-home drug testing kits.

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The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider. Some individuals with preexisting mental health conditions should not use psychedelics. Always consult with a trained medical professional about your specific healthcare needs.

Are Psychedelics Legal?

Most classical and non-classical psychedelic drugs are prohibited in the United States under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. This family of chemical compounds are considered Schedule I drugs, the most tightly controlled and generally illegal class. This includes psilocybin (aka Magic Mushrooms), Methyl​enedioxy​methamphetamine (MDMA), Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), Ayahuasca, Ibogaine, Peyote, 2C-B, Cannabis, and others. Ketamine is also controlled under the same act and listed as a Schedule III drug. Due to the illegal or controlled nature of these drugs, it is not advised that you attempt to purchase, source, or otherwise possess any Scheduled substances, as you may be at risk of civil and criminal penalties.

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The information provided on this website is intended for informational and harm reduction purposes only and does not constitute medical or legal advice. Nor is this information, or any journalistic stories, anecdotes, visual or artistic material intended as a replacement or supplement for medical or legal advice. It is important to understand that using any psychedelic compounds from the streets has significant risks and is unlikely to produce the promising results emerging in some clinical trials which involve particular dosing and purity, along with specific, carefully crafted psychotherapy in a safe, controlled environment. Various psychedelics purchased illegally often are adulterated with other, possibly harmful substances, making it difficult and not advisable to self-medicate for PTSD, anxiety, depression, or for the treatment of other mental health issues.


In a bold and unexpected move intended to combat the opioid crisis, the Kentucky Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission recently announced plans to allocate at least $42 million over the next six years to research the potential of the psychedelic compound Ibogaine for treating opioid addiction. This decision marks a significant shift in the conventional approach to addressing drug abuse and addiction, particularly in the conservative South. It also represents a notable embrace of the emerging field of psychedelic medicine.(1)

Kentucky’s funding for psychedelic medicine research comes from a recent legal win and subsequent settlement with major opioid manufacturers. It is also part of a broader effort to find innovative solutions to the opioid crisis, which claimed the lives of more than 2000 Kentuckians in 2022, and killed an estimated 79,177 Americans last year.(2, 3)

The state intends to develop what they call the “platinum standard model” for an ibogaine recovery protocol. This will be achieved through several multi-site clinical trials held within the state. Moreover, the funds will be used to foster public-private partnerships that can support and drive the development of ibogaine through the Food and Drug Administration approval process.(1)

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The decision to focus on ibogaine is rooted in emerging science which indicates that ibogaine has significant potential for treating substance use disorders, especially where traditional treatment modalities have failed in the past. The Veterans Mental Health Leadership Coalition, a non-profit organization advocating for psychedelic reform and legalization, played a crucial role in organizing and briefing advocates who spoke on the paradigm-shifting potential of ibogaine.(4)

What are Psychedelics?

Psychedelics are a class of serotonergic (meaning they impact the serotonin system) drugs that can cause profound changes in consciousness. Classical psychedelics include psilocybin (aka magic mushrooms), lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), dimethyltryptamine (DMT), the Amazonian brew ayahuasca, and of course, ibogaine. Other non-classical psychedelics that are undergoing research as a treatment for mental health conditions include 3,4-Methyl​enedioxy​methamphetamine (MDMA), 5-MEO-DMT, and ketamine.(5, 6)

Woman Meditating

These compounds have been used by various cultures as important medicinal and spiritual tools for millennia but have only recently gained the attention of Western medicine after decades of stigmatizing propaganda campaigns and prohibition. The potential medical uses for psychedelics are vast, with applications for conditions such as treatment-resistant depression, PTSD, anxiety, substance abuse disorders, and even end-of-life care. With this new investment into psychedelic research, Kentucky joins a growing roster of states, like Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Virginia, and Hawaii, all of whom are exploring the use of psychedelics as medicine.(7)

What is Ibogaine?

Ibogaine is a naturally occurring psychoactive substance found in plants in the Apocynaceae family, such as Tabernanthe iboga. It is a powerful hallucinogen with complex pharmacology, and it has been used traditionally in spiritual and healing rituals by indigenous communities in West Africa, particularly in Gabon.(8)

Tabernanthe iboga
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González, B., Fagúndez, C., Peixoto de Abreu Lima, A., Suescun, L., Sellanes, D., Seoane, G. A., & Carrera, I. (2021). Efficient Access to the Iboga Skeleton: Optimized Procedure to Obtain Voacangine from Voacanga africana Root Bark. ACS Omega6(26), 16755–16762.

Ibogaine is unique among psychedelics for its reported ability to significantly reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings associated with substance use disorders, particularly opioids. It’s also been explored as a potential treatment for addictions to other substances, including alcohol, cocaine, and methamphetamine.(8)

The mechanism by which ibogaine works is not fully understood, but it’s believed to affect various neurotransmitter systems simultaneously. Some research suggests that ibogaine affects the opioid receptors in the brain, which could explain its effects on withdrawal and cravings. It also affects other neurotransmitter systems, including those involving serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate, which could contribute to its psychedelic effects and potential therapeutic benefits.(8)

Regarding its use as a treatment for substance use disorder, ibogaine therapy usually involves a single administration of the drug in a controlled, clinical setting under the supervision of trained medical professionals. The experience can last up to 24 hours or more and is often described as intensely introspective, allowing individuals to confront experiences and emotions tied to their addiction.(8)



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It’s important to note that while the potential benefits of ibogaine treatment are promising, it does come with significant risks, including cardiovascular complications and potentially life-threatening side effects. As such, it’s critical that any use of ibogaine for treating substance use disorders is carried out under medical supervision.(8)

Finally, while preliminary studies and anecdotal reports suggest that ibogaine could be an effective treatment for substance use disorders, more rigorous scientific research is needed to confirm its efficacy and safety. This is why initiatives such as the one in Kentucky are so important.(1)

  1. Kentucky Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission – Kentucky Attorney General. (n.d.). Www.ag.ky.gov. Retrieved June 1, 2023, from https://www.ag.ky.gov/Priorities/Tackling-the-Drug-Epidemic/Pages/Opioid-Abatement-Advisory-Commission-.aspx 
  2. Gov. Beshear: Kentucky Drug Overdose Deaths Decline for First Time in Four Years – Kentucky Justice & Public Safety Cabinet. (n.d.). Justice.ky.gov. Retrieved June 1, 2023, from https://justice.ky.gov/News/Pages/2022overdosedeathsreport.aspx
  3. Overdose Deaths Declined but Remained Near Record Levels During the First Nine Months of 2022 as States Cope with Synthetic Opioids. (2023, March 13). Www.commonwealthfund.org. https://www.commonwealthfund.org/blog/2023/overdose-deaths-declined-remained-near-record-levels-during-first-nine-months-2022-states 
  4. Noller, G. E., Frampton, C. M., & Yazar-Klosinski, B. (2017). Ibogaine treatment outcomes for opioid dependence from a twelve-month follow-up observational study. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 44(1), 37–46. https://doi.org/10.1080/00952990.2017.1310218 
  5. Nichols, D. E. (2016). Psychedelics. Pharmacological Reviews, 68(2), 264–355. https://doi.org/10.1124/pr.115.011478 
  6. Doblin, R. E., Christiansen, M., Jerome, L., & Burge, B. (2019). The Past and Future of Psychedelic Science: An Introduction to This Issue. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 51(2), 93–97. https://doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2019.1606472 
  7. Gregorio, D. D., Aguilar-Valles, A., Preller, K. H., Heifets, B. D., Hibicke, M., Mitchell, J., & Gobbi, G. (2021). Hallucinogens in Mental Health: Preclinical and Clinical Studies on LSD, Psilocybin, MDMA, and Ketamine. Journal of Neuroscience, 41(5), 891–900. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1659-20.2020 
  8. Ibogaine – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. (n.d.). Www.sciencedirect.com. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/ibogaine 
    • David Connell
    Insurer Cover Psychedelic Therapies

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