General Facts about Ibogaine
Ibogaine is a naturally occurring psychoactive indole alkaloid found in plants in the Apocynaceae family such as Tabernanthe iboga, Voacanga africana and Tabernaemontana undulata. In the the iboga plant (Tabernanthe iboga), the highest concentration of ibogaine is found in the root bark. Lower concentrations of ibogaine are found in the rest of the plant along with other indole alkaloids in the same family.
These plants are used for medicinal and ritual purposes in African spiritual traditions of the Bwiti tribe in the Congo basin of Africa. It was first promoted in the West as having anti-addictive properties in 1962 by Howard Lotsof, a heroin addict himself. In France it was marketed as Lambarène and used as a stimulant. Additionally, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) studied the effects of ibogaine in the 1950s.
Today, it is illegal in the United States as it’s considered a Schedule I drug. However, it’s is available to varying degrees in many other countries, including the Canada and Mexico as well as several European countries. It’s primarily used in treating addiction for opiates and other highly-addictive drugs, though it is also becoming more common as a tool for personal and spiritual development. Recreational use of ibogaine is nearly non-existent.
Chemical name and structure of Ibogaine
Common Name/Nicknames for Ibogaine
Can ibogaine be detected in a drug test?
There are currently no known urine or blood tests on the market for ibogaine. Furthermore, ibogaine is not chemically similar to commonly-tested drugs, so its presence is very unlikely to trigger positive results for other drugs during a standard screen.
Brief History of Ibogaine
1864: The first description of T. iboga is published. A specimen is brought to France from Gabon. A published description of the ceremonial use of T. iboga in Gabon appears in 1885.
1901: Ibogaine is isolated and crystallized from T. iboga root bark.
1901-1905: The first pharmacodynamic studies of ibogaine are performed. During this period ibogaine is recommended as a treatment for “asthenia” at a dosage range of 10 to 30 mg per day.
1939-1970: Ibogaine is sold in France as Lambarène, a “neuromuscular stimulant,” in 8 mg tablets, recommended for indications that include fatigue, depression, and recovery from infectious disease.
1955: Harris Isbell administers doses of ibogaine of up to 300 mg to eight already detoxified morphine addicts at the U.S. Addiction Research Center in Lexington, Kentucky.
1957: The description of the definitive chemical structure of ibogaine is published. The total synthesis of ibogaine is reported in 1965.
1962-1963: In the United States, Howard Lotsof administers ibogaine to 19 individuals at dosages of 6 to 19 mg/kg, including 7 with opioid dependence who note an apparent effect on acute withdrawal symptomatology.
1967-1970: The World Health Assembly classifies ibogaine with hallucinogens and stimulants as a “substance likely to cause dependency or endanger human health.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) assigns ibogaine Schedule I classification. The International Olympic Committee bans ibogaine as a potential doping agent. Sales of Lambarène cease in France.
1969: Dr. Claudio Naranjo, a psychiatrist, receives a French patent for the psychotherapeutic use of ibogaine at a dosage of 4 to 5 mg/kg.
1985: Howard Lotsof receives a U.S. patent for the use of ibogaine in opioid withdrawal. Additional patents follow for indications of dependence on cocaine and other stimulants, alcohol, nicotine, and polysubstance abuse.
1988-1994: U.S. and Dutch researchers publish initial findings suggestive of the efficacy of ibogaine in animal models of addiction, including diminished opioid self-administration and withdrawal, as well as diminished cocaine self-administration.
1989-1993: Treatments are conducted outside of conventional medical settings in the Netherlands involving the International Coalition of Addict Self-Help (ICASH), Dutch Addict Self Help (DASH), and NDA International.
1991: Based on case reports and preclinical evidence suggesting possible efficacy, NIDA Medication Development Division (MDD) begins its ibogaine project. The major objectives of the ibogaine project are preclinical toxicological evaluation and development of a human protocol.
August 1993: FDA Advisory Panel meeting, chaired by Medical Review Officer Curtis Wright, is held to formally consider Investigational New Drug Application filed by Dr. Deborah Mash, Professor of Neurology at the University of Miami School of Medicine. Approval is given for human trials. The approved ibogaine dosage levels are 1, 2, and 5 mg/kg. The Phase I dose escalation study begins December 1993, but activity is eventually suspended.
October 1993-December 1994: The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) holds a total of four Phase I/II protocol development meetings, which include outside consultants. The resulting draft protocol calls for the single adminis- tration of fixed dosages of ibogaine of 150 and 300 mg versus placebo for the indication of cocaine dependence.
March 1995: The NIDA Ibogaine Review Meeting is held in Rockville, Maryland, chaired by the MDD Deputy Director, Dr. Frank Vocci. The possibility of NIDA funding a human trial of the efficacy of ibogaine is considered. Opinions of representatives of the pharmaceutical industry are mostly critical, and are a significant influence in the decision not to fund the trial. NIDA ends its ibogaine project, but it does continue to support some preclinical research on iboga alkaloids.
Mid 1990s-2001: Ibogaine becomes increasingly available in alternative settings, in view of the lack of approval in the Europe and the United States. Treatments in settings based on a conventional medical model are conducted in Panama in 1994 and 1995 and in St. Kitts from 1996 to the present. Informal scenes begin in the United States, Slovenia, Britain, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic. The Ibogaine Mailing List begins in 1997 and heralds an increasing utilization of the Internet within the ibogaine medical subculture.
The first reports of ibogaine use in the West came from French and Belgian explorers observing African spiritual ceremonies in the second half of the 19th century. The chemical compound was first isolated in 1901 by two independent research groups, but a complete synthesis was not accomplished until 1966.
From the 1930s to 1960s, ibogaine was sold as a stimulant in France under the brand name Lambarène, which was an extract of the Tabernanthe manii plant. However, in 1966, it was withdrawn from the market when the sale of all ibogaine-containing products was declared illegal in France.
Around the same time, the World Health Assembly classified ibogaine as a “substance likely to cause dependency or endanger human health,” the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) designated ibogaine it Schedule I classification, and the International Olympic Committee banned ibogaine as after categorizing it as a potential doping agent.
Ibogaine’s anti-addictive effects were discovered accidentally in the 1960s by a 19-year-old heroin addict named Howard Lotsof. He and five of his addict friends all noticed a reduction of their heroin craving and withdrawal symptoms after taking ibogaine for recreational purposes.
Being the enterprising heroin addict that he was, Loftof signed a contract with a Belgian pharmaceutical company to produce a tablet containing ibogaine for clinical trials in the Netherlands. In 1985, he was awarded a United States patent for the product.
In 1981, 44 kg of iboga extract was produced by an unnamed European manufacturer. The entire stock was purchased by a single buyer, Carl Waltenburg, who distributed it as "Indra extract" to treat heroin addicts in Christiania, Denmark, a small village with a high number of heroin addicts. A number of local movements took hold in the early- to mid-1990s in offshore locations from the US, mostly aimed at treating heroin addicts. In total, more than 3,000 private clinics and retreats were established and an entire “ibogaine medical subculture” flourished from which poured numerous accounts of individuals fighting and overcoming addiction.
In the early 1990s, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) funded and conducted clinical trials with ibogaine in the US. In a cohort of 33 heroin addicts treated with 6 to 29 mg/kg of ibogaine, 25 showed resolution of opioid withdrawal symptoms 24 to 72 hours post-treatment, but a 24-year-old female who received the highest dosage died. NIDA funding was then terminated in 1995, but they encouraged other clinical trials to be conducted.
Later studies have found that lower doses (10-12 mg/kg) observed significantly reduced withdrawal scores in heroin, cocaine and opiate addicts that appeared to be sustained after at least one month.
Today, while ibogaine is illegal in the United States, primarily due to the regulatory difficulty in reclassifying a Schedule I drug, it is available as a prescribed anti-addiction treatment in many countries, including Canada, South Africa, the Netherlands, Mexico, Norway, and the U.K. among others.
Ibogaine Success Rate Statistics
Due to its status as a Schedule I drug, ibogaine has primarily been used as a treatment for addiction in non-traditional clinical settings outside of the United States. Statistics on its efficacy, therefore, are somewhat difficult to come by.
However, a recent studies have suggested that ibogaine has a long-term success rate of significantly reducing or eliminating withdrawal symptoms from opiods and other drugs of abuse in the neighborhood of 20-60%.
Two studies conducted by MAPS in Mexico and New Zealand found significant long-term reduction of withdrawal symptoms in 20% and 50% of participants, respectively.
Another recent study in Brazil found long-term reduction in symptoms with over 60% of participants using a combination of ibogaine and psychotherapy. This study highlights the power of ibogaine as a supplementary tool in overcoming addiction. In combination with social support and a structured treatment plan that focuses on long-term goals, ibogaine is showing tremendous promise in treating addiction.
Pharmacological properties of Ibogaine
Ibogaine simultaneously interacts with several neurotransmitter systems. It’s highest affinity is for the sigma-2 receptor while it has a moderate affinity for opioid receptors and moderate-to-low affinity for serotonin receptors.
Ibogaine is metabolized by the body into noribogaine, which acts primarily as a serotonin reuptake inhibitor; that is, it has the end-effect of increasing the availability of serotonin in the synapse.
Ibogaine interactions with other drugs and substances
Ibogaine is metabolized in part by the awkwardly named enzyme cytochrome P4502D6. This enzyme is involved in the metabolism of a whole host of other medications and chemicals in the body, so it’s important to know which of these substances will interact with ibogaine prior to use.
The risk of experiencing cardiac complications or other dangerous side effects increases when ibogaine is taken in conjunction with the following medications and substances (not a complete list):
Duloxetine (Cymbalta, Ariclaim, Xeristar, Yentreve, Duzela, Dulane)
Aripiprazole (Abilify, Aripiprex)
Thioridazine (Mellaril, Sonapax, Thioril)
Chlorpromazine (Thorazine, Largactil)
Droperidol (Inapsine, Droleptan, Dridol, Xomolix, Innovar)
Flecainide acetate (Tambocor, Almarytm, Apocard, Ecrinal, Flécaine)
Moxifloxacin (Avelox, Avalox, Avelon, Vigamox, Moxeza)
Procainamide (Pronestyl, Procan, Procanbid)
Dextromethorphan (DXM, DM)
Tamoxifen (Nolvadex, Istubal, Valodex)
Tramadol (Ultram, Ralivia, Tramal)
Furthermore, foods foods containing bergamottin or bergamot oil, such as grapefruit juice, as well as a variety of other supplements and over-the-counter medications such as Prilosec (Omeprazole), some gastric disorder drugs, anti-fungal medications, HIV treatment drugs, and some antihistamines, can all significantly contribute to cardiac complications while circulating in the body at time of ibogaine treatment.
Toxicology and Safety of Ibogaine
There have been reports of toxicity-related complications with ibogaine use, primarily due to previous medical conditions (mostly cardiac) and drug-drug interactions, most of which are listed above. Also, it is very important to avoid using ibogaine if you have a pre-existing heart condition as this can lead to dangerous reactions or even death.
A review covering medical records covering the period 1990 to 2008 found that 19 people died anywhere from about an hour to three days after using ibogaine. However, none of these deaths were attributable to toxic effects of ibogaine, but rather to interactions with prior medical conditions or due to interactions with other drugs taken with ibogaine.
For drug addiction treatment, you should only take ibogaine under the direct supervision of a trained medical professional. The Global Ibogaine Therapy Alliance has recently established criteria by which a physician should assess you to see if you’re physically able to undergo ibogaine treatment.
The Ibogaine Experience: Physical, Psychological, and Emotional Effects
Physical Effects of Ibogaine
One of the most immediate adverse effects you may feel on ibogaine is ataxia, or an inability to fluidly coordinate muscle movements. Nausea, dry mouth, dizziness, and vomiting can also occur. It’s best to lay down while tripping on ibogaine as sudden movements can lead to increases dizziness and nausea.
Heart beat irregularities and irregular breathing may also occur. Again, ibogaine should not be taken if you have any sort of heart condition.
You can expect to be in bed for the first 12 hours of your ibogaine trip (phases 1 and 2 below). The first several hours will be intense before you start to come down as your body metabolizes the ibogaine.
An ibogaine trip experience can be broken down into three phases:
Acute, “awakened dream state” phase
Evaluative or reflective phase
Residual stimulation phase
Phase 1: Acute phase. The acute phase begins 1 to 3 hours after taking ibogaine and can last 4 to 8 hours. Most report a “panoramic,” mostly visual experience of past memories. It’s often described as a “waking dream” state with varying experiences that might include contact with transcendent beings, passage along a lengthy path, or floating.
People often report being placed in or entering visual landscapes, rather than experiencing intrusive visual or auditory hallucinations. Not all subjects experience visual phenomena from ibogaine, which may be related to dose, bioavailability, and interindividual variation.
Phase 2: Evaluative phase. The evaluative phase begins approximately 4 to 8 hours after taking ibogaine and can can last 8 to 20 hours. People often report recalling fewer memories in this phase along with a more neutral and reflective emotional tone. Attention is directed at evaluating the experiences of the acute phase. Many prefer as little environmental stimuli during this phase and the acute phase as it’s easy to become agitated or annoyed by distractions.
Phase 3: Residual stimulation phase. The residual stimulation phase begins approximately 12 to 24 hours after taking ibogaine and can last 24 to 72 hours or more. Attention shifts back to the external environment during this phase while the subjective psychoactive experience begins to fade. Normal movement returns and people often report heightened arousal and vigilance during this period as well. Some report a reduced need for sleep for several days to weeks following treatment.
After the trip
After an ibogaine trip is complete, a window of heightened introspection last several days to weeks allowing the person to integrate these new perspectives about the issues they face into their daily lives. Being conscious of emotional experiences and reactions of which you were previously unaware allows you to make more deliberate assessments of your emotional life and in the reactions to your environment.
Personal experiences with ibogaine
The only prevalent myth about ibogaine is that it can kill you for seemingly unknown reasons.
It is true that people have died after using ibogaine. A review of cases outside of West Africa found 19 known deaths following ibogaine use between 1990 and 2008.
However, there was no evidence to suggest that toxic effects of ibogaine itself was to blame. Instead, the majority of the deaths involved preexisting heart conditions and the rest were either determined to be or likely because of interactions with other drugs.
It’s important that you not use ibogaine if you have a history heart disease or are currently taking certain other substances.
Therapeutic Uses of Ibogaine
From a therapeutic standpoint, ibogaine has nearly exclusively been used to treat addiction — primarily opiate addictions like heroin, though it has been used to treat cocaine, amphetamine, and alcohol abuse as well. Ibogaine is not considered a “cure” for addiction, but rather is often called an addiction “interrupter” as it eliminates or greatly reduces withdrawal symptoms of opiates, cocaine, amphetamine, and alcohol.
Some people experience a virtually permanent eradication of withdrawal symptoms after a single ibogaine treatment session, but more often, cravings and other symptoms return after a few weeks or months, but at greatly reduced intensities.
However, since the DEA categorized it as a Schedule I drug, and since NIDA pulled research funding for ibogaine as a possible addiction treatment in 1995, there have been no systematic controlled trials on its anti-addictive effects and efficacy in the United States or Europe.
Myriad anecdotal reports, however, fly in the face of the “conventional wisdom” of the feds. Officially, ibogaine is a Schedule I drug because its hallucinogenic effects give it a high potential for abuse. But reports from heroin addicts who have taken single doses of ibogaine to help escape their addictions experience no addictive side effects and, to the contrary, rarely describe it as a pleasurable experience worth repeating in a recreational setting.
One woman said of her experience with ibogaine, “I wouldn’t recommend it to somebody who is trying to have fun. If you want your body to explode into 1,000 pieces and rebuild itself into something beautiful, then yeah—but don’t expect it to be pleasant.”
That being said, ibogaine has serious promise as an anti-addiction treatment based on these anecdotal reports.
Here’s how one heroin addict described his recent experience during a single treatment session with ibogaine in Baja California, Mexico:
“As it starts to take effect I feel an intense wave of energy emanating from the centre of my chest that permeates my entire body. This euphoric state also brings me instantaneous relief from the discomfort I was feeling after going without heroin for almost 24 hours.
With my withdrawal symptoms completely gone, I am perplexed by the state of clarity I am in while seeing the most profound stream of visual phenomena. I am also filled with a sense of awe at the potential for a life free of heroin. Emotional memories force me to deal with some of the deep subconscious guilt I have repressed for years.
This powerful state persisted for over 12 hours. After remaining at the clinic for a week I was allowed to return home and over the next six months felt almost no cravings whatsoever.”
A number of case series treatments also give promise to ibogaine’s potential use in treating addictive disorders. It’s been used to aid and ease withdrawal symptoms during detoxification for heroin and cocaine addicts prior to entering rehab. Other reported case studies and preclinical trials of ibogaine treatment have been largely successful with heroin, cocaine, and amphetamine addiction.,
A vocal minority of psychiatrists and researchers have recently started to push for more controlled clinical trials to be allowed in order to explore the use of ibogaine in treating an array of disorders. More small clinical trials are either in progress or planned for the near future, so time will tell what kind of reaction the public will have in a changing sea of drug policy.
It will be especially interesting in light of America’s widespread addiction to opiate-derived prescription drugs over the past 20 years or so. The federal government continues to fight on the losing side of the drug war as more and more people find themselves addicted to legal prescription drugs. Recent years saw a spike in heroin use as people addicted to prescription pain killers sought out higher highs. But the heroin epidemic is giving way to a recent wave of fentanyl addiction, a synthetic drug 50 times more potent than heroin, and — get this — is marketed and sold as a prescription analgesic.
Ibogaine, on the other hand, shows virtually zero potential for abuse and, simultaneously, has given tremendous promise in aiding opioid addiction cessation. And yet, it’s a Schedule I controlled substance in the Land of the Free.
Ibogaine and Personal Growth
Like other psychedelics, people are often drawn to ibogaine to aid in their emotional and spiritual development. Generally, a smaller dose is taken when using ibogaine for personal development compared to when it used for addiction therapy.
In his book Ibogaine Explained, Peter Frank outlines three ways in which ibogaine can supplement personal development: spiritual healing, emotional healing, physical healing.
Many have reported that ibogaine helped them get out of a spiritual “rut” of sorts. Frank describes this as “getting unstuck.” Essentially, for many spiritual voyagers, spiritual practices and rituals end up serving the ego over time, which, of course, is counterproductive to aim of such spiritual practices.
Ibogaine and other psychedelics have the ability to shatter the ego temporarily, giving you more perspective on the interconnectedness of the world around you and giving less power to the petty problems you face. During brief periods of egolessness, one often receives powerful insights into the personal issues he or she is facing.
The acute and reflective phases of an ibogaine session can also help shed much-needed intellectual insight onto a person’s emotional problems. Deeply repressed pain and trauma can often come to the surface and, while difficult and emotionally turbulent, this often allows people to confront the demons from their past. It’s helped people deal with depression, anxiety, PTSD, addiction to shopping, sex, food and many others.
While ibogaine can make you face many unsettling parts of your subconscious, most people report that they feel a simultaneous sense of peace and calm while experiencing terrible memories and feelings.
Others have used ibogaine to overcome chronic pain related to diseases like fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis (MS). However, there are few clinical reports on the efficacy and long-term effects of ibogaine on chronic pain.
One issue I remember from the conference is that Ibogaine is going extinct. Because the plant takes so long to grow, and because demand has exploded, there is an expected crisis within the next 7-10 years. Could we write up a short section on this?
Would also be great to include links to trusted treatment centers in Mexico and other places. A list of 5-10 would prove helpful when people come across this article.
One more section to add might be on the ethics of Ibogaine Therapy. Because the drug is so unregulated, there are a lot of unethical treatment clinics promising results without providing the requisite treatment. Would be cool to have a 2-3 short paragraphs on the important of finding an ethical treatment center and to be aware of the unregulatroy pracftices of many treatment centers.
A number of factors have come to confluence that appear to be putting pressure on the iboga plant population in its native habitat in Gabon. Destruction of habitat from deforestation to claim farmland is one problem. Elephants are crucial in spreading the iboga seed via their dung, and their reduced numbers in recent years due to habitat loss has led to a decline in the natural dispersion of iboga.
Another problem is the worldwide opioid addiction epidemic increasing demand for the healing powers of ibogaine and, therefore, the iboga plant. As many as 160 million people around the world are currently battling some form of opioid addiction and, by some estimates, there are between 75 and 100 ibogaine treatment centers around the world, and this number continues to grow.
The creation of a profitable ibogaine market has led to a spike in the number harvesters and distributors of the iboga plant which, in turn, has led to a shortage in some areas and subsequent rapid price increases.
The Global Ibogaine Therapy Alliance is pushing for conservation measures and the establishment of ibogaine greenhouses in other countries that can support the effort. It is possible, however, that iboga plant could disappear from the public realm in a matter of a few short years.
Ibogaine Treatment Centers
There are currently an estimated 75-100 ibogaine treatment facilities worldwide. In recent years, New ibogaine treatment centers outside of the United States have been popping up quickly to meet the demand for ibogaine treatment in light of the worldwide opioid addiction epidemic.
Choosing a treatment facility depends somewhat on a host personal decisions and preferences, but any treatment center you consider should, first and foremost, adhere to the guidelines set forth by The Global Ibogaine Therapy Alliance for clinical treatment with ibogaine.
Like any industry that sees rapid adoption and a concomitant rapid expansion, varying degrees of quality and efficacy exist. Also like other areas of the healthcare industry, the ibogaine treatment industry is not without its unethical players.
As with any health care decision, due diligence is required to find the facility and provider that best fits your individual needs. Below is a list of handful with an established track record that have received good reviews for their quality of treatment and high ethical standards. These should not be considered recommendations, but rather as a starting point for your own research.
Ibogaine Clinics in Canada
Sacred Soul Therapy House - Vancouver, Canada
Toronto Ibogaine Centre - Toronto, Canada
Liberty Root Ibogaine Therapy - Vancouver, Canada