“Hello, I am from Nairobi seeking buyers for a big quantity of Ibogaine. Kindly get in touch. We can negotiate on price.”

This is a sample of an advertisement for Ibogaine. Such adverts are slowly gaining traction in a society where a few years ago, posting about the sale of a psychedelic would have been highly frowned upon. However, ibogaine, a psychoactive compound derived from the West-African shrub iboga is now the subject of scientific clinical trials. The potential of the psychedelic substance as a solution for drug addicts is a novel idea that has been picked up by countries such as Brazil, New Zealand and Mexico. Historically, ibogaine has been used in African spiritual ceremonies and initiation rituals in the Western side of Africa. Today, it may be a solution for modern drug addictions.

HOW IT WORKS

iboga tree

Ibogaine’s potential to change drug-addiction behaviour may be caused by the combined actions of the parent drug and/or its active metabolites that modulate the addiction circuit in the brain. It acts as a mild stimulant when used in small doses whereas in large doses, it can put an individual into a deep psychedelic state. Oliver* a resident of Mexico describes the first time the so called ‘addiction-interrupter’ was introduced to him as an aid for his opium addiction. “After I received the first dose of Ibogaine, I experienced a psychedelic state for about 25 hours. After that, I did not experience any cravings of any kind or any withdrawal symptoms.”

Ibogaine’s potential to change drug-addiction behaviour may be caused by the combined actions of the parent drug and/or its active metabolites that modulate the addiction circuit in the brain. It acts as a mild stimulant when used in small doses whereas in large doses, it can put an individual into a deep psychedelic state. Oliver* a resident of Mexico describes the first time the so called ‘addiction-interrupter’ was introduced to him as an aid for his opium addiction. “After I received the first dose of Ibogaine, I experienced a psychedelic state for about 25 hours. After that, I did not experience any cravings of any kind or any withdrawal symptoms.”

Perhaps the most common question about Ibogaine is that if it has proven to be great for heroin addiction, why not just dispense the substance to everyone with an addiction?

The answer to that lies in the possible side effects associated with Ibogaine.

SIDE EFFECTS

Using Ibogaine for opioid withdrawal without professional supervision might pose serious risks such as:

  • Impaired balance and muscle coordination.
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Heart complications such as cardiac arrhythmia
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Seizures

Research is still being conducted on ibogaine treatment to determine correct dosages and safe administration of the drug. More research is also needed to fully comprehend the long-term effects of ibogaine on the human body as most studies thus far have only been conducted on animals. Importantly, Ibogaine is not considered appropriate for recreational use, both due to the above side-effects and due to it creating intense and often unpleasant experiences.


“I SAW MY FAMILY FROM YOUNG TO OLDER, HOW EVERYTHING HAS BEEN AND HOW I AFFECTED THEM.”


RESEARCH ON EFFICACY

A 2014 study in Brazil found Ibogaine to be effective in treating addiction when used alongside psychotherapy, with the length of abstinence increasing significantly with each additional ibogaine session. In a long-term observational study in Mexico, research was conducted to identify the efficacy of ibogaine-assisted therapy to treat opioid-use disorder. The researchers measured frequency and dosage of opioid used by participants at the beginning of treatment and at monthly follow ups over 12 months. Following ibogaine treatment, one participant wrote, “I saw my family from young to older and how everything has been and how I affected them.”

According to the research:

  • 50% of participants reported no opioid use at 1 month following treatment (compared to 18% of those treated with buprenorphine, and 26% treated with methadone in separate studies)
  • Four out of the 30 participants were abstinent at the 12-month follow-up.
  • Secondary family/social and legal status measures were improved and sustained over 12-months

Results suggest ibogaine-assisted psychotherapy was most effective immediately following treatment, with relapse rates increasing gradually alongside time since intervention. The researchers determined that whilst ibogaine treatment was not necessarily a cure for drug-addiction, it acted as an addition-interrupter.

Via Unsplash

Medical professionals who have used ibogaine to treat patients recovering from methamphetamine addiction report 50-80 percent success rates; albeit long-term recovery and relapse avoidance depend largely on joining a rehabilitation program after ibogaine treatment. One doctor reported a 70-80 percent success rate with effective after-care, although was keen to note that when people in recovery returned to the environment in which they had originally abused drugs, there was a 90 percent relapse rate. This highlights the importance of providing a drug-free and supportive environment in which the patient has the best chance for recovery.

IBOGAINE TREATMENT CLINICS FOR DRUG ADDICTION

Despite the fact that recreational use of ibogaine is illegal in places like the U.S.A., much of Europe, and a majority of African countries, ibogaine treatment clinics have emerged in Mexico, Canada, the Netherlands, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. All these operate under what is considered a ‘legal grey area’. Illegal neighbourhood clinics in the United States have also mushroomed in recent years despite active DEA surveillance.


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Despite Ibogaine’s ability to act as an addiction-interrupter and its attractive option when used to treat opioid addiction, the trials conducted so far have only tested single doses. Perhaps what researchers need to investigate is its potential to be incorporated into rehabilitation centres and public clinics as an added tool for recovery as opposed to a cure. If used alongside psychotherapy, medical detox, behavioural counselling, recovery support services, drug rehabilitation services, and is administered by trained professionals in safe settings, we might just be looking at the next step towards a solution for drug addiction.

*name changed for privacy

For more information on Ibogaine, and to find out about current clinical trials involving Ibogaine-assisted therapy, click here.

Tabby Kibugi is a freelance content writer and co-founder of Okoa Boy Child Organization. Some of her articles have been featured in the Kenyan Daily Nation, Revolution magazine, Australia’s Pink Advocate, Conscious Being magazine, The Byzantine Times magazine and many more. She resides in Nairobi, Kenya and is passionate about advocating for the rights of marginalized groups. She has a crafts blog where she showcases some of her handmade crafts.