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The Ibogaine Controversy

AfricaIbogaine is a naturally occurring psychoactive drug found in a variety of plant sources, but primarily in the iboga plant family. Used for ritual and healing purposes in many West African tribes, ibogaine is considered a central nervous system stimulant. While not as powerful as other stimulants, ibogaine increases energy and decreases fatigue in lower doses. In higher doses, ibogaine works as a psychoactive drug producing a dream like state while awake.[i]

This African psychoactive drug is being touted as a new way to kick opiate addiction, but treatment experts are skeptical of this unproven, risky method.

Ibogaine Therapy Basics

In recent years, although still controversial in the global medical community, ibogaine therapy as a way to treat opioid addiction has had some promising results. For many who struggle with opioid addiction, ibogaine in larger doses seems to significantly reduce withdrawal symptoms and eliminate drug cravings. It is still unclear has to exactly how ibogaine produces this result.

The physical side effects of ibogaine include ataxia, nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity and cardiac problems. In the 1960’s, Chilean psychologist Claudio Naranjo was the first medical professional to test the use of ibogaine as part of opioid addiction treatment. Dr. Naranjo conducted 40 ibogaine sessions and was the first to describe the experience in scientific terms. He concluded that ibogaine helped his patients to deal with difficult personal experiences in an objective way and find closer for unresolved emotional conflicts.[ii]

In the early 1990’s the National Institute on Drug Abuse invested more than $1 million to research the effectiveness and overall safety of the drug, but the project was abandoned in 1995. As a result of the lack of evidence as to the medical usefulness of the drug, it is currently classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency as a schedule I drug- the most restrictive classification due to the drugs high potential for abuse.[iii] However, the actual use of ibogaine for recreational purposes is rare given the drug’s extremely debilitating side effects.

Ibogaine Effects

The most popular form of ibogaine is ibogaine hydrochloride. This form of the drug is stabilized as a salt.

This white powder is usually ingested in capsule form. The side effects of the substance begin within an hour of ingestion and the peak “high” lasts for about two hours. During that time, individuals find themselves in a dreamlike state while remaining fully conscious of their surroundings. Lack of coordination and dizziness are also side effects. An ibogaine hangover can linger for up to 48 hours and in the first 10 hours, those under the influence of ibogaine need help for even the simplest of tasks including using the bathroom. Because of these extreme side effects, ibogaine is not often considered a recreational drug.

The Risk of Ibogaine

Even in countries where ibogaine is legal, treatment providers are not using it because it’s not a registered medication.

While it was identified as having anti-addictive properties back in the early 1960’s, and thought to help curb the use of heroinalcohol and cocaine, the potential for use as a treatment drug remains controversial due to its hallucinogenic properties and other safety concerns. Early studies found a link between ibogaine and damaged brain cells, but further research done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse in its 1990’ study found that ibogaine is not neurotoxic. The fatalities temporarily associated with ingestion of the drug were found to be linked to pre-existing medical conditions such as cardiac abnormalities and seizure disorders.[iv]

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is currently conducting further studies that will contribute to the data available about ibogaine as a treatment for opioid dependence. Because of the restrictions placed on the drug in the United States, those who wish to try ibogaine as part of a treatment plan for heroin addiction must do so internationally.[v]

Substance Abuse Rehab

Addiction to heroin and other opioids is a serious medical condition. Breaking free from the control of drugs requires medically-supervised detox and drug rehab. Finding a treatment facility that focuses on healing the entire person- body, mind and spirit- increases your chances of recovery. There will always be new, untested therapies touted as “cutting edge,” but most experts agree that the best way to currently treat addiction is through the proven method of residential treatment. If someone you love is struggling with an opioid addiction, we are here for you. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer your questions about insurance, financing and treatment approaches and help you find the right program for your unique situation.  You are not alone. Call The Canyon at our toll-free number now.


[i] Global Ibogaine Therapy Alliance. “What is Ibogaine?” February 26, 2016. Accessed December 10, 2016. https://www.ibogainealliance.org/ibogaine/

[ii] Global Ibogaine Therapy Alliance. “What is Ibogaine?” February 26, 2016. Accessed December 10, 2016. https://www.ibogainealliance.org/ibogaine/https://www.ibogainealliance.org/ibogaine/

[iii] Kevin Franciotti. “Mind Altering Drug Could Offer Life Free of Heroin,” New Scientist, August 21, 2013. Accessed December 10, 2016.  https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21929313-900-mind-altering-drug-could-offer-life-free-of-heroin/

[iv] Global Ibogaine Therapy Alliance. “What is Ibogaine?” February 26, 2016. Accessed December 10, 2016. https://www.ibogainealliance.org/ibogaine/https://www.ibogainealliance.org/ibogaine/

[v] Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). “Ibogaine Therapy.” Accessed December 10, 2016.  http://www.maps.org/research/ibogaine-therapy

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