What is ibogaine?
Ibogaine is an alkaloid found in the root of bark of the West African plant, Tabernanthe iboga. Ibogaine is used to treat drug addiction and has been found to be especially useful in the treatment of opioid addiction. It alleviates symptoms of opioid withdrawal and reduces drug cravings to drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, alcohol, and nicotine. A recent study has found that in addition to eliminating symptoms of opioid withdrawal, ibogaine reduces the compulsive drug seeking behavior, which is often a driver of addiction. Preparations containing ibogaine are used in rituals by the Bwiti people of Gabon.
In the 1930s, ibogaine was marketed in France as Lambarène, 8mg tablets containing an ibogaine extract. It was advertised as a mental and physical stimulant and was sold until being removed from the market in 1966, when the sale of ibogaine-containing products was prohibited. Howard Lotsof, an American scientific researcher, first observed the anti-addictive effects of ibogaine in 1962. Since then, ibogaine has been the topic of many scientific studies looking at its use in treating drug addiction.
How is ibogaine used?
Ibogaine can be used as raw or dried bark, total alkaloid extracts, or as purified ibogaine hydrochloride, and is commonly taken in capsules. Ibogaine may be light brown to white in color and may be in powder or crystal form. The root bark may be whole or ground.
Ibogaine is restricted in the United States, Switzerland, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, and Australia. In other countries worldwide where it is not restricted, ibogaine is used as a treatment for opioid addiction, though the treatment is not a regulated practice. There is a small risk of fatal reaction, so a small test dose of ibogaine should be administered prior to the main therapeutic dose as a safeguard. This ensures that if a reaction is to occur, there is a lower chance that symptoms will be life-threatening and the therapy can be discontinued.
Ibogaine should be taken in the company of someone who has experience with the drug, sometimes called a 'sitter.' The most commonly reported side effects of ibogaine are dizziness and vomiting. It is advised that persons with heart problems should not take ibogaine. Ibogaine should not be mixed with other drugs as this increases the chance of a negative reaction or negative effects.
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How does ibogaine therapy work?
Ibogaine produces a long-lasting series of effects that occur in three stages. The first phase involves intense dreamlike visualizations and lasts for approximately 4 hours. The second phase is an analytical stage that is responsible for the psychotherapeutic effects effects of ibogaine. This analytical phase has a duration of about 12 hours and it can allow people to conquer their fears and negative emotions. After these first two phases the main effects will begin to slowly subside and a residual stimulant effect may remain for an additional 36 hours or longer.
During the ibogaine experience, many users report experiencing visual phenomena in a dream-like state. These visual phenomena are unique to each individual and can include instructive replays of life events that led to their addiction, or therapeutic shamanic visions. These visions can help the user conquer the fears and negative emotions that might drive their addiction. During the period following treatment, therapy, counseling, and aftercare are of great benefit to the individual. Therapy and counseling are valuable during this period as the addiction has been interrupted. This aftercare can last several days or weeks and is considered an important component of the ibogaine therapy. Some individuals benefit from a subsequent treatment session with ibogaine sometime during the year after their first treatment. Even with aftercare, some individuals will still relapse into opioid addiction within the following days or weeks.
Howard Lotsof has written extensively about ibogaine therapy. As mentioned, Howard Lotsof is an American scientific researcher who first observed the anti-addictive effects of ibogaine in 1962. Details of ibogaine therapy, including the procedure, effects, and aftereffects can be found in his comprehensive article entitled 'Ibogaine in the Treatment of Chemical Dependence Disorders: Clinical Perspectives.'
The 'Manual for Ibogaine Therapy - Screening, Safety, Monitoring & Aftercare,' is written by Howard Lotsof and Boaz Wachtel. This is essentially a manual for the therapeutic use of ibogaine and includes details on screening and intake criteria, safety issues, and the aftercare process. Further resources related to ibogaine and ibogaine treatment for opioid addiction can be found at the Ibogaine Dossier at www.ibogaine.org.
A gallery of images of the Tabernanthe iboga plant and the root bark preparations that are consumed during ibogaine therapy.Opioid Withdrawal
Opioid withdrawal refers to the symptoms that can occur after stopping or reducing intake of opioid drugs in opioid-dependent persons. Find out what the symptoms of withdrawal are and how long they last.
A comparison of the different methods of opioid detoxification, looking at the medications used, tapering, and treatment after detoxification.
Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT) has been proven to be a safe and effective treatment for opioid dependence and addiction. Read about the history of methadone and how a methadone treatment program works.
Updated October 12, 2013