Opioid addiction and dependence are significant problems across the United States. According to the NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 130 people die every day in the United States from opioid overdoses. This statistic includes heroin, fentanyl and prescription pain medications. The opioid epidemic is described as a national crisis affecting public health along with the economic and social welfare of the country’s citizens.
Because of the severity of the opioid epidemic, and the difficulty many people experience when they’re addicted to opioids, there are often conversations about how to treat opioid use disorder. Ibogaine treatment, although controversial, is one option.
One reason for the controversy is the fact that clinical research is limited on ibogaine’s use for opioid dependence. Another reason is that ibogaine is psychoactive and a potentially psychedelic substance.
What Is Ibogaine?
So what is ibogaine and why is it a potential treatment for opioid dependence? Ibogaine is a naturally-derived psychoactive substance. It comes from a plant that is part of the iboga plant family. Native to West Africa, iboga was used for traditional healing and rituals for centuries. At low doses, ibogaine is a stimulant. In higher doses, ibogaine has psychedelic properties.
In the United States, the Drug Enforcement Administration classifies ibogaine as a Schedule I drug. Schedule I controlled substances have no approved medical uses are considered drugs with high potential for abuse. People who struggle with opioid dependence will sometimes go to illicit clinics or other sources to get ibogaine since ibogaine is illegal.
How Does Ibogaine Work?
Ibogaine is believed to interact with certain neurotransmitters in the brain. It can interact with both opioid receptors and serotonin receptors, although mildly so. The idea behind using ibogaine for managing opioid dependence and detox is that ibogaine can reset opioid receptors back to their natural state before opioid use.
Following the reset, in theory, a person dependent on opioids would no longer have opioid cravings because of the effects ibogaine had on their opioid receptors. Some people believe ibogaine can stop chemical addiction which can alleviate withdrawal symptoms and cravings. For these effects to occur, someone would likely have to take high doses of ibogaine.
Using ibogaine can cause potentially serious side effects. A study showed 19 deaths related to ibogaine use occurred from 1990 to 2008. However, many of those deaths could have been related to a lack of medical supervision when it was used, as well as possible pre-existing health conditions.
What Is the Success Rate for Ibogaine?
The ibogaine success rate isn’t possible to determine because of the absence of clinical trials. Most current reports about the potential ability of ibogaine to help with opioid withdrawal and dependence are antidotal and based on self-reporting.
An observational study conducted at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine showed 80% of 88 subjects interviewed saw either a drastic reduction or a total reduction in withdrawal symptoms, and 30% remained opioid-free for years after receiving the treatment.
Since ibogaine currently isn’t used as a medical treatment, the risks are particularly notable. Severe side effects of ibogaine can include ataxia, which is loss of control of body movement as well hallucinations, tremors and heart problems.
Taking ibogaine can be especially dangerous for someone with certain pre-existing conditions, like heart problems.
Getting Help for Opioid Addiction
If you or a loved one live with opioid addiction, treatment at a licensed medical facility is the safest way to address the addiction. Contact The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake today to speak to a representative about detoxing from opioids in a safe and supportive environment and the follow-up therapy that helps patients meet their goals for long-term sobriety. Recovery is possible, call today.
- MAPS. “Ibogaine Therapy.” Accessed April 18, 2019.
- Davis, Allen. “Subjective effectiveness of ibogaine treatment for problematic opioid consumption: Short- and long-term outcomes and current psychological functioning.” Psychedelic Science, 2017. Accessed April 23, 2019.
- Thomas K. Brown, Geoff E. Noller, Julie O. Denenberg. “Ibogaine and Subjective Experience: Transformative States and Psychopharmacotherapy in the Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder.” Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, March 15, 2019. Accessed April 18, 2019.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Opioid Overdose Crisis.” January 2019. Accessed April 18, 2019.
- Alper KR., Stajić M., Gill J. “Fatalities temporarily associated with the ingestion of ibogaine.” National Institute of Health, March 2012. Accessed April 23, 2019.
- DEA. “Drugs of Abuse.” Drug Enforcement Administration, 2017. Accessed October 29, 2021.