Ibogaine Treatment: An Alternative Way to Treat Addiction

by Olivia Mueller on April 26, 2019

Over 27 million1 people across the globe are battling opioid addiction. That number grows for misuse and abuse. In the United States alone, 11.4 million2 people misuse opioid prescriptions, and more than 130 people die every day from opioid-related drug overdoses. The opioid crisis is so devastating that the U.S. government has declared the epidemic a public health emergency.

It’s not just the United States that has an opioid problem—treating addiction across the globe is of critical importance. But given how addictive opioids are, treatment for abuse can sometimes require more than your run-of-the-mill suite of therapies—and for some people, ibogaine-assisted treatment has helped them achieve long-term recovery.

What exactly is ibogaine?

Ibogaine is a naturally occurring psychoactive indole alkaloid found in a variety of plant species, which primarily exist in Africa. In the iboga plant, the highest levels of ibogaine is found in the plant’s root bark. Lower concentrations of ibogaine can be found in the rest of the plant along with other indole alkaloids in the same family.

Ibogaine treatment and addiction recovery

Although commonly used to treat opioid addiction, ibogaine treatment is used in the recovery of other addictions, too, like cocaine, alcohol and amphetamines. But ibogaine treatment should never be considered a “cure” to these addictions. Rather, it is commonly known as an addiction “interrupter” because it works to greatly reduce and almost eliminate withdrawal symptoms associated with substance abuse recovery. In short, it’s like what nicotine patches are to smokers trying to quit.

There are no definitive studies measuring the effectiveness and safety of using ibogaine treatment to help aid addiction recovery, only anecdotal reports of people who have undergone this form of alternative treatment and found themselves to be free from their addiction.

To support these anecdotes, two observational studies3 were conducted in 2017, which found that most addicts find significant reductions in withdrawal symptoms after a single ibogaine treatment and have reduced cravings for many months afterwards. As explained by Ben Taub, an ibogaine counselor at Tabula Rasa Retreat in Portugal:

“Ibogaine is an amazing tool to help someone go through essentially a right of passage and move on to the next level in terms of their own development so that they’re able to take control of their life, and live, really, the life they want to live without needing to self medicate.”

But we’re still not sure how ibogaine works in the body, and while it is a popular opioid treatment at many recovery centers in Europe, Canada and Mexico, ibogaine remains to be an illegal substance across the United States.

The effects of ibogaine

Because of its nature, ibogaine treatment is often described as a spiritual awakening by patients, and it gives patients the chance to experience an “outside view on their lives,” which can alter perspectives and help them come to see how their addiction might affect both themselves and those around them.

An immediate adverse effect that is often reported includes the inability to coordinate muscle movements, alongside nausea, dry mouth, dizziness and sometimes, vomiting.

There’s also the risk of heartbeat irregularities and in some severe instances, ibogaine treatment can lead to cardiac arrest and death. The Global Ibogaine Therapy Alliance4 estimate a fatality rate of 1 in 400.

Psychologically speaking, ibogaine treatment is said to have a large effect on a patient’s mental capacity. A treatment session often lasts for about 12 hours and progresses through three phases:

  • Acute, “awakened dream state” phase
  • Evaluative or reflective phase
  • Residual stimulation phase

When patients return to their normal state after treatment, they oftentimes feel reflective, introspective and a new understanding about themselves in life. Consequently, they can normally begin to comprehend and analyse their emotional well-being, helping them make more conscious and deliberate choices in life.

Ibogaine treatment centers

There are an estimated 75–100 ibogaine treatment centers worldwide,5 so picking the right treatment center for you will likely take some time. While reviews, testimonials, pricing and location will be a large factor in choosing a rehab to attend, when it comes to ibogaine treatment, the biggest consideration to make is to ensure that the recovery centre prioritizes safety and adheres to some sort of ibogaine guidelines, like those published on the Global Ibogaine Therapy Appliance’s website.

To find out more about ibogaine treatment and how we can help you find the right center, visit our website, read our blog and watch our video exploring ibogaine treatment at the Tabula Rasa Retreat recovery centre in Portugal.

  1. Opioid Overdose. WHO, 28 August 2020, []
  2. Affairs (ASPA), Assistant Secretary of Public. “What Is the U.S. Opioid Epidemic?” HHS.Gov, 4 Dec. 2017, []
  3. “Two New Studies Show Ibogaine’s Promise As Treatment for Opioid Addiction.” MAPS, []
  4. “Global Ibogaine Therapy Alliance.” Is Ibogaine Therapy Safe?, []
  5. “Guide to Ibogaine – Experience, Benefits, & Side Effects.” Third Wave, 17 July 2020, []