The Essential Guide To

Ibogaine

Iboga plant

12-Methoxyibogamine
C20H26N2O

Disclaimer: Ibogaine is a potentially illegal substance, and we do not encourage or condone the use of this substance where it is against the law. However, we accept that illegal drug use occurs, and believe that offering responsible harm reduction information is imperative to keeping people safe. For that reason, this guide is designed to ensure the safety of those who decide to use the substance.

1. OVERVIEW

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 is considered a Schedule I drug. However, it’s available to varying degrees in many other countries, including 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.

2. HISTORY & STATS

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 However, in 1966, it was withdrawn from the market when the sale of all ibogaine-containing products was declared illegal in France.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,” and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) designated ibogaine Schedule I.

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, Lotsof signed a contract with a Belgian pharmaceutical company to produce a tablet 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 “medical subculture” flourished. Numerous accounts of individuals fighting and overcoming addiction surfaced.[1]

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.[2] 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.[3]

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.[4]

IBOGAINE SUCCESS RATE

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.

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.[5]

Another recent study in Brazil found long-term reduction of symptoms in over 60% of participants using a combination of ibogaine and psychotherapy.[6] 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.

IBOGAINE SHORTAGE?

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.[7]

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 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.

3. PHARMACOLOGY

Ibogaine simultaneously interacts with several neurotransmitter systems. Its 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. [8]

It is metabolized by the body into noribogaine, which acts to increase the availability of serotonin in the brain.

INTERACTIONS WITH OTHER DRUGS

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[9] (not a complete list):

  • Anti-arrhythmic drugs:
    • Metoprolol
    • Propafenone
    • Timolol maleate
  • Antidepressant drugs:
    • Amitriptyline (Elavil)
    • Citalopram (Celexa)
    • Clomipramine
    • Desipramine
    • Duloxetine (Cymbalta, Ariclaim, Xeristar, Yentreve, Duzela, Dulane)
    • Escitalopram (Lexapro)
    • Imipramine (Tofranil)
    • Paroxetine (Paxil)
    • Venlafaxine (Effexor)
  • Antipsychotics:
    • Aripiprazole (Abilify, Aripiprex)
    • Haloperidol (Haldol)
    • Pimozide (Orap)
    • Risperidone (Risperdal)
    • Thioridazine (Mellaril, Sonapax, Thioril)
  • Other drugs:
    • Amiodarone
    • Azithromycin (Zithromax)
    • Bepridil (Vascor)
    • Chloroquine (Aralen)
    • Chlorpromazine (Thorazine, Largactil)
    • Clarithromycin (Biaxin)
    • Disopyramide (Norpace)
    • Dofetilide (Tikosyn)
    • Droperidol (Inapsine, Droleptan, Dridol, Xomolix, Innovar)
    • Erythromycin (Isotrexin)
    • Flecainide acetate (Tambocor, Almarytm, Apocard, Ecrinal, Flécaine)
    • Halofantrine (Halfan)
    • Moxifloxacin (Avelox, Avalox, Avelon, Vigamox, Moxeza)
    • Pentamidine (NebuPent)
    • Procainamide (Pronestyl, Procan, Procanbid)
    • Quinidine (Quinaglute)
    • Sevoflurane (Ulane)
    • Codeine (3-methylmorphine)
    • Dextromethorphan (DXM, DM)
    • Methadone (Methadose)
    • Mexiletine (Mexitil)
    • Ondansetron (Zofran)
    • Tamoxifen (Nolvadex, Istubal, Valodex)
    • Tramadol (Ultram, Ralivia, Tramal)

 

Furthermore, 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

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.[10]

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 the drug itself, but rather to interactions with prior medical conditions or due to interactions with other drugs.[11]

There are even reports of people suffering a fatal reaction to ibogaine even after medical screening. It’s estimated that up to 1 in 400 people who take ibogaine suffer a fatal reaction – this is a higher risk than most extreme sports.

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 treatment.

4. EFFECTS

PHYSIOLOGICAL EFFECTS

One of the most immediate adverse effects you may feel 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. Ibogaine should not be taken if you have any sort of heart condition.

PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS

You can expect to be in bed for the first 12 hours of your 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.

A trip can be broken down into three phases:[12]

  1. Acute, “awakened dream state” phase
  2. Evaluative or reflective phase
  3. 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, 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 a 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.

5. MYTHS

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 the substance. A review of cases outside of West Africa found 19 known deaths following ibogaine use between 1990 and 2008.[13]

However, there was no evidence to suggest that toxic effects of the drug 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.

6. THERAPEUTIC USE

See our ultimate guide to ibogaine treatment

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. It 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 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.[14] But reports from heroin addicts who have taken single doses 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, “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 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 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.[15] Other reported case studies and preclinical trials of ibogaine treatment have been largely successful with heroin, cocaine, and amphetamine addiction.[16], [17]

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.

Ibogaine could be particularly useful in light of America’s widespread addiction to opiate-derived prescription drugs. 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. Currently, the heroin epidemic is giving way to a recent wave of fentanyl addiction, a synthetic drug 50 times more potent than heroin, 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 cessation.

IBOGAINE TREATMENT CENTERS

There are currently an estimated 75-100 ibogaine treatment facilities worldwide. In recent years, new 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 of 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 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. Due diligence is required to find the facility and provider that best fits your individual needs. Below is a list of a 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 Treatment Centers in Canada

Ibogaine Treatment Centers in Mexico

7. 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 it for personal development compared to when used for addiction therapy.

In his book Ibogaine Explained (2013), Peter Frank outlines the ways in which ibogaine can supplement personal development. It 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 it 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 on chronic pain.

8. LEGALITY

Despite the potential healing benefits of ibogaine, its legal status varies from country to country. In some cases due to its hallucinogenic properties, and in some cases due to its heart risks, it is prohibited to varying degrees in some places.

Although illegal in the US and in several European countries, ibogaine is legal to possess and distribute in Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Gabon, New Zealand, Netherlands and Costa Rica. Treatment centers exist in most of these countries.

For a full guide to the legality of ibogaine worldwide, click here.

9. FAQ

Can it be detected in a drug test?

There are currently no known urine or blood tests on the market for ibogaine. Furthermore, it 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.

Are there risks involved?

There is a significant risk of taking ibogaine if you have a heart condition. It has been known to cause deaths by temporarily changing the way the heart functions. Do not take it if you have a heart condition. It’s estimated that up to 1 in 400 people to take ibogaine suffer a fatal reaction – a higher risk than most extreme sports.

Can it only be used to treat addiction?

Although ibogaine’s main therapeutic role is in the treatment of addiction, the experience can be meaningful in other ways too. It can provide you with a form of introspection that can help you address harmful practices in your life. Many people report it helping them to see the unpleasant parts of their lives, allowing them to make a change for the better.

Where can I find a treatment center?

There are many ibogaine treatment centers around the world, but it’s important to be cautious in selecting a legitimate, respectable place. Look up their credentials and reviews before making a decision. These are some treatment centers we’ve heard good things about:

Don’t forget to read our ultimate guide on ibogaine treatment.

10. Footnotes

[1] Alper, K. R., Lotsof, H. S., & Kaplan, C. D. (2008). The ibogaine medical subculture. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 115(1), 9–24.

[2] Alper, K. R., Lotsof, H. S., Frenken, G., Luciano, D. J., & Bastiaans, J. (1999). Treatment of acute opioid withdrawal with ibogaine. The American Journal on Addictions, 8(3), 234–242.

[3] Mash, D. C., Kovera, C. A., Pablo, J., Tyndale, R. F., Ervin, F. D., Williams, I. C., … Mayor, M. (2000). Ibogaine: complex pharmacokinetics, concerns for safety, and preliminary efficacy measures. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 914(1), 394–401.

[4] Tabo, T. (2014). Who’s To Blame For Ibogaine? A Debate Over Whether Big Government Or Big Pharma Is Keeping Heroin Addicts From Getting Well.

[5] MAPS – Ibogaine Therapy for Drug Addiction.

[6] Schenberg, E. E., de Castro Comis, M. A., Chaves, B. R., & da Silveira, D. X. (2014). Treating drug dependence with the aid of ibogaine: A retrospective study. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 28(11), 993–1000.

[7] Addiction-Fighting Iboga Plant Is Disappearing From The Wild.

[8] Mach, R. H., Smith, C. R., & Childers, S. R. (1995). Ibogaine possesses a selective affinity for σ2 receptors. Life Sciences, 57(4), PL57–PL62.

[9] Medications (that compete with Ibogaine).

[10] Litjens, R. P. W., & Brunt, T. M. (2016). How toxic is ibogaine? Clinical Toxicology (Philadelphia, Pa.), 54(4), 297–302.

[11] Alper, K. R., Stajić, M., & Gill, J. R. (2012). Fatalities temporally associated with the ingestion of ibogaine. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 57(2), 398–412.

[12] ICEERS Ibogaine Scientific Literature Overview (2012).

[13] Alper, K. R., Stajić, M., & Gill, J. R. (2012). Fatalities temporally associated with the ingestion of ibogaine. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 57(2), 398–412.

[14] Never mind that methadone, the most popular legal treatment for heroin addicts in the United States, is just as addictive as heroin itself.

[15] Mash, D. C., Kovera, C. A., Pablo, J., Tyndale, R. F., Ervin, F. D., Williams, I. C., … Mayor, M. (2000). Ibogaine: complex pharmacokinetics, concerns for safety, and preliminary efficacy measures. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 914(1), 394–401.

[16] Lotsof, H. S., & Alexander, N. E. (2001). Case studies of ibogaine treatment: implications for patient management strategies. Alkaloids. New York Academic Press, 56, 293–313.

[17] Brown, T. K. (2013). Ibogaine in the treatment of substance dependence. Current Drug Abuse Reviews, 6(1), 3–16.

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