Dr. Deborah Mash is a pioneering researcher of ibogaine and one of the world’s foremost experts on the substance. She is also the founder and CEO of DemeRx, a pharmaceutical company developing ibogaine and noribogaine for treating addiction.
Dr. Mash earned her Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Florida State University in 1975 and her Ph.D. in neuropharmacology and neuroscience from the University of Miami in 1984. She spent the next two years doing a postdoctoral fellowship in neurology and pharmacology with Harvard Medical School at Beth Israel Hospital in Massachusetts.
In 1986, she became a professor at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine where she taught until 2018. While there, Dr. Mash founded the university’s brain bank, which collects and provides brain tissue specimens for clinical research. She founded DemeRx in 2010, serving as its Chief Strategy Officer for three years. In 2017, she became DemeRx’s CEO and began a research professor position at Nova Southeastern University.
Dr. Mash has studied ibogaine and its clinical applications for more than 20 years. According to a 1996 interview with reporter Paul DeRienzo of Pacifica Radio, she became familiarized with ibogaine around 1990 while studying coca-ethylene (a product of cocaine and alcohol in the body) and addiction. At that time, she had three separate encounters around ibogaine’s anti-addiction potential, including Stan Glick’s study of ibogaine with cocaine- and opiate-addicted rats. With her curiosity piqued, Dr. Mash began to investigate the ibogaine molecule. She assembled an interdisciplinary team for the project, determined to discover its healing capabilities.
In 1994, Dr. Mash and her colleague Dr. Juan Sanchez-Ramos received the very first approval by the FDA to study ibogaine. The first study consisted of Phase 1 dose-response trials and Phase 2 trials exploring the drug as a treatment for cocaine addiction.
A year later, Dr. Mash opened the Healing Visions ibogaine clinic on St. Kitts Island. Through treatmenting more than 300 patients, the clinic generated research from 1996 until its closure in 2003. She continued her research on ibogaine as an addiction treatment at the University of Miami in the following years. She told Wesley Thoricatha of Psychedelic Times, “We did 3-month, 6-month, and 1-year follow-ups and were estimating that between 40% and 50% of our patients had remained clean after treatment.” For comparison, Thoricatha noted, the estimated “success rate for conventional twelve-step programs is between 5%-10%.”
Regarding the drug’s future, Dr. Mash stated, “If ibogaine stays in the underground, backdoors, and back alleys outside of mainstream medical use, it’s never going to get out of Schedule 1 or be approved as a therapeutic drug, and we’ll never be able to get it to the millions of people who are desperate….I think we would need a consortium of credentialed people from academia and from the public and private sector that could help us to do a citizens’ petition to move ibogaine out of Schedule 1 and into Schedule 2.”
Through their work, Dr. Mash and her colleagues discovered noribogaine (the principal metabolite of ibogaine). They hypothesize that noribogaine is responsible for the longevity of ibogaine’s anti-addictive effect and thus suggest that the compound has a key role to play in ibogaine treatment aftercare and maintenance. In the Psychedelic Times interview, Dr. Mash explained, “People tell us that after they take ibogaine, they can feel the metabolite washing out. So by a month to 60 days, they are flying without a safety net. Noribogaine could be the safety net. If we can extend noribogaine in the blood by having a pharmaceutical version, I think we would see even better success, because it helps with the anxiety, depression, anger, and cravings creeping back.”
She has memberships with the Society for Neuroscience, the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET), the American Academy of Neurology, the Research Society on Alcoholism, the College on the Problems of Drug Dependence, and the International Society of Brain Research.
More about ibogaine and DemeRx’s work can be found in recent interviews with Dr. Mash, including from ideaXme, PsyTechGlobal’s 2020 Virtual Summit, a Business Trip FM podcast, and a New Health Club episode. A deeper look at Dr. Mash’s research is accessible through her ResearchGate profile.