Endogenous Neurochemicals: What’s Really Floating Around in Our Brains?

 

"The aim of medicine is to cure disease and prolong life, the ideal of medicine is to remove the need of a physician" -William J. Mayo

So after a bit of rumination i’ve decided to write a quick piece on endogenous neurochemicals. For anyone unfamiliar with the term, endogenous simply means “having an internal cause or origin” and a neurochemical is defined as “an organic molecule, such as serotonin, dopamine, or nerve growth factor, that participates in neural activity.” I was reading somewhere that a new chemical is produced in the body after ingesting Iboga. Out of curiousity, I did more research on the substance because I was only vaguely familiar with it at the time and needless to say, I had quite the epiphany.

Iboga (Tabernanthe iboga) is a psychedelic plant native to central Western Africa that has shown the ability to alleviate addiction in individuals that have alcohol, cocaine, or heroin dependency. Currently, the pharmacological options that we have to treat these addictions are limited and fairly ineffective. Ibogaine (one of the alkaloid structures in Iboga) has shown to have some effectiveness in helping sufferers kick their particular habit. One single session with the plant can remove all cravings for up to six months and multiple sessions with the substance can remove cravings for years. 

What’s extremely interesting about Iboga in particular is that it causes the production of a new chemical in the body called Noribogaine. This chemical is produced in the liver and has a slower half-life than traditional Ibogaine, therefore increasing and lengthening the effectiveness of the drug. The craziest part? Noribogaine went completely undiscovered until 1994 when a small team of researchers lead by Dr. Deborah Mash noticed the chemical on an autopsy report after one of the research subjects had died. The death is not believed to be attributable to the drug. In spite of it’s official discovery in the late 1800s and scientific research (while admittedly light) being performed on the substance since the 1960s, this new metabolite had invariably eluded scientists. 

 

Dr. Deborah Mash of the University of Florida.

So if Noribogaine helps users kick the habit, is it possible that other neurochemicals are being created after the use of other classical psychedelics? Studies have shown that LSD, Mushrooms, and other drugs from this class can completely eradicate alcohol dependency and depression in as little as one session; And when you factor in that the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous believed that LSD could cure alcoholism years before this data became more prevalent, we can begin to understand that we’ve created a bit of conundrum. Psilocybin has even shown the ability to grow brain cells after use which could prove to be invaluable for study on neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. I think it’s safe to assume that we, as a species, committed a massive oversight when we decided to place an embargo on these substances, effectively hindering research and making it difficult for scientists (or everyday users) to catalogue the long term efficacy of these medicines. Yes, I said it, medicines. I can personally vouch for LSD’s shocking potency as an anxiolytic, detoxifier and entheogen.

 

Bill Wilson, Co-Founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Perhaps we are missing the new chemical formed within the brain after the use of classical psychedelics that help to eradicate the afflictions of the experiencer or we simply do not have the technology to detect this neurochemical as of yet. It seems entirely possible that this could be the same for “Afterglow” chemicals produced in the wake of transcendental psychedelic experience. The brain is, in my opinion, the true Eighth Wonder of the world. We know very, very little about the human brain in comparison to other organ structures in the human (or any other species for that matter) body. If it took us this long to be able to verify something that many indigenous cultures have been using for centuries, it poses some extremely poignant questions about how advanced we really are when it comes to spiritual and neuropsychopharmacological study.