The Ecology of Humans (73-1) Dissociatives


Dissociatives distort sensation and produce a sense of detachment. This dissociation from self and environment is accomplished by compartmentalizing sensation: reducing or blocking cognitive communication channels.

Some dissociatives produce euphoria, though most have a depressant effect. Dissociatives impair cognition.


Most dissociatives are synthetic concoctions. Ibogaine (C20H26N2O) is a notable exception, in being an alkaloid found in the root bark of iboga, a perennial rainforest shrub endemic to western central Africa.

Bwiti is a spiritual discipline practiced by the forest-dwelling natives where iboga grows. Iboga root bark is ingested to invoke visions intended for later introspective reflection.

Ibogaine is unique among hallucinogens that affect serotonin activity (serotonergic) in blocking receptors activated by other psychoactive substances. As an antagonist, ibogaine has been employed in treating addiction to self-abusive substances such as opioids, nicotine, alcohol, and amphetamines. Ibogaine has also been used as an adjunct to psychotherapy.

Ibogaine has been a banned substance in the United States since the 1960s but remains unregulated in Canada and Mexico.