ESPD50: Ken Alper – The Ibogaine Project: Urban ethnomedicine for opioid use disorder

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Kenneth Alper, M.D. is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology at the New York University School of Medicine. Dr. Alper has studied ibogaine from the perspective medical ethnography, working with Howard Lotsof, the originator of the use of ibogaine in the treatment of substance use disorders, accessing the geographically and clinically diverse “medical subculture” to yield systematic observation on ibogaine in heroin detoxification, and quantitative and descriptive overview of the global settings of ibogaine use. That work continues with a recent study on prospective follow-up of drug use outcomes following detoxification. Dr. Alper edited the only English language scientific text on ibogaine with Stanley Glick and Geoffrey Cordell. From the perspective of neuropharmacology, Dr. Alper’s collaborations have indicated that the mechanism of action is novel and distinct from that of the opioid receptor agonists that are the current conventional clinical standards of pharmacotherapy for opioid use disorder. His collaborations with the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner and the NYU Departments of Cardiology at NYU and Capital Medical University in Beijing are widely appreciated in the community of ibogaine treatment providers as informing the effort to develop safer treatment.

The Ibogaine Project: Urban ethnomedicine for opioid use disorder

Ibogaine may be viewed as a project of urban ethnomedicine that began in a native context of use– heroin users in Brooklyn New York and Rotterdam, and has subsequently expanded as the for more than two decades with regard to numerical scale and geographic extent. With a mechanism of action is unknown and apparently novel, ibogaine provides a paradigm for investigation of the neurobiology of addiction and a prototype for the development of fundamentally innovative pharmacotherapy. Ibogaine is an affirmative example of the importance and significance of ethnopharmacology for innovation in drug discovery. Evidence regarding structure-function relationships indicates that the ibogamine ring system that defines the iboga class of monoterpene indole alkaloids may be accurately regarded as a “privileged scaffold”, a structure of pharmacological significance on which systematic substitutions can be utilized to modulate toxic and therapeutic effects.

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