Ibogaine: Cure or Con?

So there I was, happily watching a “Law and Order” mini-marathon. In one episode, the psychiatrist who works with the SVU staff goes on a diatribe about how ibogaine, a hallucinogenic root, cures opioid addiction. He’s trying to help a heroin-addicted youth detoxify from opioids, to enable him to testify against a rapist. Dr. Huang, the TV doctor, says ibogaine works great, but the big nasty drug companies won’t market it because it won’t make money, and U.S. doctors are (paraphrasing) too cowardly to do what’s right, and use something that really works.

 Sadly, some addicts are more likely to believe the words of a fictional character on a fictional TV program than their doctor.

 The truth is that ibogaine hasn’t been proven a safe and effective treatment for any kind of addiction.

 On the other hand, we don’t know for sure that it doesn’t work, either. NIH, the National Institute of Health, did laboratory studies with ibogaine in the mid-1990’s, but stopped work on the drug due to concerns about potentially fatal heart arrhythmias and neurotoxicity.

 However, the NIH tends to be a rather conservative bunch, and other scientists have taken up further research on the drug. At least two reputable doctors have independent, ongoing research projects on the drug. (1)

 So what is ibogaine? It’s a naturally occurring root found in Africa, and used in religious ceremonies there. In these ceremonies, rootbark from the plant Tabernanthe iboga is chewed to give a mild stimulant effect. With increased doses, this bark has hallucinogenic effects. Ibogaine is a sloppy drug, affecting at least three types of brain receptors. Ibogaine’s metabolite, noribogaine, has serotonin reuptake inhibition properties, like found in many antidepressants. It also has a weak opioid effect on the mu opioid receptors, and a stronger effect at the kappa opioid receptors, causing less dopamine to be released. It also has effects on at least two other receptor types.

 Ibogaine’s supporters claim this drug can cure addiction to alcohol, cocaine, opioids, and nicotine. Limited studies show that since the drug does block the release of dopamine, it may have some benefit in the treatment of addiction to these drugs, but we just don’t have enough information now.

 The drug’s reputation as a favorite of the drug culture may contribute to our government’s hesitation to approve studies of ibogaine in this country, but other countries are more permissive (or careless, depending on how you look at things).

 It’s also been difficult to get pharmaceutical companies interested in ibogaine. That’s not just due to the drug’s reputation as a recreational drug. Pharmaceutical companies tend to view all anti-addiction drugs as having low profitability (addicts tend to lack both money and insurance) and of course there’s still – sadly – the stigma of addiction and its treatment. (OK, so maybe Dr. Huang was partially right!) 

The limited data available so far suggest that at best, ibogaine may eventually prove to be another useful tool to use against addiction, but it’s unlikely to be the cure-all magic bullet that the fictional Dr. Huang claims. 

I hope we can see some well-done clinical trials before we decide what, if any, benefit this potential medication may have in the treatment of addiction.

 1.  http://www.ibogaine-research.org/Ibogaine-Research-Project/Areas/Media/JAMA.htm

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25 responses to this post.

  1. “The truth is that ibogaine hasn’t been proven a safe and effective treatment for any kind of addiction.”

    —Yes it has. Proven scientifically, by professionals in the field, including Dr Glick of New York University, and Dr Mash of the University of Miami. We know, 100% for sure, that Ibogaine irrumpts physical addiction, and it will end opiate withdrawal in 100% of the people who take it.
    Dr Glick must have given to a million rats. Look up “Stanley Glick, ibogaine” and you will get 1000 scientific papers. All the scientific research has confirmed that Ibogaine, in fact, interrupts drug addiction, every time. You are wrong. I challenge you to find a person who has taken it, not a friend of a friend, but a person who actually took it, and tell them to write that it doesn’t work. They cant, because it works, every time.

    >”The drug’s reputation as a favorite of the drug culture may contribute to our government’s hesitation to approve studies of ibogaine in this country,”

    —Wrong again, studies have most certainly been approved by the US government. The problem is funding, not approval. Dr Mash has been approved through NIDA and the FDA for it, many times.

    Sorry, you have most of your information incorrect. Ibogaine as a ‘recreational drug”? You have never read anything about it, have you? This is terrible. Ibogaine has nothing recreational about it, it really sucks. the only reason somebody would take it is for help.

    If anyone out there had an opiate addiction, please research Ibogaine. It saved my life. If you are not an addict, I dont care, your opinion doesn’t matter. But if you are, then I have good news man, it really works. 120mg of methadone to nothing, no withdrawal. I am so thankful for Ibogaine. So very thankful, I get tears in my eyes thinking about it. It really works. It really works, and I have my life back.

    Reply

    • Please supply references to support your statements. I looked for large, double-blind randomized trials of ibogaine – on humans, not rats – and couldn’t find any. If you have them, let me know & I’ll give them a fair read.

      I know one person who took ibogaine to cure her opioid addiction. When she told me about how it cured her, she was a patient in a methadone clinic, dosing with methadone daily, so I wasn’t sure what she meant by “cure.” But this is known as “anecdotal evidence.” Your story is another example of anecdotal evidence. It’s one case, one story. That’s how potentially helpful medications are first identified, but for them to be proven effective, quality research studies need to be done.

      As to the approval, you’re correct. I should have specified I was talking about human studies. Yes, Ibogaine has been approved for many studies, just not human studies.

      Reply

      • Posted by Carol on March 31, 2011 at 10:51 am

        It works on humans – almost like magic. I am married (22 years) the to human that used it here…. Decades of struggling with demons – over in 36 hours….

      • Wow. Could your human write in to us and describe his experience more fully??

      • Posted by Steve on December 8, 2011 at 7:44 pm

        I was on hydrocodone in extremely large doses for 2 years and then 16mg of suboxone for 7 years. IBOGAINE CURED my addiction in 36 hours and made me a better person. I tripped my face off and had what I can only explain as an out of body near death like experience. That was 9 months ago and I am completely clean. Verified because I volunteered for Tom Browns ibogaine study in which I had a follow up call and drug screening monthly for going on 9 months now. MIRACLE CURE. Anyone who says differently is a moron who is spreading false information maybe because they are whores for the big pharma companys that will pay big money to keep a “CURE” from ever coming to fruition. I have a detailed email of my trip that I wrote soon afterwards and sent to Tom Brown. If you would like it I can send it to you.

      • Dear Readers,
        I’ve decided to allow Steve to post his experience, despite his calling me, indirectly, a moron and a whore for big pharma. His vehemence gives some idea about how passionately some people believe in ibogaine. Still, it’s anecdotal experience, and not reliable like a large, double-bling randomized control trial, which is what is needed.
        I’m glad it worked for Steve, but no thanks, I don’t believe I need to hear the details of his drug experience.

    • Posted by kath on September 7, 2011 at 9:14 pm

      Sorry, mate, but it hasn’t been scientifically proven. It underwent phase one clinical trials, years ago, but these were halted, as the article above states, due to concerns about safety. There were no phase 2 or 3 trials.
      Anecdotes are not acceptable to prove the effectiveness and safety of a drug, partly because our own perception is so unreliable and open to bias.
      For example – yes, withdrawal is not pleasant but it’s well acknowledged that there is a large psychological component to your personal experience of withdrawal. If someone who was on methadone/heroin was absolutely convinced that ibogaine worked, had read lots of stories and anecdotes proclaiming it a ‘miracle cure’, had spent thousands on treatment – it’s very possible that this strong conviction in ibogaine’s effectiveness could, in itself, make the treatment work. The placebo effect is very well documented in medicine – and that is one of many reasons that we need good quality, peer reviewed studies to document effectiveness.
      There are also very real concerns about safety for a drug that has undergone such minimal testing. There is very little data available relating to it’s safety, and there have been deaths and serious health complications linked with it.
      Most people (rightly) would not accept a pharmaceutical medication that was untested – indeed, phamaceutical medications have to go through many years and phases of testing costing millions of pounds before they can be considered safe. It often happens that we discover dangerous side effects in the later stages of testing, causing the trials to be pulled and resulting in a huge loss of money, time and effort. We also often discover adverse effects many years down the line. It seems absolute madness to me to risk your health and possibly your life on an unapproved and untested drug.
      Yes, i am an ex heroin addict, but I don’t think that’s particularly relevant here. You don’t have to be an addict to be capable of weighing up the evidence. In fact, sometimes, personal experience can actually hinder your ability to consider an issue objectively.
      I think this is a really balanced, intelligent article. It doesn’t say Ibogaine doesn’t work – it says that there is nowhere near enough data to prove it’s efficacy or safety. And that’s absolutely true. The article also states that more trials are needed, and that drug companies are not very interested in funding such trials. I don’t see how this article could be any fairer.

      Reply

  2. http://www.ibogaine-research.org/Ibogaine-Research-Project/Areas/Media/JAMA.htm

    Journal of the American Medical Association
    Vol. 288 No. 24, pp. 3096-3101, December 25, 2002

    Thank you Daphne, of ibogafoundation. I found this source on their website.

    I very politely ask you please encourage everyone to research Ibogaine. Not just CSI. This is for real, and every person we can help, is a life saved. Yes, it is really that profound.

    Reply

    • No, I mean please give me your references. That’s the one I listed as my reference, if you looked at the end of my post!! It certainly doesn’t say what you say it’s saying.

      Reply

  3. My mistake. I missed that the link was yours. Sorry, that was embarrassing. But… how could you have missed so much? I dont understand. It is all right there.

    The third paragraph says, “Although the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had approved human trials with ibogaine, Deborah Mash, PhD, associate professor of neurology and pharmacology at Miami, could not secure funding for a stateside study. ”

    I think you believe that there is no funding, making the specific test you ask for impossible, therefor you discredit when a person swears by it. Not good enough for you? What is “anecdotal”? I think it is fair to say that when everyone agrees on its action, it is no longer anecdotal.

    This is something you saw on CSI, and it is something that just happened to break my incredibly painful addiction to heroin and methadone. I am nobody. I am just an anonymous stranger with thousands tiny needle marks up my arms that will never heal. I took Iboga once, years ago. It did what everyone says it does. I have choices today, because I am still clean. If somebody I love had an addiction, I would give them Iboga. Telling people about it is the right thing to do. It is not a con.

    Reply

    • “Law and Order,” not “CSI,” not that it matters.

      Let’s let the readers go to the link and decide for themselves.

      However it happened, congratulations on your recovery. That’s a big deal.

      If I knew ibogaine would cure everybody, I would be shouting it from the roof tops. I think it may help some people, but we just don’t have human trials, big ones, that prove it works consistently. I don’t care who funds it, as long as it’s well-done. I hope someone will do the trials, so that we know for sure, one way or another.

      Reply

  4. The ibogaine information (via the blog link at the end of the post) clearly points to ambiguous results and nothing at all conclusive about ibogaine’s ability to “cure” any type of addiction/ailment. I can appreciate the commenter’s enthusiasm, but I am cautious in regard to radical claims of cures.

    Addicts struggle with false starts and despair. Sometimes their readiness to choose help is short-lived. I would much rather see someone, finally ready for help, choose a well-documented treatment like methadone or suboxone (with proven results) than to self-administer something like ibogaine.

    There is a quick-fix mill & mentality out there that panders to people’s vulnerabilities. Not saying ibogaine has necessarily gone that route, but I agree with Dr. Burson that good research/trials are required before suffering addicts alter their brain chemistry even more with another questionable substance.

    Reply

    • Expertly said.

      The researchers mentioned in the article are legit, but there are unscrupulous people out there ready to take advantage of a desperately ill person. Anyone remember laetrile?

      Reply

    • Posted by Mark on April 13, 2011 at 8:46 pm

      I respect what you say & we need skeptics out there however I have seen tons of actual video of the treatment and would try it because being addicted to drugs is like be a person who is living dead.

      Reply

      • Your description of addiction is eloquent. All the more reason to spend your time and money on a treatment that has a proven track record.

    • Posted by kath on September 7, 2011 at 9:26 pm

      I agree absolutely. I was a heroin addict for many years, and my numerous failed attempts at getting clean left me feeling utterly desperate and hopeless. I began methadone, which is a proven, well tested medication, and it literally saved my life. It wasn’t a miracle cure – but it helped me get my life back on track, and reduce all the harm caused by my addiction. I’ve been clean for many years now and have a normal life, a good job and an amazing family. Personally, I felt my recovery was too important to gamble on a completely unknown quantity like this.
      I’m not saying ibogaine doesn’t work – I’m saying we just don’t know whether it works. The evidence so far hasn’t been especially encouraging or convincing, and there are very real concerns about safety. I also find all the talk of it being a ‘miracle cure’ to be a bit dubious, and like you, I worry that it preys on the vulnerability and desperation of addiction.

      Reply

  5. Posted by Mark on April 13, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    Is there any site to purchase this without being ripped off. I am doing extensive studies on it and would never try it unless I was certain it was real and I took all precautions. I live in the U.S and can’t afford to travel to get treatment. I am not sure what does would suite me at this time etc. I would like to start by knowing I can get the real product. Any help? I saw Ibogain world but not sure if they are legit.

    Reply

  6. Posted by Benyamin on August 21, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    It seems like the line is divided directly between the addicts and those who believe they know what is best for the addict. Also, I noticed the complete lack of information regarding the spiritual aspect of ibogaine- in fact, the Bwiti religion is still alive and spreading due to this plant. If it were so harmful, you would think that ingestion of a toxic plant as a sacrament for one of the first religions established would have died out a long time ago. (btw, at the eating of iboga cerimonies, they ingest A LOT more iboga than any doctor would ever perscribe.) I have not yet tried Ibogaine but I am in the process of obtaining it. Notice also the lack of concrete deaths in scientific literature and compare that to the death rates of drugs as simple as caffeine, aspirin, methadone, and suboxone. Even for antidepressants, which were perscribed to me to treat my addiction, gave me increased suicidal thoughts- where Zoloft shows a 1.6x increase in suicidal thoughts. You automatically proclaim Ibogaine to be a ‘bad drug’ but go on spouting about how a magical FDA study makes everything safe. There are tons of medicines recalled every year, such as Accutaine and Yazmin which cause huge side effects not even seen in double blind studies. If only we had a group of isolated people who have had collectively thousands of years of experience with ibogaine to share insight and provide a proving ground for it’s safety…

    Oh wait. They live in Gabon.

    Reply

  7. Posted by Eric VT on August 31, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    Ibogaine to me is just starting to look more and more like a Scam then anything else and one that prays on addicts and there famalies who are desperate and willing to try anything. All I know is Three Heroin/methadone Addicted people I used with for years tried the Ibogaine treatment and it did not work at all. And to all 3 it was promised to be a 100% cure for there Addiction.

    There family;s were at the end and would try anything to get there kid loved one’s of Heroin. They sent them to the the Ibogaine center in Mexico. To make a long story short all 3 two males and one female are back on opiates/Cocaine/Benzo’setc. The longest held out for 3 months after the treatment was over. She had cravings every day she said and it did nothing for her cravings or thinking of opiates or other hard drugs.

    . All 3 had withdrawls syptoms still.The Ibogaine center gave them Benzo’s and barbiturates AKA Sleeping meds for what they said was just mild withdrawl that would be over soon and pass. I wonder why if the Ibogaine works so well they would have to give those meds to help with the opiate withdrawl ?

    Also what gets me the most is the cost these places are charging for what they are saying is a cure for Hard drug addiction. Its a good thing all 3 came from upper middle class famalies becasue all together sending them there and back and every thing in between it cost there famalies over 10 grand.

    Reply

  8. Posted by Chris on November 27, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    FWIW, I have was addicted to oxycodone (600mg/day) and for six years after. I fell into a pattern of dependence after losing my wife.

    I ordered 2g of Ibogaine HCl and 1g of Iboga TA extract from an awesome online vendor and administered it last week in the comfort of my own bedroom. In a “free” country, it’s unfortunate that there’s not an affordable, legal way of choosing to accept the risks and undergo the treatment with some medical supervision. However, since my girlfriend is a nurse, I did have someone present to monitor my vitals and make sure I was doing okay.

    Three days after a dose of 25mg/kg, I felt like a completely new person. I would say it took away 95% of withdrawals, leaving me with some fatigue and some cognitive impairment. Even with the lingering physical withdrawals, the boost it gave (which, subjectively for me, seems to be from increased serotonin) made me want to go out and climb a mountain after getting a night’s sleep after the experience. And guess what? I did (living in Colorado is awesome).

    I’ve gone cold turkey before, I’ve attempted to taper off suboxone before, and I’ve also successfully tapered off oxycodone before, but that lasted only about a week before I relapsed.

    I can conclusively say that Ibogaine interrupted my addiction and allowed me to get on with life. Based upon all of my past experiences with tapering and cold-turkey, I *know* that I would be curled up in a ball right now rather than typing this if it were not for the Ibogaine. It does work.

    Interestingly, I also have had almost no insomnia, and no desire to use.

    A week after an abrupt cessation of what I consider a pretty large daily dose of opiates for six years, I am sitting here typing this at work and almost 100% functional. In fact, I would say I am more than 100% functional in some ways.

    It’s not going to “cure” everything for everyone. You still have to make changes in your life and try to understand what got you into the position of being dependent. But, I think that’s also where Ibogaine shines. It certainly gave me a great amount of insight into my past and things that I have been unable to face on my own.

    It worked for me.

    Reply

  9. Posted by Mandy on January 16, 2013 at 6:57 am

    I am in the planning phases of starting a non-profit to help opioid-addicted individuals receive funds/travel/medication expenses to receive Ibogaine treatment in successful clinics in Mexico and to also gain funding for eventual FDA approval of the drug. Anyone interested or with any helpful info please contact me at triquetra331junkmail@gmail.com

    Reply

  10. Posted by keithlinx on April 16, 2013 at 11:31 pm

    Ibogaine worked for me… and it worked better than any detox or rehab program in the USA… I tried everything from Rapid Opiate Detox, 30 day programs, 6 month programs, methadone, suboxone, klonopin, klonodine.. Everything!!!! Im a 17 year heroin and opiate user. Did ibogaine 4 months ago and am still clean. Iboga gave me my free will back and took away my cravings.. I can make choices without that little devil on my shoulder.. But the most important thing I believe is needed for ibogaine to work is that you really want a new life and want to make a change.. You have to be willing to do whatever it takes. eat right, change your environment. Its only a tool… It just wont cure you, you need to put in a little work.. Just sayin

    Reply

  11. Posted by sm on May 21, 2014 at 6:29 am

    ur a complete idiot.. ibogaine has cured thousand of people opiate addiction i’m so tired of all you ignorant a** people that like to suppress things that actually work. Not only am i saying it works, i’m saying its a cure. If it doesn’t work for someone either A) they didn’t take it more than once some people need up to three times or B) That person just wants it. iboga resets opiate receptors and your entire brain chemistry. FACT IBOGA WORKS!

    Reply

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