Ibogaine: Risks and Rewards

Ibogaine is a naturally occurring psychoactive substance extracted from the West African Tabernanthe iboga plant, which contains a high concentration in its root bark. Traditionally used for medicinal and ritual purposes in West Africa, Ibogaine is now a popular therapeutic tool to treat addiction to opiates, as well as cocaine, amphetamine, and alcohol abuse.

Ibogaine isn’t considered a “cure” for addiction, but rather an addiction “interrupter,” because of its ability to eradicate or greatly reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with detox. Among other benefits, it also has the added effect of restoring receptors in the brain to a pre-addicted state.

With that said, Ibogaine is not without its risks. In the United States, Ibogaine is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug because of its hallucinogenic effects, which give it a high potential for abuse. While anecdotal evidence suggests Ibogaine isn’t addictive, taking it can be dangerous if you have a pre-existing medical condition or take certain prescription drugs.

When deciding whether Ibogaine treatment is the right choice, it’s important to choose a reputable treatment center with a thorough intake process and a high-level of medical supervision. Together with a medical doctor, you can weigh the following risks and rewards to determine whether Ibogaine treatment is a good fit.

What are the benefits of Ibogaine?

Addiction doesn’t just impact the body, it also affects neurological receptors in the brain. Neuroreceptors drive addiction by telling the body that it needs opiates, alcohol, nicotine, or psychostimulants to feel back to normal. When a person tries to quit their addiction, withdrawal happens.

Common symptoms of alcohol and drug withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Cold sweats
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty thinking clearly
  • Fatigue
  • Hostility
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Nausea
  • Overpowering cravings for drugs or alcohol
  • Seizures
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting

For people who want to end the cycle of addiction, going through withdrawal is a daunting prospect. However, many addicts have found that Ibogaine treatment can help make the detox and withdrawal process much more bearable.

Brain receptors are restored to a pre-addicted state.

When Ibogaine is administered, it metabolizes in the body as Noribogaine. Noribogaine is a type of serotonin reuptake inhibitor that binds to opioid receptors. It’s a compound that resets the brain back to its pre-addictive state and prevents overdose. Essentially, it turns off the withdrawal process and the neurological receptors that crave more drugs or alcohol.

Reduced withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

According to two observational studies conducted in New Zealand and Mexico, a single dose of Ibogaine was shown to decrease signs of opioid withdrawal and achieve either cessation from opioids or sustained, reduced use for up to 12 months following treatment.

As one study participant reported: “Iboga could give an opiate addict several months to half a year of freedom from craving, and a period of time in which to get their life together and learn to face things straightforwardly, directly and honestly. Iboga will not do the work for you.”

Increased abstinence

Another Ibogaine study published in the Journal of Psychedelic Study found that Ibogaine had positive long term effects for sufferers of chronic addiction. Of the 88 study participants, 80% reported that ibogaine either drastically reduced or totally eliminated their withdrawal symptoms, with 30% abstaining from opioid use for years following the treatment.

Other psychological benefits.

Although ibogaine’s main therapeutic role is in the treatment of addiction, the experience can be meaningful in other ways too. Ibogaine induces a psychedelic state, which can help patients gain insight into their lives, as well as their addiction. While in this state, deeply repressed pain and trauma often come to surface, allowing patients to confront their demons head-on. After gaining clarity on the cause of their addiction, many patients find it easier to make adaptive changes in their lifestyle.

With that said, Ibogaine can be an emotionally turbulent experience. In some cases, it can leave an individual confused, scared, or exhausted — especially if they weren’t prepared to face traumas associated with their addiction.

What are the risks of Ibogaine?

While it can offer positive benefits when treating addiction, using Ibogainedoes come with some risks. The risks of Ibogaine treatment include bradycardia (slowing of the heart), liver problems, seizures, and lethal interactions with other substances including a variety of antidepressants, antipsychotics, painkillers, antiarrhythmic drugs and other medications. You should also avoid using ibogaine if you have a pre-existing heart condition as this can lead to dangerous reactions or even death.

A study which reviewed medical records from 1990 to 2008 found that 19 people died within an hour to three days after using ibogaine. However, it’s critical to point out that none of these deaths were attributed to the toxicity of Ibogaine itself, but rather pre-existing conditions and lethal drug interactions.

It’s important to note that foods containing bergamottin or bergamot oil, such as grapefruit juice, as well as a variety of other over-the-counter medications such as Prilosec (Omeprazole), some gastric disorder drugs, antifungal medications, HIV treatment drugs, and some antihistamines, can all contribute to cardiac complications if they’re in the patient’s system at the time when Ibogaine is administered.

Because of these risks, it’s important that you only seek Ibogaine treatment in a medical facility with a thorough screening process that adheres to the guidelines set forth by The Global Ibogaine Therapy Alliance.

Even if a patient doesn’t have a pre-existing condition or potential for a drug interaction, they can experience side effects of Ibogaine for anywhere between 4 to 12 hours after the substance is administered. These include:  

  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty with coordination
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Xerostomia (dry mouth)

While these side-effects can be unpleasant, they’re not life threatening with proper care from a medical professional.  This is the first step towards your new life. To minimize risks and maximize rewards of Ibogaine, make sure the treatment center you choose offers a high level of medical supervision and robust aftercare program.