According to 2019 Substance Abuse Disorder (SUD) statistics, over 19.3 million adults had SUD in the U.S alone. Clearly, the world needs a silver bullet to tackle widespread substance abuse, and there's a need for more ways to treat addiction and reduce the number of fatal drug overdoses each year.
Could Ibogaine be the answer or at least part of the solution?
This Iboga-derived psychedelic substance has generated much scientific interest, and the results have been promising, although further research may be needed. Knowing more about Ibogaine therapy might be helpful, and the therapeutic potential of Ibogaine is worth investigating, especially for treating substance use disorders.
What Is Ibogaine?
Ibogaine is a psychoactive drug naturally occurring in plants such as Tabernanthe Iboga, which belongs to the Apocynaceae family. Ibogaine has a long history in West African tradition, particularly in Gabon, where it was used in medicinals or for religious purposes. Ibogaine is classified as an alkaloid and is typically extracted from the rootbark of the shrub Tabernanthe Iboga.
Ibogaine has garnered interest in modern pharmacology because it not only has hallucinogenic effects but can help people deal with withdrawal symptoms from opioid use and treat a variety of conditions. However, the reputation of Ibogaine as having anti-addictive properties is largely anecdotal, though it's worth noting again that the substance's use in Western medicine dates back centuries, making it a trusted remedy in these areas.
What Is Ibogaine Therapy?
Ibogaine Therapy involves the use of Ibogaine to treat opioid addiction and other conditions. It should be highlighted that the World Health Assembly has labeled Ibogaine as a "substance that can cause dependency issues and as dangerous to human health." Additionally, the FDA classifies Ibogaine as a Schedule I controlled substance putting it into the same category as LSD and other potentially dangerous psychedelics.
Therefore, if one were to use Ibogaine for therapeutic purposes, it's crucial to do so under medical supervision. While Ibogaine is safe in small doses, large doses can cause a pronounced psychedelic response. Administering Ibogaine in sufficiently large doses may combat opiate withdrawal symptoms. People with substance use addictions may also find that it helps reduce cravings.
One study was carried out in New Zealand (where Ibogaine is legal) to investigate the efficacy of Ibogaine therapy and its treatment outcomes for opioid addiction. Ibogaine was administered to participants over 12 months by qualified treatment providers. The results showed that a single Ibogaine treatment alleviated opioid withdrawal symptoms and helped stop or reduce substance use in dependent individuals.
The recommendation is that while Ibogaine may improve outcomes in substance abuse cases, treatment providers need to work closely with other health professionals to ensure safe treatment. Ibogaine therapy should therefore be part of a comprehensive approach that involves techniques like talk therapy, administration of Ibogaine by a qualified treatment provider in a safe environment, and professional supervision and monitoring throughout the treatment.
How Does Ibogaine Work?
The active compound in the plant T. Iboga is Ibogaine, an indole alkaloid. This active compound is present in the plant's roots, bark, leaves, and seeds. The plant's rootbark usually has the highest concentration of indole alkaloids. Ibogaine works by impacting the central nervous system and the cardiovascular system.
Research indicates that Ibogaine can act strongly on different brain receptors, and its action results in complex interactions between neurotransmitter systems. However, researchers are still yet to figure out the exact pharmacological mechanism of Ibogaine.
It can have a stimulant effect that boosts alertness and combats tiredness, hunger, and thirst when administered in small doses. However, when administered in larger doses, Ibogaine has hallucinogenic effects and long-lasting psychedelic and dissociative effects. After Injecting Ibogaine, the effects usually kick in within a few hours and can be divided into three phases.
During the visionary phase, the person will usually have their eyes closed as they're experiencing visual hallucinations. The next stage is the introspection phase, which is associated with euphoric feelings. Then there's the residual phase, where the effects of Ibogaine begin to wear off, and the person may feel lethargic. It should be noted that the effects of Ibogaine on the body vary based on the dosage.
What Can Ibogaine Be Used For?
Most of the benefits of Ibogaine have been observed from anecdotal use, especially in West African regions. Evidence suggests that Ibogaine therapy may help restore good health, enhance sexual arousal, and treat addiction.
As a Tonic
As a tonic, Ibogaine can be used to boost well-being in various ways. Tabernanthe Iboga, the small shrub that contains Ibogaine, can be used in different forms, depending on whether the extract comes from the roots, bark, leaves, or flowers. The extract can be used to treat a long list of ailments, including fatigue, hunger, cough, conjunctivitis, toothache, or urinary infections.
These uses indicate that Ibogaine can have a positive impact on physical health. Additionally, its euphoric effects can potentially be used to treat a wide range of mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. In fact, historical records show that Ibogaine was used in France for many years as an antidepressant and stimulant.
As an Aphrodisiac
Tabernanthe Iboga is also widely used as a stimulant and aphrodisiac. However, there has not been much research on its use in this regard, so there's a need for further research on how Ibogaine therapy can enhance sexual arousal and behavior.
For Addiction Treatment
Much of the interest surrounding Ibogaine use in the modern world has revolved around its potential for addiction treatment. Research has shown that Ibogaine has great potential in treating addictions to opioids like heroin and cocaine, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and other similar substances.
Several studies have been carried out, and there's evidence that Ibogaine can be used to treat addiction successfully.
What Does Research Say About Ibogaine Therapy?
There's plenty of anecdotal evidence pointing to the efficacy of Ibogaine for therapeutic purposes. Still, it's necessary to have scientific data to support its use. As mentioned, a New Zealand study indicated Ibogaine might help with opioid dependence. Another study in Mexico concluded that Ibogaine does not cure addiction but merely interrupts it, which might give one an advantage when being treated for substance abuse.
A Brazilian study also looked at using Ibogaine to treat addiction with a combined approach of psychotherapy. In the study, both single and multiple treatments correlated to more extended abstinence periods than before Ibogaine therapy. The study concluded that Ibogaine might effectively treat addiction in conjunction with psychotherapy.
Most clinical trials and studies involving the effectiveness of Ibogaine therapy have so far used a small sample size, and long-term studies are few. As such, there's a need for further research and more scientific evidence on the efficacy of Ibogaine therapy on various treatment outcomes.
In the United States, research progress is hampered because Ibogaine is not authorized for use as a treatment drug, so there are no treatment providers available in the country.
What Are the Risks?
When it comes to Ibogaine therapy, the benefits might be exciting. Still, it's also important to know the risks involved, even if Ibogaine is administered by a trained and qualified medical professional.
While Ibogaine has been used in non-medical settings for a long time, it has raised many safety concerns. For example, a study carried out by a university medical center in the Netherlands involved the administration of a single dose of Ibogaine to patients with opioid use disorder. The side effects included bradycardia (slow heart rate) and severe ataxia (impaired coordination or losing the ability to control certain parts of your body).
There have been two observational studies done by Maps in Mexico and New Zealand, and Maps notes that over 30 fatalities have been recorded that are temporally linked to the ingestion of Ibogaine.
Overall, using Ibogaine carries some serious risks, including:
- Sudden death caused by cardiac arrest
- Seizures, paralysis, and convulsion
- Heart complications and failure
- Nausea, dry mouth, and vomiting
- High risk of abuse and addiction
One study concluded that although therapists and drug users still use Ibogaine to treat drug addiction, the risk potential is always high with limited medical supervision. The fatality risk increase, especially in people with pre-existing conditions and those with concurrent medications.
Currently, there's no medically accepted use of the substance, and Ibogaine is unlicensed. However, further research can mitigate existing risks by determining the best methods and dosage for treatment.
How to Get Started?
Ibogaine use is legal in New Zealand and Mexico, and those interested in Ibogaine therapy might investigate suitable treatment providers in this country. However, it should be emphasized that using psychedelics like Ibogaine can be life-threatening, so it's crucial to seek help from qualified medical professionals or treatment centers.
It's highly recommended that you speak to your doctor before trying Ibogaine therapy in a clinical setting. If you're seeking help for addiction, any treatment that involves the use of an "anti-addictive substance" should incorporate processes like:
- Medically supervised detox transition
- Behavioral counseling to encourage the development of drug-free lifestyle habits
- Treatment of any mental health issues related to the addiction
- Long term follow-up to reduce the risk of relapsing
Keep in mind that Ibogaine is not a cure-all, and other legal treatment options are available from organizations like American Addiction Centers. For example, psychedelics like 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) and substituted N-benzyl phenylalkylamines have also been considered suitable for addiction treatment.
Sascha Mayr · 10/24/2022