Ibogaine Can Reduce Opioid Use, But May Be Fatal For Some

By Victoria Kim 06/15/17

A new study examined whether ibogaine is a legitimate alternative medicine for recovering from opioid addiction.

herbal medicine capsules

Two observational studies of ibogaine’s long-term effects on heroin/prescription opioid addiction show that the naturally occurring psychedelic can make a significant dent in a person’s drug use—for people who haven’t had success with other substance use disorder therapies—though ibogaine is not considered totally safe.

According to the research, sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), 12 of 30 participants reported 75% reductions in their drug use 30 days following treatment, and 33% reported no opioid use three months later.

The naturally occurring psychoactive alkaloid comes from the West African shrub iboga, traditionally used in Western and Central Africa to induce visions and shamanic experience, as Maia Szalavitz reported for The Fix in 2012.

The studies followed opioid users undergoing ibogaine-assisted therapy in Mexico and New Zealand. 

Trips last about 24 hours, during which a sense of deep self-reflection affects the individual. According to The Fix’s Doug Heyes and Alesha Carlander, ibogaine is “scientifically classified as an entheogen—one of the sacred earth medicines that ‘generate God within’ along with an other-worldly consciousness.”

The MAPS-funded studies show that just one treatment with ibogaine could alleviate painful withdrawal symptoms in heroin/opioid users and result in total abstinence from the drug, or a consistent reduction in drug use for up to 12 months following the treatment.

Save for one participant who died during treatment, many reported a positive experience. (Apparently the individual was not monitored properly by the attending physician.)

The study authors note that there have been 19 deaths attributed to ibogaine from 1990-2008—but points out that a “thorough review of all available autopsy, toxicological, and investigative reports” suggested that the deaths had more to do with preexisting medical issues (especially having to do with the heart), or the involvement of other substances.

Despite the possibility of death, the studies’ otherwise positive results suggest that ibogaine should be examined further as a legitimate alternative route to recovery for those who haven’t found success through other treatments. 

“Iboga could give an opiate addict several months to half a year of freedom from craving and a period of time in which to get their life together and learn to face things straightforwardly, directly and honestly,” said one study participant. “Iboga will not do the work for you.” 

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr