Psychedelic Alpha’s Josh Hardman searches online message boards and chat rooms to hear from those who claim to have tried Tabernanthalog (TBG), a ‘non-hallucinogenic’ ibogaine analog.
Like many of you I am oh-so eager to learn whether non-hallucinogenic psychedelics—or, ‘psychoplastogens’—are safe and efficacious (for anything, really).
It’s a tantalising prospect that’s… tantalised… funders, with hundreds of millions of dollars boosting the mission of skipping the trip but maintaining efficacy: from DARPA to Delix.
But it’s going to take some time before we learn much about this class of drugs from clinical trials, which are only now getting started with low doses.
As we’ve discussed in earlier reporting, some researchers are using clever study designs to try to get at this question of whether we can parse out the trip from the ‘fix’ earlier. For example, Boris Heifets et al. administered ketamine to patients undergoing surgical anaesthesia and University of Wisconsin researchers co-administered memory-precluding midazolam and psilocybin.
See our Skipping the Trip section of our 2022 Year in Review for a write-up of these efforts plus the state of the broader psychoplastogen research effort.
However, whether these new drug candidates might prove non-hallucinogenic and/or efficacious in humans is still going to take some time to figure out. Last month Delix Therapeutics announced it had completed dosing the first cohort in its dose escalation trial of its DLX-001 (AAZ-A-154) candidate.
While I have a hunch that some non-murine lab rats at these psychoplastogen drug development outfits have tasted their wares, you’d be hard-pressed to find one that will spill the beans publicly.
So, I went sleuthing and ended up in the only natural place: research chemical and nootropics forums, chat boards and discussion servers.
I decided to hone in on tabernanthalog (TBG), an analog of ibogaine created by David Olson’s lab (which supplies pipeline candidates to Delix, of which Olson is a co-founder). Researchers have reported that, in rodents, the analog “was found to promote structural neural plasticity, reduce alcohol- and heroin-seeking behaviour, and produce antidepressant-like effects” (Cameron et al., 2021).
Tabernanthalog is particularly interesting because it builds off of ibogaine, which is known anecdotally to have anti-addictive properties. The subjective experience occasioned by ibogaine is intense and long-lasting: to some this would be considered as central to its apparent efficacy, while to others it might be considered a bug or flaw. While categorising this long-lasting oneiric state as a “side effect” or “adverse event” might be subject to debate, it’s harder to find someone who would take umbrage with attempts to minimise the known cardiac risks of ibogaine.
As such, Olson et al. sought to iterate on ibogaine by developing tabernanthalog with the aim to make a safer, non-hallucinogenic psychedelic that maintained at least some of ibogaine’s efficacy.
Again: tantalising. And, tantalising enough that I was able to find at least a dozen individuals who claim to have tried the drug after purportedly sourcing it from research chemical outfits and underground chemists. Kyiv-based PGL Chemie is a popular purveyor of such substances, while other online communities pool funds to commission synthesis of drugs like TBG directly.
While attempts have been made to verify that the substance ingested by these pseudonymous message board posters was, indeed, TBG, true verification was not possible. As such, all reports should be taken with a grain of salt (or, Imodium… as you will hear).
Tasting TBG: Reddit Reports
The search starts in the low-hanging places, such as Reddit. I’m rewarded with a quick and easy win in the form of a July 2021 post on r/NootropicsFrontline.
“We have synthesized 15 grams of Tabernanthalog at 98.4% purity [and are] looking for enthusiasts who would want to order some”, explains gintrux. The user shares mass spectrometry characterisation of what is claimed to be their TBG.
gintrux claims to have tried low doses up to 20mg, but reported being “too anxious” to try larger doses due to “a very strong experience with iboga 1.5 years ago”.
Despite plenty of volunteers in the comments (“Anybody is ok, dm me”, gintrux replied to a commenter who asked if there were any particular traits sought in volunteers), no further trip reports were disclosed here.
A year later, in July 2022, a post from FreshFrozenLux on r/NooTopics [sic] asked whether anyone had had any experiences with TBG. “Going to post my review on it soon”, replied sirsadalot. “It was very interesting of an experience”.
“It didn’t help much for me”, FreshFrozenLux reported back in the comments, “[at least] not for the physical symptoms”. But it “did take away cravings and alleviate some mental symptoms”, they added. They had been hoping that it may help with kratom dependency, which appeared as a recurrent topic among these communities.
dso333777, meanwhile, “personally wasn’t a fan but everyone’s body is different”. They were trying to offload their remaining 490mg stash: “I paid 140 plus tax … I’ll let it go for 100”.
A few months later, over on r/researchchemicals, a discussion arose around which benzodiazepine would be most sustainable for opioid withdrawal. The poster, Tryptameenz, disclosed in the comments that they had tried Tabernanthalog, but that “it did not work outside of cravings”.
In November 2022 we get one of the first more fleshed out trip reports on Reddit, again on r/NooTopics. abe2600 provides a short, 120-word description of their experience taking 52mg of what’s presumed to be tabernanthalog:
“Took 52 mg in the morning after a good night’s sleep. ROA sublingual/oral: some grains are slightly larger though soft. Didn’t take anything else or eat anything. Just coffee and water. Within about 15 minutes felt an energized, “coming up” feeling, though possibly placebo it was very strong, but never transformed into anything too unusual. Thinking was normal, perhaps a bit more articulate than normal. Did some reading and had no difficulty with processing ideas. Went outside several hours later and colors did seem brighter, trees and houses seemed more interesting and patterns more noticeable, but nothing dramatic and again very subjective. Conversation with companion was also normal. Finally ate about 9 hours later. Still felt bright energetic feeling.”
Well, that’s certainly sounding quite non-hallucinogenic. However, allometric scaling of doses used in animal studies might call for a larger dose than abe2600 ingested. I certainly wouldn’t want to speculate there, but some have tried much larger doses…
Just as this sleuther was growing bored of Reddit threads, having exhausted most hits for tabernanthalog, he came across a much more substantive trip report posted last month on r/researchchemicals. MRSAMinor shares a 400-word dispatch describing a 1 gram dose of tabernanthalog he purportedly ingested. I’ve chosen not to reproduce it in its entirety here, mainly owing to the fact that it includes some decidedly personal details with regards to his fiance.
“I don’t care what the rats said”, he begins, “it’s a psychedelic and feels far more tryptamine than phenethylamine.” After starting with 50 mg “as an allergy test”, he added 450 mg. At this point, with 500 mg ingested, he says that it resembles a DXM/LSD onset. (Note: it’s not clear when the remaining 500 mg dose was taken.)
“The whole thing was very odd”, he continued. His motivation for trying TBG appears to be related to kratom dependence. “I wanted to help with my kratom dependence but getting a doc to do a half shot of sublocade and walk away has been challenging.”
He describes throwing up for half an hour but says that his mind “went to very practical, emotional places” before falling asleep “tripping” at 1:30am.
“As for cravings, I tossed my cigarettes”, he reported, but “Kratom tolerance is same as ever.” “Maybe this isn’t meant for flood dosing”, he speculated.
“Anyone here have a contact with Hamilton Morris?”, he asked, hoping to verify whether he was the first human subject. (As far as my sleuthing goes, he most certainly isn’t.)
“7/10 – very few visuals, relaxing, lucid ; same aMT queasy and duration without feeling loved up. Seemed to oppose the ketamine. 20 hours long, napped a ton the next day. Wish I’d had company, but this shit cost me like $400. Would love to try lower doses; I assume they’re more like euphoria and stimulation like ibogaine, which I’ve never tried because I hate retreats and heart attacks in equal measure.”
“Goes to show how inadequate the rat behaviour tests can be”, one commenter chimed in. “Shulgin said it himself”, another added.
As aforementioned, it’s difficult to verify what these pseudonymous users have taken: both in terms of content and strength. It’s also difficult to know whether MRSAMinor’s experience was due to the seemingly whopping dose of TBG he ate.
Interviewing a TBG Taster on Discord
With Reddit exhausted, I next turned to a number of Discord servers and chat boards in search for more detailed and numerous reports.
We begin on a Discord server that has around 1,500 members, a couple hundred of which are online at any given time. Reports of TBG ingestion start appearing in earnest in Spring 2022.
One user, who has since deleted their account, said in April 2022 that response to tabernanthalog was “pretty variable”, with most people experiencing “little to no effects”. But, no one tried a full converted dose, they added. The poster said that another user had experienced “a mood boost” when they tried it intranasally.
Another poster said that they “do believe it has potential” in treating compulsive disorders and addictions. “It broke my wife’s treatment resistant depression and anxiety … for a couple of weeks at a time”, they explained (though, they didn’t have anecdotal evidence re: addictions or compulsive disorders). The user said that they saw “long lasting effects … but in a good way”, having taken up to 140 mg. “50 mg is my go to dose.”
A separate participant claims that TBG makes their legs tingle “and just feel nice”, which is “pretty much the same sensation” they report getting on ‘any psychedelic’. But, “unlike shrooms it doesn’t make my legs restless”, they report. They said that they, along with others, “find it essentially a ‘chill pill’, “basically the body high of psychedelics without the visuals.”
“In high doses it’s hard to get up”, they added. “I got bed locked a few times when I took 150mg+”. The experience lasts around 9 hours, according to this poster.
Later, in 2023, the same user commented “TBG is fucking amazing. Just expensive.” They added that they “have taken mini doses of shrooms and TBG beats it with ease”
In April 2023, another member of the chat server contributed their “final thoughts on TBG” after sharing a number of comments throughout an experience. “It’s been about 11h and I still feel it, and the more time passes by the better the quality the effect gets”, they said. “It’s almost ‘on a par’ with mdma for me, in terms of motivation and just open mindedness, mental-clarity etc. but without those nasty sides and crazy stimulation, just zen.”
Pre-empting a common question, the poster explains that TBG didn’t make them ‘high’ “to the extent that you’re probably concerned about”. “It does alter you[r] perception of reality and you can’t, for ex[ample], drive a car on 200mg”.
The most substantive trip report came from the user Sirsadalot in Summer 2022, who you might remember from the earlier Reddit posts. He was the only person who agreed to speak to me regarding his tabernanthalog experience.
His Discord bio “Pioneering the evolution of intelligence through pharmacological means.”
In his Discord posts he documented his experience on TBG in almost real-time. The journey started with apparent panic: “200mg tabernanthalog was too much I think … Idk why everyone was saying it needed to be like 700mg … almost just threw up … I’m mildly disoriented at this dose.”
“Yeah I don’t like tabernanthalog”, he exclaimed to the channel, “at least not at 200mg”. Responding to questions, he added: “it’s psychoactive yes”, and explained that he was experiencing “a lot of peripheral side effects” such as “nausea, dizziness”. No hallucinations, though.
“Yeah 200mg tabernanthalog is a dose that will put you in the bed”, he went on. “I feel like I just unintentionally made my day all about tabernanthalog”
A few hours later, Sirsadalot returned with some more sober reflections. Tabernanthalog is “very potent and psychoactive”, he said, adding that “it feels a lot like other psychedelics”. “It’s not a crazy trip … but it’s an altered state of mind and sensation”. “So far it feels like shrooms minus the visuals, also some similarity to DXM”.
“Tabernanthalog is an interesting nootropic”, he proclaimed. “ I feel like some abilities may be impaired, but the ability to empathize and conceptualize is enhanced.”
At what appears to be around seven hours post-ingestion, Sirsadalot updates the group. “Tabernanthalog is fucking awesome”, he says, appearing to become more emphatic about the substance with every hour that passes. “As long as you didn’t have something else planned for the day”, he then qualifies, “because I’ve been so high I haven’t been able to do anything but text on my phone”.
He claims that he staved off the early anxiety, nausea and dizziness with Tropisetron, after which “everything got better” and it “became more therapeutic”.
“It increases empathy”, he added, speculating clumsily that “this may be good for autistic kids”.
Summing up the experience, he said:
“I was underwhelmed by the tabernanthalog anecdotes, with most people saying 500-1000mg was an active dose. So I did 200mg expecting a mild nootropic effect. In reality, I have been in a hypnotic, introspective, and overall altered head space even with an accompanying body high.”
As mentioned above, Sirsadalot spoke with me about this experience. I first sought to understand how he acquired the TBG and how he was confident in its chemical fidelity. “I received it from a friend who works with labs”, he told me. “He showed me the testing.” That was around a year ago, he said, adding that TBG has been hard to come by for quite some time since then.
I wondered why Sirsadalot, who told me he doesn’t normally like psychedelics, was interested in TBG. “I wanted to take it for the novel experience”, he told me, explaining that he tried it “only on 2 occasions”.
He told me that when he took the ‘proper’ dose of 200mg (“a guess based on the rodent doses”, he added when I asked him how he arrived at this) he felt nauseous and dizzy along with some come-up anxiety, as described above. I asked him to explain how TBG felt. While what he told me largely matches his messages in the chat server, I have reproduced some of his comments here:
“… when it kicked in I felt the urge to lay in bed, almost like a feeling of physical laziness but my mind was very active. It amplified the sensation of music, and made it special. Everything had a deeper layer of thinking, almost like I had unlocked a childish part of my mind that I had long forgotten of. I was mesmerized, talking to people felt amazing, my empathy was enhanced greatly. It was very physically euphoric and I felt the sensation of my body on the sheets, like a warm hug. It lasted for a very long time, close to 9 hours. I also commonly get this iron-y/ saline taste (surely a hallucination) from DXM, and I experienced it with TBG as well […] All in all, it felt like a weak psychedelic and serotonin releasing agent. Physically euphoric and sedating, mentally stimulating and welcoming. I talked for hours with people, completely stable yet altered in a unique way.”
I asked him if he had tried ibogaine. He hasn’t, and doesn’t plan on it. “In all honesty, I haven’t used drugs recreationally in probably 6 months. In general I stick to cognition enhancement, general health and other related things.”
(Note: the incongruence of the term ‘trip report’ for so-called non-hallucinogenic psychedelics is not lost on me. But, in at least one case a trip was certainly involved: a trip to the bathroom. “TBG makes u shit and fart violently”, said one chat server member in April 2023.)
A TBG Retreat? Discussions on Rocket Chat
My last port of call was a Rocket Chat server populated by biohackers and nootropics enthusiasts.
One of the earliest TBG-related messages I found exclaimed: “TBG is amazing indeed!”. A day later, a moderator asked that people “stop recommending dosages over 100mg”, adding that “we had one too many bad experiences”. They continued, “I think for the majority over 100 [mg] generally gives a bad experience … sometimes really bad like what randy experienced.” (It’s not clear who ‘randy’ is, or what their experience was.)
“I think 200mg could be good”, replied a user named bitchyblond who claimed to have taken 150 mg the prior day. “No trippy effects whatsoever”, they reported, adding that they “went on Instagram” and watched a movie. Testament to how many in these communities seek to root their experimentation in scientific discourse and literature, bitchyblond reported that her “default mode network got reset for a few days”.
Another user, who was also a participant in the chat server and claimed TBG helped his wife with her treatment-resistant depression, was making similar claims in this server. “The wife felt a mood boost and we had a good day outside” on a 28 mg dose, he said.
Then, in May 2022, one of the more active members of the chat server posted a screenshot of an email they received. “I believe I am the first person to have used for research purposes a full flood dose of tbg, which in fact is actually 600-800 mg”, the email begins. They continue, “I believe you have something here that the world needs access to almost immediately”, adding that TBG “did for my research project in 3 days where [ibogaine hydrochloride] took 3 weeks to show results.”
In further Signal conversations posted to the chat, it appears that the person sending the emails and messages is a retreat owner who has tried ‘heroic doses’ of TBG on himself and his customers, but “always with a benzo” according to one chat participant.
“With my current experience”, the supposed retreat owner appears to have said via a Signal message posted in the chat, “as an addiction interruptor, tbg blows ibogaine out of the water in every way, safety profile and Efficacy being the two areas it excels in. The introspective aspect even seems to be more clear for people because the self awareness of what led them here isnt muddied by terrifying visions. It’s just clear messages from the heart.”
It’s psychedelic at higher doses, a moderator added. “Visions happen at high doses but they pale in comparison to iboga”, the purported retreat owner said.
These reports are a mixed bag, and it’s not apparent whether there’s much utility in analysing them more closely. These ‘underground’ discussions aren’t free of conflicts of interest, either. For example, the original posters of a number of the threads are purveyors of research chemicals including TBG, or are hoping to re-sell their own stock.
At face value, however, they might suggest that TBG is not quite as non-hallucinogenic as it may have presented in mice, at least at larger doses.
It’s also worth noting that companies like Delix may have iterated further upon early candidates like TBG, too. TBG is not the subject of Delix’s ongoing Phase 1 trial, after all.
Even some of the nootropics enthusiasts and biohackers appear to have moved on from TBG, too. One user suggested that the member responsible for coordinating the synthesis of TBG focus instead on “Molecule 8219”, adding that it appears to be “very potent” and “could replace TBG completely”. They’re referring to one of the molecules discussed in Singh et al. (2023), ZINC000443438219.