A Guide to Ibogaine Therapy for Substance Abuse Disorders

Published On: April 13, 2020

Ibogaine is a natural substance with dissociative that can be found in plants. It has a strong and almost immediate effect on many neurotransmitter processes in the body and has the same effect that opioids have on the inhibitors responsible for serotonin release.

Ibogaine was originally used in West and Central Africa by various tribes such as the Bwiti tribe. It was brought into Europe in the 1900’s by French explorers and since then has somewhat made its way into modern medicine.

The Bwiti tribe used it in both a medicinal and ceremonial way. They used it to communicate with their ancestors, and people in the tribe would take Iboga extract to treat a large range of physical and mental issues.

The French originally used it as a stimulant, but since then, it has become a fairly common form of substance abuse treatment.

What Does Ibogaine Do?

Ibogaine is typically used to treat opiate withdrawal and its cravings. It has also been used successfully to treat addiction to various other substances such as alcohol, nicotine, methamphetamine, and opioids.

There are studies that show even a single ibogaine treatment can help someone give up opiates and have reduced withdrawal symptoms, including reduced PAWS symptoms. [1]

Studies for the positive effect of ibogaine for other addictions have been conducted. Most of these, however, were either done on animals or with a very small group of humans.

How Does Ibogaine Work in the Brain?

There are two primary ways that ibogaine works in the body. One relates to regulating cognitive functions and the other to repairing neurological processes:

1. Regulation of Dopamine and Serotonin

Certain substances attach themselves to the dopamine receptors, so the brain gets used to relying on the substance, and the chemicals become unbalanced.

Ibogaine can mimic serotonin and bind to dopamine receptors to help the brain become less reliant on the substances and become balanced again.

Ibogaine does so by preventing uptake, as the brain becomes less dependent on the substance, the addiction and withdrawal symptoms should lessen. [2]

2. Repairs Neurotrophic Factors

Neurotrophic factors are small proteins or peptides that help neurons grow, survive, and differentiate. They are extremely important for proper brain function which can become damaged or produce less when someone is dealing with substance abuse.

Studies have shown that ibogaine actually stimulates the production of these neurotrophic factors such as GDNF. [3]

Is Ibogaine Treatment Safe?

There is some debate on whether or not ibogaine treatment is actually safe. Limited research exists on the effects of the substance, which have not been well-documented in comparison to other alternative medicines.

Trials were conducted in the early 1900’s, but were halted due to fears of how the drug affects the heart’s muscle functions.

33 patients received a dosage of ibogaine in a study conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. 25 of these subjects had positive symptom relief from opioid withdrawal – but one young female subject died from its effects.

Most experts would tell you that ibogaine is completely safe if you do it under the advisement and care of a medical professional. Just like most other substances, if used wrong, it can be dangerous.

Which Substances Does Ibogaine Treat?

Opiate addiction is the most common addiction that ibogaine can treat. There is the most research pertaining to this substance and the most reported success.

However, there are also various other types of addictions that people report ibogaine helping. These substances include alcohol, cocaine, morphine, and nicotine.

People have reported that ibogaine helps not only treat the withdrawal symptoms but help them have an overall decreased desire to even use the substance at all.

Does Ibogaine Curb Alcohol Cravings?

In studies done on mice, ibogaine significantly aided the mice in resisting the temptation to drink again once they stopped. Before they stopped, the mice also drank less overall.

This evidence would show that ibogaine can be used to curb alcohol cravings, but it is worth noting that there has not been a lot of research done with humans.

Why Do People Use Ibogaine?

There are two main reasons as to why people source and use ibogaine, which include:

1. Personal Growth

Some people used ibogaine to grow/develop spiritually and emotionally. Just like other psychedelics, people may take small doses of ibogaine to shatter their ego, gain perspective, and let go of smaller problems.

It is said that during an ibogaine session, a person may be able to gain insight into their emotional problems. They may be able to deal with certain repressed pain or trauma as well as deal with things like depression, PTSD, anxiety, and addiction to things like sex and food.

2. Therapeutic Use

Therapeutic use is when ibogaine is used as a way to treat addiction and withdrawal symptoms. From a medical perspective, this is the more common way to use ibogaine. It is more researched and, therefore, more supported by most professionals.

Risks of Taking Ibogaine for Substance Abuse

Because there is not a lot of research and testing for ibogaine, there is a lot of missing information on what the potential risks of taking ibogaine are.

Between the years of 1990 and 2008, there were nineteen deaths reported within seventy-six hours of the person taking ibogaine, but for many of them, there is no proof that there were no underlying conditions that could have resulted in death.

Evidence currently states that the death risk for ibogaine is about 1 out of every 300 people. [4] Because there is such limited research into the negative effects of ibogaine, it is important for anyone using the substance to do so with the guidance of a professional.

Side-Effects of Ibogaine

There is a limited amount of information on the side-effects of ibogaine. The main thing to be aware of is that if you have a heart condition, taking ibogaine could put you at serious risk as it can affect how the heart functions.

There are also psychological side-effects, which can include hallucinations. Other side-effects include dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, dissociation, poor muscle coordination, and poor cognitive ability.

Auto-biological Hallucinations

Ibogaine can cause some pretty powerful hallucinations, which may be the goal when someone is trying to use it to gain psychological healing or growth.

Most people will hallucinate past trauma and important life events. People say these hallucinations help them learn more about themselves and their personal problems.

The main reason to use ibogaine is if your substance abuse has caused a significant change in the way your brain functions or the chemical balance within your brain.

Ibogaine can be used to heal your brain and help you overcome addiction. For some people, ibogaine is the best way for them to treat their dependency on drugs or alcohol.

Is Ibogaine Legal?

The legality of ibogaine is kind of complicated. There are many countries where treatment centres use Ibogaine, but that does not guarantee that personal use is legal. There are countries where ibogaine is decriminalized.

That means that while it may not be legal, a person would not be at risk for having or using a small amount in their personal possession. Even in countries where ibogaine is illegal, there may be exceptions for religions or certain circumstances, and it may be legal in the form of Iboga.

Is Ibogaine Effective?

Ibogaine leads to a long-term reduction of withdrawal symptoms in 20-60 percent of people depending on the study. Its highest success rates are generally when it is used in tandem to psychotherapy or talk therapy.

Ibogaine can be used as a tool in overcoming addiction, but should not be the sole source of treatment for somebody.

Things to Remember When Using Ibogaine

  1. You need to be aware of what risks you are at for certain physical and psychological side effects. Make sure you disclose to your doctor any physical and mental conditions that you have before taking ibogaine. This is especially important if you have a heart condition or any psychological disorder such as depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder.
  2. Ibogaine treatment does not address all the things that may have led to your addiction. For this reason, if you are interested in doing ibogaine treatments, it is important that it is not your only recovery tool.
  3. Before you go to an ibogaine treatment centre, do your research. Many ibogaine treatment centres are largely unregulated and, therefore, can be extremely dangerous. Some clinics do not triage correctly, and others do not follow up with patients after treatment for aftercare and further help.

Will Ibogaine Help You?

There is a limited understanding of ibogaine as research stopped in the nineties. Additionally, the success rate varies by study, with the average seeming to be around sixty percent.

Ibogaine treatment could help you, especially if the substance you are addicted to is an opiate, but there is no guarantee.

If you want to try ibogaine treatment, it is important to do your own personal research and also find someone that knows what they are doing to help you. The legal status of ibogaine in most countries is complicated, so be careful.

Noribogaine for Addiction

Noribogaine is derived from ibogaine, but it has a much longer half-life in the bloodstream. Norbogaine seems to stay in the body for one to four months and acts as an antidepressant.

Noribogaine alleviates cravings, boost mood, and treat PAWS or post-acute withdrawal syndrome. Noribogaine, just like ibogaine, cannot be used to treat problems alone, but rather it must be paired with things like therapy.

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[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28402682 [2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10386845 [3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6411846/ [4] https://maps.org/research/ibogaine-therapy#accordion32

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