Ibogaine is a psychoactive alkaloid isolated from the iboga vine, or Tabernanthe Iboga root bark. Ibogaine is only one of the many different alkaloids that exist in the Iboga root itself. The iboga plant, as well as the isolated Ibogaine alkaloid, have been used successfully for decades in treating withdrawal symptoms, especially from strong opiate addictions such as heroin, as well as depression and other mental disorders.
Iboga and the Bwiti Religion
The history of Ibogaine dates back to the raw iboga root bark and its use in the Bwiti religion of West Africa. For centuries the Bwiti have used the Tabernanthe Iboga root, boiled into a brew, as the central part of their religious ceremonies. Healing, rites of passage, and spiritual celebrations all revolve around the psychedelic experience that the iboga root offers.
These ancient ceremonies have gained attention from individuals around the world as traveling abroad for shamanic healing with substances such as Ibogaine, Ayahuasca, and other psychedelics becomes more popular.
The Discovery of Ibogaine for Addiction
Before the 1960’s, Ibogaine was used primarily as a stimulant, often in athletes looking for a boost. However, in the 1960’s Howard Lotsof, then a heroin addict, was searching for more psychedelic drugs to experiment with. A friend of his, who was also a scientist, gave him the extracted Ibogaine and the rest is history.
A few days later, after the Ibogaine had completely worn off, Lotsof realized he had no cravings or withdrawal symptoms from his heroin addiction. This was quite a surprise. Heroin withdrawal is known for being intense and very hard to overcome, yet the Ibogaine had eliminated his heroin addiction almost overnight.
Lotsof decided to try Ibogaine out on a few of his heroin dependent friends. The results were the same. Lotsof made a decision then and there to dedicate his life to Ibogaine treatment for addiction.
The Rise of Ibogaine Clinics – Making Ibogaine Safer
Since Howard Lotsof discovered the healing properties of synthesized Ibogaine in the 1960s, there have been many Ibogaine clinics around the world using this psychoactive substance to treat addiction as well as other mental disorders.
However, when Ibogaine first started becoming popular, scientists were unaware of the dangers that Ibogaine presented. They were only just beginning to answer the question, “What is Ibogaine? How does it work? And are there any side effects?”
This was in the 1990’s. Howard Lotsof and his Ibogaine Alliance, along with ICEERS, worked to bring Ibogaine to more people. However, this resulted in 19 deaths between the period of 1990 and 2008. The reasons started to become more clear, almost every case of Ibogaine and Noribogaine related death occurred because the patient being treated suffered from an underlying medical cause that contributed significantly to the cause of death.
In those that were healthy, highly abused drugs contributed significantly to the cause of death–meaning these individuals were taking illicit drugs along with the Ibogaine.
This research, done by ICEERS and Lotsof, gave us the much safer version of Ibogaine treatment we have today.
Now, with advanced prescreening techniques, Ibogaine treatment has never been safer.
This does not mean the risk has been completely eliminated. Individuals taking Ibogaine should educate themselves and be completely aware of the risks associated with Ibogaine treatment.
Ibogaine Therapy as an Alternative to Traditional Rehab
Today, Ibogaine treatment continues to gain momentum as an alternative to traditional drug rehabilitation in the USA. Because of the staggeringly low success rate of traditional rehab, many addicts and their families are turning to new methods to try and combat heavy withdrawal symptoms as well as the extremely addictive nature of heroin and opiates and other drug addictions.
Unlike traditional rehab, Ibogaine treatment works effectively on two levels to treat addiction and withdrawal symptoms.
The first level is the physical. The second is the psychological.
On a physical level, Ibogaine works to eliminate heroin and opiate withdrawal in the brain. As the Ibogaine works, the brain is, in essence, reset back to its pre-addicted state. It has been called “6 months of drug rehab in a 24 hour period” because of the way it can overcome withdrawal and heal the brain. Because withdrawal is such a major contributing factor to relapse, being able to overcome those withdrawal symptoms successfully can make a huge difference in maintaining sobriety.
On a more spiritual or psychological level, the psychedelic Ibogaine experience is intense for many addicts. During this “trip” the addict often finds themselves face to face with their past, present, and future.
In this state, the addict becomes much more accepting of past trauma. Negative life experiences can often be dealt with in a meaningful way. This type of breakthrough can make all the difference in the future for any drug addict, this is because often the past trauma is the cause of the addiction. This is why Ibogaine can be so powerful for many addictions, not just heroin and opiate addiction, because it can offer many addicts a way to overcome their use of drugs by addressing the underlying cause of the addiction itself
The Future of Ibogaine Treatment
With Ibogaine being illegal to posses in the United States, those looking for Ibogaine treatment are crossing the border and going to Mexico to get this treatment in a legal way. However, there are many organizations, like ICEERS and MAPS, that are funding studies into psychedelic medicine on almost every level.
This means that Ibogaine just might make legal progress in the future as accepted modern medicine.
But currently, even with the high success rate of Ibogaine treatment, there is still little hope for legal status anytime soon. There are currently no major US based studies into exactly how Ibogaine works in the brain, and, without proper testing, the idea of an America with legal Ibogaine treatment is almost impossible.