With ibogaine treatment now more available than ever before, in an ever-widening range of settings, more and more knowledge about the drug is gathering.


One thing that is becoming increasingly clear is that the drug is more dangerous than was believed 5 years ago. Six people are recorded as having died in connection with taking ibogaine or other iboga substances, and substantial rumours persist that the number is actually much higher, with many deaths having occurred in non-clinical settings and without being recorded.


Safety-related information about the drug


Ibogaine is principally recognized for its ability to vastly reduce the symptoms of drug withdrawal, thus allowing addicts to detox relatively painlessly. Any other claims made for the drug, such as that it creates long-term drug-abstinence, or removes the effects of trauma or conditioning in either addicts or non-addicts, are a great deal less substantiated.


There is an inherent level of risk with ibogaine treatment. Six people are known to have died in connection with taking ibogaine or other iboga alkaloids. In actuality, the figure is likely several times higher, given that ibogaine is frequently administered in surroundings where people may be reluctant to contact the authorities in the event of something going wrong. Taking too much of the drug; using stepped doses, (ie: half a gram followed by another half later on); being excessively thin; or suffering from liver or heart problems have all been suggested as dangers. But the truth is - no-one yet really knows why people sometimes die when taking ibogaine. As of the time of writing, it has to be said that there is simply a flat risk that you will die if you take a significant dose of ibogaine (15mg/kilo or above), possibly of the order of a one in a hundred chance. From the relatively low amount of information available, it seems at the moment that cardiac problems predominate in the mysterious deaths associated with ibogaine. My opinion is that anyone with any history of heart problems should not take iboga or ibogaine except under strict medical supervision and with constant online heart monitoring.


You must be medically tested before you take ibogaine. Proper clinical testing of heart and liver function are the absolute minimum. The site author is not aware of any reputable treatment provider who would allow you to take ibogaine without prior medical testing. Do not go with someone who does not insist on it. Ideally, you should have constant monitoring of heart function whilst on the drug, and medically-trained staff present.


Beware of listening excessively to the advice of just one individual when deciding whether or not to take ibogaine. Ibogaine's effects can be life-changing, and it is common for someone who has had a very positive experience to do their utmost to "spread the message," possibly allowing their enthusiasm to override the very real concerns about safety.


If you are thinking of taking ibogaine for personal development and haven't yet been involved in proper therapy (therapy where there's an open admission by the individual of the presence of emotional issues), be aware that you may be being attracted to a "quick fix" strategy that avoids really dealing with deeper issues. If this is the case, ibogaine could possibly make things worse. For some, using psychoactive substances can invoke disturbing reactions as the mind's defences struggle to keep down rising repressed material. Drugs like ibogaine, ketamine, LSD and MDMA (Ecstasy), have been used in the past by therapists, but only as one component of an overall therapeutic strategy. Using the drug out of this context could cause more harm than good.


Ibogaine is a psychoactive indole alkaloid derived from the rootbark of an African plant - Tabernanthe iboga. In recent years it has been increasingly noted for its ability to treat both drug and alcohol addiction. Both scientific studies and widespread anecdotal reports appear to suggest that a single administration of ibogaine has the ability to both remove the symptoms of drug withdrawal and reduce drug-craving for a period of time after administration. In addition, the drug's psychoactive properties (in large doses it can induce a dreamlike state for a period of hours) have been widely credited with helping users understand and reverse their drug-using behaviour.


Studies suggest that ibogaine has considerable potential in the treatment of addiction to heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine, methadone, and alcohol. There is also indication that it may be useful in treating tobacco dependence. It has also been suggested that the drug may have considerable potential in the field of psychotherapy, particularly as a treatment for the effects of trauma or conditioning.


A single administration of ibogaine typically has three effects useful in the treatment of drug dependence. Firstly, it causes a massive reduction in the symptoms of drug withdrawal, allowing relatively painless detoxification. Secondly, there is a marked lowering in the desire to use drugs for a period of time after taking ibogaine, typically between one week and several months. This has been confirmed by scientific studies. Finally, the drug's psychoactive nature is reported to help many users understand and resolve the issues behind their addictive behaviour.


Ibogaine can be easily administered, in capsule form, and has no addictive effects itself. It is essentially a "one-shot" medication and, used in a fully clinical setting with proper advance medical screening, the drug thus far appears to be safe to use. Whilst it certainly happens that some individuals stop using drugs permanently from a single dose of ibogaine, for many the treatment should best be regarded as simply the initial component in an overall rehabilitation programme.


Although approved for clinical trials (trials on humans) for the treatment of addiction in the US in the early 1990s, problems with financial backing and other issues have so hindered the development of ibogaine that, as of early 2005, it remains undeveloped and thus unavailable to the majority of addicts worldwide.


Ibogaine's current legal status in the UK, and much of the rest of the world, is that of an unlicensed, experimental medication, and it not therefore an offence to possess the drug, though to act as a distributor may be breaking the law. Ibogaine is a restricted substance (possession is illegal) in some countries, including the US, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden and Belgium.


A single dose of ibogaine typically achieves the following. Firstly, the complete removal or severe attenuation of the symptoms of drug withdrawal, allowing painless detoxification (occurs with approx. 90% of subjects). Secondly, the removal of the desire to use drugs for a period of between one week and three months (occurs with approx. 60% of subjects). Finally, the revealing of personal issues underlying drug-using behaviour, leading to long-term drug-abstinence (occurs with approx. 30% of subjects).


Ibogaine is not itself addictive and the drug may be taken a second time to help preserve a drug-free state. It should be noted, however, that relatively few people permanently beat addiction solely through using ibogaine, and the treatment should thus be regarded as simply an initial component in an overall rehabilitation strategy.


The discovery that ibogaine could treat drug addiction is usually credited to Howard S. Lotsof - a New York based former heroin user who first took ibogaine in 1962. Lotsof took ibogaine believing it to be a new recreational drug but, 30 hours later, suddenly realized he wasn't experiencing heroin withdrawal, and had no desire to seek drugs. Subsequent casual experimentation by addict friends revealed that this effect was common to others.


Some 20 years later, Lotsof returned to his discovery and set about trying to bring it to the market. He initially set up a charitable foundation with the aim of promoting and developing ibogaine as an anti-addiction medication but, dismayed by the lack of interest shown, later decided to form a company, NDA International, believing a business concern would more likely attract the necessary financial backing. NDA filed patents for the use of ibogaine in the treatment of addiction and began to carry out treatments to better evaluate the drug's potential.


Because, by this time, ibogaine had been made a Schedule 1 restricted substance in the USA (ibogaine was banned along with LSD and psilocybin in the early seventies) NDA chose to carry out experimental ibogaine treatments in Holland. Jan Bastiaans, a highly-regarded Dutch psychotherapist, partnered him and, over the early years of the nineties, they treated some 30 addict volunteers, the results of which were later medically assessed by Dr Ken Alper in a scientific paper (see How Ibogaine Works for ref).


The nineties, after a promising start, proved to be a tough time for ibogaine. In 1991, the US National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA), impressed by case reports and animal studies, began studying ibogaine with a view to evaluating its safety. They constructed protocols for the treatment of addiction. In 1993, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who oversee the development of new drugs, approved clinical trials with ibogaine, to be carried out by Dr Deborah Mash of the University of Miami School of Medicine, on behalf of Howard Lotsof's corporation, NDA International.


It was at this point that things started to go astray. The death of a young female heroin addict during treatment in Holland brought an abrupt end to the Dutch project. A subsequent inquest did not find the project organizers guilty of negligence but the lack of scientific knowledge about the effects of ibogaine hindered the establishing of an actual cause of death. (It was believed that the surreptitious smoking of opiates during treatment may have been responsible).


The approved clinical trials commenced but contractual and funding problems that arose between NDA International and the University of Miami brought the trials to a close before completion, (the drug's safety was not an issue). A lengthy legal battle between the two ensued, and developmental work came to a standstill.


In March 1995, after several years spent progressively becoming more interested in ibogaine, a review committee at NIDA suddenly decided to greatly reduce further activity with the drug, apparently having been influenced by critical opinions from the pharmaceuticals industry. Officially, it was reported that the death in Holland was of concern, and that NIDA were disappointed that ibogaine was only shown to keep people off drugs for a period of months, not forever. Howard Lotsof has subsequently pointed out that the death, whilst tragic, was likely caused by concurrent opiate usage and, with regard to the second point, that any drug that could put, say, cancer or AIDS into complete remission for a period of months would be being developed as a matter of national urgency.


Over the last few years, very little has happened. The escalating legal battle between NDA International and the University of Miami, each suing the other for alleged breaches of contract, appears to have ended with the bankruptcy of the former.


Meanwhile, widening knowledge of the effects of ibogaine has resulted in casual treatments being provided by various individuals in different countries. Though usually undertaken with good intentions, these treatments have frequently been carried out by people with little medical knowledge, and this may have resulted in further tragic incidents.


The Experience


The client will likely experience the drug taking effect after between 30 minutes and 2 hours. Withdrawal symptoms should be eliminated or easily manageable. There will likely be ataxia (problems getting upright) accompanied by a buzzing noise in the ears. Sounds will become louder, bright light hard to bear. Some people report feeling nauseous and there may be a sensation of pulsing in the body, rather as though it were being "cranked up to a new frequency." These sensations are quite normal.


Vomiting within 3 hours of taking the main dose may result in some of the ibogaine leaving the body before it can be absorbed. In such circumstances, giving more may be considered or perhaps the treatment aborted. Examining the vomit may reveal if the drug has left the body. The experience of taking ibogaine varies so much from person to person, it is difficult to prejudge just what will happen for any one individual. However, there are generally two, distinct phases to the experience.


First, the "oneirophrenic" or "dream-creating" phase. This generally lasts several hours and usually consists of the user experiencing dream-like visions with eyelids closed, which disappear once the eyes are open. The visions may appear to be actual memories running, rather as though a film of one's life was being shown inside the head, or may take the form of characters acting out roles, rather as though a play was taking place inside the head. However, many people report no visual sensations and this is not a problem. People may experience feelings and sensations associated with childhood and early life.


Secondly, the "processing" phase, which follows once the first stage is concluded. This phase is characterized by high levels of mental activity - interiorized processing that allows the material revealed in the first phase to be assimilated and interpreted. People frequently experience comprehending for the first time the reasons why they became involved with drugs. Though ibogaine affects different people in different ways, the oneirophrenic phase typically starts 1-2 hours after taking the main dose, and the processing phase about 3-6 hours later, usually lasting for between 8 and 14 hours. People sometimes experience very negative feelings on ibogaine. If this appears to be happening, the person attending could try to give them reassurance that things are OK. Whatever arises will pass.


What is described above is a typical session but it is by no means unknown for people to be up and moving around within a few hours of taking the main dose, apparently having experienced very little. Alternately, some remain in bed for half a week. In addition, opiate addicts frequently experience little or nothing of the "oneirophrenic" phase. Sessions that are over quickly are usually less effective, and ibogaine does appear to have very little effect on some individuals, regardless of dose level.


Post Ibogaine


If the treatment has been successful, the client should be clean having experienced little or no withdrawal. In addition, many experience no desire to use drugs for a period of weeks afterward. Furthermore, some users report gaining insights into their drug-using behaviour. As a general rule, ibogaine is most effective for older addicts, a casual study indicating that those over 35 have a far better chance of staying clean than those in their twenties.


In cases where the treatment has been successful, but the client begins to experience the desire to use drugs again after some weeks, repeat dosing with ibogaine can be undertaken. Remember that persons not currently using opiates require ibogaine at a maximum dose of around 10mg/k. Re-dosing with ibogaine at less than one month intervals may be risky, as metabolites of the drug can remain in the body for this length of time.

Melatonin and B vitamins have been suggested as useful after using ibogaine. Some believe they help sustain the drug's effect.


Post Ibogaine Rehab and Therapy


A single dose or multiple doses, given over a period, of ibogaine will occasionally be enough to keep someone off drugs permanently. But for most the truth is that, unless suitable post-ibogaine work is undertaken, a fairly rapid relapse to old ways is likely.


It is simply not possible to give guidelines that will be valid for everyone, for we are all different. However, for many, the addict should ideally enter rehabilitation as soon as possible after the treatment. Other alternatives include any long-term (six months and up) residential rehab program available locally. Where residential rehab is not desirous, or not an option, suitable therapy should be seriously considered. Observations of the ethnic, religious use of the drug and first and second hand experience indicate to the writer that the most suitable types of therapy will be body-based and work around catharsis, confrontation and emotional release. "Talking only" type therapy, such as counselling may be effective in some cases but usually less so. Encounter therapy is often highly suitable for recovering addicts, as is primal therapy, bioenergetics, and indeed anything that sets out to assist the individual contact and release repressed emotions, frequently the root cause of addiction. More gentle, integrative work may also be useful.


Post Ibogaine Problems


Feelings of deep contentment - although less common with long term heroin users, many people using ibogaine feel in very high spirits for a period of days or sometimes weeks after taking ibogaine. Clients report feeling that their life is now totally straightened out, they don't need to do rehab, and everything is going to be just wonderful. Unfortunately, this feeling usually passes after a week or so. It is important to remember this as some people feel so good for a week or so after using ibogaine, they barely notice when they start to get the urge to use drugs again and so quickly relapse.


Learned behaviour or conditioning - ibogaine is widely noted as having the ability to "reset" a persons learned behaviour patterns, leaving them free from compulsive urges, drug-related or otherwise. Again, this usually only lasts for a period of days or weeks, and so attention should be paid to any drug-using stimuli in one's environment after this time.


Feelings of anxiety or paranoia - for some users the experience can prove quite harrowing. The drug can have the effect of radically altering the way a person looks at themselves and the world around them. Deep-rooted feelings of insecurity that may have been present since childhood can be uprooted and, when this happens, it can leave a person feeling disorientated and anxious for some time afterward. This will clear and is actually an indication that the drug has worked well.


Sleeplessness - many people find they require less sleep for a period of time post-ibogaine. This is quite normal.


Returning to drug use


If a return to drug use is anticipated post-ibogaine, it is imperative the client does not restart at the dosage level they were using prior to treatment. Ibogaine "resets" many brain functions relating to drug usage and to return to heavy usage could easily result in overdosing, and possibly death.


How Ibogaine Works


Just how ibogaine works is a long way from being completely understood. However, enough work has been done for it to be possible to present some insights from the fields of neurology and psychology.




Animal studies have revealed ibogaine to be active at many receptor sites associated with drug dependence and its treatment. These include the kappa and mu opiate receptors, serotonin receptors, dopamine receptors, sigma receptors and the NMDA ion channel. Being active at so many sites, ibogaine does not lend itself to easy scientific evaluation, and it is thus likely to be years before scientists develop a good understanding of just how the drug works. However, basic conclusions have been reached by some scientists, and interesting new lines of research uncovered by others.


Through analysing the urine of people undergoing ibogaine treatment in Holland and St Kitts, Dr Deborah Mash believes she has identified the powerful role played by the metabolite, noribogaine. Noribogaine remains in the body for much longer than ibogaine itself and has a higher affinity for many of the receptor sites mentioned above, including the opiate receptors. It may be that an individual's ability to metabolize this substance from ibogaine, which takes place via enzyme activity in the liver, is important in determining just how successful treatment will be long-term.


In addition, scientists at the US National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) have also studied the way that drugs, like ibogaine, which are active at the n-Methyl-d-Aspartate (NMDA) receptor apparently have addiction-interrupting effects. Other psychoactives are also known to be active at this site. Ibogaine's effect on the dopaminergic system, known to be influential in addiction, has also been studied in animals. Some have commented that the drug appears to have a kind of "reset button" effect, temporarily overwhelming craving and learned behaviour patterns.


In total, around 170 studies of the effects of ibogaine on animals have now been published. The conclusions of these papers are well summarized in Chapter 3 of the of the 1999 edition of The Alkaloids - Pharmacology of Ibogaine and Ibogaine-related Alkaloids, Piotr Popik and Phil Skolnick, (1999).


In addition, four clinical studies of the effects of ibogaine have been published. They are:

Luciano, DJ. (1998). Observations on treatment with Ibogaine. (American Journal of Addictions 7, 89-90).


Alper, KR, Lotsof, HS, Frencken, GMN, Luciano, DJ, and Bastiaans, J (1999). Treatment of Acute Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome with Ibogaine. (American Journal of Addictions 8, 234-242).


Luciano DJ, Della Sera, EA, and Jethmal, EG (2000). Neurologic, electroencephalographic and general medical observations in subjects administered ibogaine. (Bulletin of Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies 9, 27-30).


Mash DC, Kovera CA, Pablo J, Tyndale RF, Ervin FD, Williams IC, Singleton EG, Mayor M (2000). Ibogaine: complex pharmacokinetics, concerns for safety, and preliminary efficacy measures. (Ann N Y Acad Sci 2000; 914:394-401).




Psychologists attached to drug-dependency units have frequently noted that substance abusers very often show signs of having suffered considerable childhood trauma or conditioning. Research in this field has well summarized by Jane Wilson of the University of Stirling in her paper Childhood Trauma, Adult Psychopathology and Addiction.


Trauma is usually a single negative event, the memory of which and associated feelings are repressed. Conditioning is the process by which parents seek to alter their child's behaviour by repeatedly punishing certain acts, usually to try and ensure the child's successful integration into society.


One problem in treating the effects of both trauma and conditioning is that, because the original traumatic event or act of conditioning is repressed, the individual has no conscious memory of it having taken place and a person's defences may make any entry into this area difficult. Ibogaine treatment has frequently been reported to assist in the recall of repressed memories and further aid their processing, thus potentially giving the drug a major role in psychotherapy. However, whilst the cognitive retrieval of repressed material may take place, in the writer's experience most users do not experience a significant degree of emotional connection to the repressed event or events either at the time of ibogaine ingestion or later. It is therefore recommended that ibogaine not be administered in isolation, but rather as simply one stage of an wider therapeutic strategy.


In addition, it is recognized that, regardless of the degree to which the processing of repressed material has taken place, ibogaine does open up virtually all users to open and frank discussion of personal problems for a period of at least a week or so after use, an effect which may be put to good use in therapy.


Psychologically, the drug is essentially "oneirogenic" in that it induces dream behaviour with the ego perspective relatively intact. Modern theories of dreaming often relate that dreams appear to be pseudo-sensory experiences that serve to diffuse the stresses resulting from unresolved emotional conflicts of the day before. In a similar way, it seems to be that ibogaine induces dreams that serve to try and reduces stresses whose origin is much earlier. Ibogaine visions frequently lend themselves well to the principles of dream analysis derived from Jung and others.


The Bwiti


The Bwiti are a Central African religious group whose usage of Tabernanthe iboga, the plant source of ibogaine, forms an integral part of their culture. The rootbark of the plant is known colloquially as "iboga" or "eboka." It contains approximately 12 different alkaloids, of which ibogaine is merely one. Others, such as tabernanthine or ibogamine, are also likely psychoactive.


The word "Bwiti" refers both to the religion - the Bwiti religion, and the group that practice it - The Bwiti. There are estimated to be approximately 2-3 million Bwiti members scattered in groups throughout the countries of Gabon, Zaire, and the Cameroun. Most are from the two principal tribal groups of the area, the Fang and the Mitsogho. Fang Bwiti and Mitsogho Bwiti may be distinguished by their ritual practices and beliefs. It is generally believed that iboga use only spread to these local tribespeople over the last few centuries, having originated with pygmy groups in the jungles of the Congo basin many thousands of years earlier. This migration is understood by the plant's indigenous users as resembling its function, Bwiti myths frequently using images of the lightly wooded grasslands and the dense Congo jungle as symbols of the conscious and the unconscious mind.


Iboga is used for an assortment of purposes within the group, notably as an aid to concentration and to stimulate recovery from illness. Its principal sacramental use is as the central component in the so-called "Bwiti initiation ritual" - an intricate 3-day "rebirth" ceremony, the completion of which is a necessity if one is to become a member of the group. Both sexes are initiated, typically between the eighth and thirteenth birthday, and the ceremony usually begins on the Thursday, ending Sunday morning.


Prior to the ritual's commencement, certain preparatory exercises are undertaken for the purpose of reinforcing the experience. These include the writing and symbolic burning of a "confession" - a written record of all one's moral transgressions, and the undertaking of various rituals, notably one in which the initiate crawls through the legs of local women whilst immersed in a nearby stream, an exercise intended to symbolically reproduce the journey of the sperm to fertilization.


During the ritual itself, iboga is eaten on the first night and may be further consumed on subsequent nights should it be deemed necessary. The initiate's consumption of iboga is supervised by the "nganga," a priest of the Bwiti religion who, being knowledgeable of the effects of iboga, can tell when the initiate has had sufficient.


The overall aim of the ritual is to cause the initiate to be both emotionally and spiritually "reborn," such that they may take their place within the group as a true adult. The consumption of a high dose of iboga is intended to help achieve this by bringing about a deep, dreamlike descent into the world of the unconscious with the effect of both bringing into awareness repressed material and causing a reconnection to the world of the ancestors. If the initiation proceeds well, it is believed that the initiate will actually "meet the Bwiti," envisioned as the primordial male and female originators of the religion, residing in the depths of the unconscious.


The Bwiti initiation ritual, as this "rebirth" ceremony has come to be known, has in recent years attracted the attention of some Westerners who find themselves romantically drawn to the notion of travelling to the region and undertaking it themselves. Anyone considering doing this should be aware of three things. Firstly, that both the Cameroun and Zaire, two of the three countries where the Bwiti are located, are now regarded as being acutely dangerous for Westerners (Zaire especially). Secondly, that, in Gabon, the remaining country, only the least reputable groups would usually consider initiating Westerners, and then almost certainly only undertake the task for financial gain, likely in a half-hearted fashion. Finally, it should be remembered that each year some local initiates are believed to die during the ceremony, bizarre court cases between parents and priests frequently resulting.


Iboga Visions


Interpreting the dreamlike visions of the ibogaine experience can prove a fascinating yet difficult task. The "oneirophrenic" phase of the session frequently throws up much material from the unconscious, and whilst the later, "processing" phase of the session, characterized by many hours of frenzied mental activity, may shed light on the meaning of what has been seen for some, as often as not the individual emerges from the session little wiser as to the significance of what they have experienced.


Because ibogaine visions frequently reveal the presence and nature of deeply sensitive issues, cloaked in symbolism, their subsequent misinterpretation is understandably common. This section will therefore cover some basic aspects of the iboga visionary experience such that individuals using the drug might better benefit from the experience.


It is worth remembering that, no matter what they may appear to be about, ibogaine visions invariably contain much personal content. One symbolic device that often appears to be used by the drug is the cloaking of personal issues as world affairs, frequently either political or ecological scenarios that appear to threaten the planet.


One example of this is that of the opiate user who experienced being shown that mankind was an evolutionary mistake that was now destroying the world - the revealing of deep-rooted feelings of lack of self-worth. Another example is the individual, whose father had exerted a excessively controlling influence over his childhood, who experienced being shown that the world was under the control of elite banking groups. Whilst the scenario experienced may appear valid to the individual, and may indeed even be valid, it should be remembered that there will invariably be much personal significance.


Psychologically, the action of ibogaine is always to attempt to bring repressed material to light - to make conscious what is unconscious. This it does at a rate frequently too fast for an individual to fully process and integrate during the session itself. Experience also indicates that for many this release appears to continue long after the drug has left the system. Consequently, even when little has been experienced visually, it is common for the individual to emerge from the session with their defences overwhelmed by rising unconscious material. It is for this reason that I recommend that the drug only be used by those regularly involved in therapy, and particularly therapeutic structures revolving around the cathartic release of emotions and their bodily integration - Bioenergetics, Primal Therapy, Dynamic Meditation, Lowen Technique, Humaniversity Therapy, or similar. Where this is not undertaken, the inexperienced user may find themselves drawn to bizarre belief patterns or perhaps excessively concerned with issues of "control" for a period of time, perhaps even years, after taking ibogaine. Issues relating to mother or father may be projected onto younger women or older men and there may be a tendency to retreat "into the head," to avoid confrontation with issues of sexuality and personal power. All such patterns should pass with time, and the process of integration may be considerably speeded up by undertaking suitable therapy.

Clinics, Drug Rehabs etc.

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