Ibogaine is a psychedelic drug that can cause effects similar to those associated with mushrooms or LSD. Although its use can lead to short-term side effects, including anxiety related to experiencing hallucinations, it has also been touted for a few years as a potential treatment for addiction problems. Recently, research in the West has begun to focus on ibogaine for this reason. It has been found that it may be beneficial for those addicted to alcohol, opioids, methamphetamine, and cocaine.
Anecdotal reports suggest that ibogaine, which is derived from a plant found in the African rainforest, modifies brain chemistry in a way that mitigates withdrawal symptoms and cravings in those struggling to recover from substance use. However, experts exploring this substance’s potential in addiction treatment do not suggest that ibogaine ultimately ends addiction and merely interrupts the process.
How Does Ibogaine Work?
Addiction is now widely believed to be a chronic disease caused by long-term changes to the brain’s reward centers. When a person uses ibogaine, the drug is converted into a compound that targets these cranial regions and addictive behaviors. In doing so, it essentially rewires these areas, allowing the brain to return to a state similar to before addiction developed.
While it is believed that ibogaine can lessen withdrawal symptoms and block cravings, this process is more like detox than actually ending an addiction. Many steps need to be taken, such as comprehensive therapy and counseling, after a person is no longer physically dependent on a substance.
Medical professionals who have employed ibogaine report a 50-80% success rate among individuals addicted to meth. That said, prolonged recovery and relapse prevention also depended on undergoing an addiction rehab program after using ibogaine as prescribed by a doctor.
One doctor reported a 70-80% success rate with effective aftercare and remarked that when those recovering from addiction to meth used ibogaine then returned to the environment in which they had initially used, there was a 90 percent rate of relapse. This finding is believed to be, at least in part, because visual cues and emotional associations are more prominent for individuals with meth addiction compared to those who are struggling with an addiction to opioids.
Ibogaine treatment for a few addictive substances resulted in a 20-50% rate of abstinence at a one-year follow-up, and that included individuals working to overcome opioid addiction. These statistics may not seem significant, but, comparatively, Suboxone treatment for opioid addiction shows only an 8.6% success rate once the individual no longer requires it.
A study from Brazil, where ibogaine is uncontrolled and commonly used in combination with psychotherapy to treat alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine addiction, showed higher success rates. However, it should be noted that subjects underwent both ibogaine treatment and therapeutic follow-up care. Still, one-time ibogaine treatment was associated with abstinence of over five months on average. Significantly, repeated ibogaine treatments resulted in abstinence, on average, for more than eight months.
Although ibogaine treatment may be beneficial for many individuals, it may not be for everyone. For example, a 2012 study of subjects who received a one-time ibogaine treatment that struggled with opioid addiction revealed that 80% relapsed within the first six months. Another 20 percent stayed abstinent for more than six months but less than a year and just 13% remained abstinent for longer than a year.
However, those who did relapse during the study were found to use fewer opioids when compared to their prior levels of use. One of the first studies from 1983 involving ibogaine suggested that multiple treatments with this drug may be more beneficial. Findings revealed that four treatments helped an individual to remain abstinent for three years, while one treatment was effective, on average, for six months.
It’s crucial to remember that drugs like ibogaine, which is controlled in the United States, should not be obtained illicitly and self-administered. In other words, if a person is interested in what ibogaine might have to offer, you would need to travel abroad to get medical care and appropriate comprehensive therapy.
Fortunately, however, effective treatment can also be accessed in the U.S., and new potential approaches are continually being researched. The Food and Drug Administration is also approving addiction treatments found to be relatively safe and beneficial.
Getting Treatment for Drug or Alcohol Addiction
At the time of this writing, Just Believe does not offer ibogaine treatment. Although it is used in other countries to treat various addictions, it remains illicit in the U.S. Instead, we offer several different solutions for addiction to substances.
In addition to pharmaceuticals, we provide comprehensive treatment programs in inpatient and partial hospitalization formats, customized to each individual’s unique needs and goals. Our programs feature several evidence-based services, such as psychotherapy, individual and family counseling, mindfulness therapy, and group support.