Both anecdotal reports in humans and preclinical studies indicate that ibogaine interrupts addiction to a variety of abused substances including alcohol, opiates, nicotine and stimulants. Based on the similarity of these therapeutic claims to recent preclinical studies demonstrating that N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonists attenuate addiction-related phenomena, we examined the NMDA antagonist properties of ibogaine. Pharmacologically relevant concentrations of ibogaine produce a voltage-dependent block of NMDA receptors in hippocampal cultures (Ki, 2.3 microM at -60 mV). Consistent with this observation, ibogaine competitively inhibits [3H]1-[1-(2-thienyl)-cyclohexyl]piperidine binding to rat forebrain homogenates (Ki, 1.5 microM) and blocks glutamate-induced cell death in neuronal cultures (IC50, 4.5 microM). Moreover, at doses previously reported to interfere with drug-seeking behaviors, ibogaine substitutes as a discriminative stimulus (ED50, 64.9 mg/kg) in mice trained to discriminate the prototypic voltage-dependent NMDA antagonist, dizocilpine (0.17 mg/kg), from saline. Consistent with previous reports, ibogaine reduced naloxone-precipitated jumping in morphine-dependent mice (ED50, 72 mg/kg). Although pretreatment with glycine did not affect naloxone-precipitated jumping in morphine-dependent mice, it abolished the ability of ibogaine to block naloxone-precipitated jumping. Taken together, these findings link the NMDA antagonist actions of ibogaine to a putative "antiaddictive" property of this alkaloid, its ability to reduce the expression of morphine dependence.