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Is Ibogaine a Safe and Effective Treatment for Substance Addiction?

What is ibogaine treatment?

Key points

  1. Ibogaine treatment is an experimental treatment for substance addiction. It is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  2. Many studies on the use of ibogaine treatment have been on animals. There are limited studies on the use of this treatment in humans.
  3. There have been reports of serious complications with ibogaine treatment, including death. Work with your doctor before starting any experimental treatment plans.

Ibogaine is a psychedelic substance found in iboga, a Western African shrub. Historically it has been used in healing ceremonies and initiation rituals in the Bwiti religion in West Africa.

Today, some people claim it can be used as a treatment for opiate addiction. It hasn’t been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for any addictive disorder and it is classified as a schedule I drug in the United States. Schedule I drugs are substances with a high potential for abuse.

Keep reading to learn more about the use of ibogaine treatment for addiction.

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Treatment

Treatment

Ibogaine acts as a mild stimulant in small doses. In large doses, it can put a person into a severe psychedelic state. Some people have found that large doses reduce opiate withdrawal symptoms and help with substance-related cravings.

People with substance use addictions have found that large doses of it can reduce withdrawal from opiates and help rid them of their substance-related cravings. In many cases, however, the effects are short-lived. The safety of this treatment is also in question. Most studies have been in animals. In humans, there have been serious side effects, including unexplained deaths that may be linked to the treatment.

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Research

What does the research say?

In a long-term study in Mexico, investigators researched substance abuse changes in 30 people seeking ibogaine-based addiction treatment for opiate substance abuse. The researchers measured frequency and dosage of opiate use at the beginning of treatment and at monthly follow-ups for 12 months. They also conducted a survey that asked basic questions on topics such as:

  • medical status
  • employment status
  • family history
  • psychiatric status

According to the results:

  • one third of the participants relapsed within the first month
  • 60 percent relapsed within the first two months
  • 80 percent relapsed within the first six months
  • 20 percent made it more than six months without any aftercare
  • four out of the 30 participants did not relapse for more than a year following a single treatment

Researchers determined that ibogaine is not a cure for addiction. Instead, it merely interrupts addition. It is important to note the sample size was only 30 people and therefore may not apply to a greater population.
A 2014 study in Brazil found ibogaine treatment to be effective in treating addiction when used alongside psychotherapy. The study was also small, with only 75 participants.

In a review of clinical trials and studies, researchers noted that, while studies have supported the claims that ibogaine can help treat addiction, there needs to be more and better controlled studies to determine the safety and efficacy of this treatment.

Not many long-term studies have been conducted on ibogaine and further research is needed for definitive proof on how it helps or hurts the body.

Learn more: Treating drug addiction with drugs »

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Risks

What are the risks?

Using ibogaine comes with serious risks, including death. Additional complications include:

  • seizures
  • gastrointestinal issues
  • heart complications, such as arrhythmias
  • ataxia

Ibogaine treatment is risky and much is still not understood about appropriate dosage and safe administration. It should only be used under the direction of a medical professional, and even then, you should be aware of the risks.

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Additional treatments

Additional treatment options for addiction

If you are seeking help for an addiction, it is best to speak with your doctor before starting any treatment plan, including experimental ones. Most treatments follow this process:

  • Detoxification to rid the body of the drug. This can be done at home with the assistance of a medical professional or at a treatment center. You can find these centers throughout the country and they come fully staffed with compassionate, caring professionals trained in getting someone through the challenging detox transition.
  • Behavioral counseling. Psychologists trained in drug addiction work with individuals and help ease them into their new, drug-free lives. You can feel safe and secure and know that what you say is kept in a confidential environmental. You should look for someone you feel comfortable with.
  • Prescription for medications to help with any detox pain.
  • Evaluation for any mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety that often follow a detox.
  • A schedule for long-term follow-ups. Overcoming addiction is tough, so it’s important to always seek help and support from medical professionals who can work with you on remaining drug free.
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Outlook

Outlook

Overcoming addiction is a long process and you don’t need to manage it on your own. There are many treatment options available. If one treatment doesn’t work, your doctor can help come up with a new plan. With treatment, it’s possible to get on a road to a happy and healthy life.

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