Wondering about ibogaine addiction treatment? Can it really interrupt addiction, ease withdrawal symptoms and eliminate drug cravings. Read on to learn more about how it works, what to expect and the risks of use.
Ibogaine is a potent hallucinogenic drug that is derived from the African shrub, Tabernanthe Iboga. The substance has been used in spiritual ceremonies in Western Africa for generations but has more recently become known as an addiction treatment medication that greatly reduces the severity of opioid (heroin) withdrawal symptoms and also reduces cravings for substances such as alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine and nicotine.1
Ibogaine remains an illegal schedule 1 drug in the US but it is legal for use in many countries of the world. Its addiction treatment properties were discovered in the 1960’s but for various reasons (including its illegality in America) there remains a dearth of clinical research on its effectiveness. Nevertheless, scant research data is countered by a growing body of anecdotal evidence on its effectiveness and there are now many ibogaine therapy clinics in existence in the Caribbean, in Canada and Mexico and across Europe.
How Does Ibogaine Work as Addiction Treatment?
Although ibogaine remains an experimental and poorly studied drug, proponents of the shamanic hallucinogen say that it:
- Almost immediately stops opioid withdrawal symptoms.
- Reduces drug cravings.
- Grants you insight into why you use drugs or alcohol.
Ibogaine treatment has been described as "like a reset switch for life." After ibogaine treatment most people experience reduced cravings and greatly reduced drug withdrawal symptoms and many people will emerge from the experience with a better understanding of why they needed to use drugs or alcohol in the first place.
What Does Ibogaine Treatment Feel Like?
Although in the US, ibogaine is classified as a schedule I drug with a potential for abuse, most people who have used the hallucinogen describe an intense, very long lasting and not often pleasurable experience. There seems to be little realistic danger that people would want to use ibogaine on a recreational basis.
People taking ibogaine as addiction treatment typically take a single dose of the medication. This results in a three stage hallucinogenic journey that occurs over a period of days. In some cases, a single ibogaine experience is enough to induce lasting abstinence from drug abuse. Some people may need to repeat the ibogaine treatment experience 2 or 3 times to get full benefit.
The three stages of an ibogaine treatment experience are:
1. The Acute Dreamlike Stage
Ibogaine is typically given as a single dose in the morning. Opioid addicted patients will typically be feeling the initial effects of withdrawal (typical morning withdrawal feelings) but these withdrawal feelings will melt away within about an hour or so of ingesting the ibogaine. The duration of the acute stage is typically from 4 to 8 hours. Vomiting is common during this stage and seems to be exacerbated by movement, so patients will typically lie down and stay motionless in a comfortable, dark and quiet room. An observer is always present with the ibogaine patient, to provide reassurance if necessary, and to monitor vital signs.
Most people (75%) will experience vivid dream-like hallucinations during this stage and most people will have an introspective memory journey that can help to create better awareness of why you act as you do. The visualizations are typically rapid and based on memories of the past. Although hallucinations during this stage are intense and very visual, they occur only when the eyes are closed (It is described as like watching a movie) and hallucinations disappear when eyes are opened.
2. The Evaluative Stage
After the acute stage, ibogaine patients enter an evaluative stage that will last for 8 to 20 hours. During this stage, people reflect on the experiences of the acute stage.
The visual remembering of the dream-like state provide ample fodder for introspection during this phase. Often re-awakened memories reveal true motivations for actions or choices made in the past. Most ibogaine users find they gain a better understanding of why they have acted as they have in the past (used drugs etc.) based on an evaluation of the memories unearthed during the first stage of the treatment.2
When this greater personal understanding of motivations and actions is coupled with a sudden dramatic reduction in drug cravings and the virtual disappearance of withdrawal symptoms, there is a window of opportunity for significant behavior change, such as stopping drugs or alcohol for good.
3. The Stimulation Phase
Following the evaluative stage, the ibogaine user enters a stimulation phase that will last for 24 to 72 more hours.3
Most people find this stage somewhat unpleasant. The body is quite fatigued but sleep is difficult or impossible. Many people will be given sedatives or sleeping aides at some point during the stimulation phase to facilitate some resting. Most people will experience a greatly reduced need for sleep (2 to 4 hours per night) that will linger for weeks or even months following ibogaine treatment.
Ibogaine is often described as a substance that interrupts addiction. After ibogaine treatment, anecdotal reports indicate that you will feel greatly reduced withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings. You may also have a better understanding of why you used drugs in the first place and why you fell into harmful behavior patterns.
After an ibogaine experience, you have an opportunity to start again, but you also have an opportunity to make the same mistakes over again and fall back into familiar patterns, which include drug use and addiction.
To make the most of your ibogaine treatment, experts recommend that you follow up the experience with some form of continuing care addiction treatment or therapy – to ensure that the gains won through an intense hallucinogenic experience solidify into lasting life-changes in the real world.
Ibogaine Health and Safety Issues
Ibogaine can be risky, though it's hard to gauge the true risk given the circumstances of its use (one research group in 2007 found that a fatality rate of 1 in 300.4) To minimize this risk you should ensure that adequate health and safety precautions are in place and that you are physically and emotionally fit to participate in the treatment.
Reasons for recorded ibogaine deaths include preexisting heart conditions, using ibogaine root instead of the safer ibogaine extract, taking opioids while on ibogaine or immediately after treatment and using the substance in an informal setting without constant medical monitoring.
- Because there is some risk of complications during ibogaine therapy, you should not consider getting treatment in any facility that is not prepared to offer emergency medical resuscitation. Clinic providers should have at least one person present at all times who is trained as an emergency responder and who is trained in emergency resuscitation techniques.
Check to make sure that any clinic under consideration has some minimum basic emergency medical equipment on hand, such as:
- A first aid kit.
- Blood oxygen monitoring equipment.
- Blood pressure monitoring equipment.
Preferably they will also have such resuscitation equipment as:
For safety, ibogaine therapy providers will need to monitor your vital signs throughout the therapeutic experience.
Who Shouldn’t Take Ibogaine?
Due to the extreme physical and emotional nature of the therapy, people with certain preconditions should not take ibogaine.
Do not use ibogaine if you have:
- Cancer, epilepsy or have seizures.
- Cerebral palsy, MS, migraines, dementia requiring treatment or other cerebral dysfunction.
- Any type of cardiac condition.
- Untreated high blood pressure.
- IBS or Crohn’s.
- Kidney stones or kidney disease.
- Serious liver disease (enzyme at more than 400% above normal).
- Lung diseases, such as bronchitis, asthma or emphysema.
- Unmanaged diabetes.
- A history of stroke.
- Any type of vascular disease.
- Active and serious emotional or psychiatric disorders that require treatment.
- Any condition that requires ongoing medication which might interfere with the effectiveness or safety of ibogaine (such as antidepressant therapy, for example).
- Any condition that could influence the absorption, metabolism or excretion of ibogaine (A variety of kidney, liver or gastro-intestinal disorders).7
(Not a complete list of preconditions)
The Legality of Ibogaine Treatment
The possession and sale of ibogaine is illegal in the US, as well as in Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark and Sweden. In other countries, the possession of ibogaine is either legal or non-regulated.
Many citizens of the US and other countries which ban the possession of the medication travel to international clinics to receive ibogaine therapy. Ibogaine therapy clinics operate legally in Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico, across Central and South America and in many countries in Europe. Many American providers will offer ibogaine therapy in underground clinics within the US, but this an illegal and unregulated activity.
- 5. Global Alliance of Ibogaine Therapy Providers: Minimum Standards of Care in Ibogaine
- 6. Therapy Global Alliance of Ibogaine Therapy Providers: Slide 15, Contraindicated Conditions for Ibogaine Therapy
- 7. Manual for Ibogaine Therapy Screening, Safety, Monitoring & Aftercare Second Revision by Howard S. Lotsof & Boaz Wachtel
Page last updated Jan 11, 2015