Ibogaine, is it a Cure for Addiction?

A Mystical African Root may help addiction…

What does the research show?

Deep in the jungles of West Central Africa in Gabon and Cameroon, the members of the Bwiti religion have been using this mystical root for centuries. They use it for religious rituals, to give them a small energy boost or stave of hunger.

Ibogaine is an indole alkaloid found in the roots of the Tabernanthe Iboga plant. In low doses it has a stimulant effect but in higher doses may cause hallucinations and visionary experiences.

It was first introduced to Western world in France in 1864 and marketed later as “Lamberene” as a neuromuscular stimulant.

How Ibogaine’s treatment for Addiction was discovered

The anti-addictive qualities were first discovered around 1962. At the age of 19 Howard Lotsof was a young and curious researcher in New York who also suffered from the disease of addiction. He was offered a dose of Ibogaine under the promise of a 36 hour trip. Howard like trying new substances and described his first experience as such:

At first he saw images of his mother and sister followed by music and dance with flying inanimate objects. Later it turned to flashes of light accompanied by deep symbolic thoughts changing the way he viewed himself and the world.

How Ibogaine is different from LSD

According to Lotsof, Ibogaine did not cause distortions in the objects he saw around him, the way LSD normally did. Instead, the objects seem to move through space around him along with flashing lights.

He also did not see the wave-like patterns he normally witnessed with LSD.

It is not euphoric like LSD therefore no LSD mood swings, according to Lotsof.

When Howard Discovered Ibogaine Helps Addiction

Howard Lotsof

After his Ibogaine trip he fell asleep and woke up 3 hours later. Normally, after waking up, he would get up and leave to work on getting his next heroin fix but that day was different.

In his words “Ten steps out of my door it hit me, for the first time in months, I did not want or need to go cop heroin. In fact, I viewed heroin as a drug that emulated death, I wanted life. I looked down the street, at the trees, the sky, my house and realized that for the first time in my life, I didn’t feel afraid.”

This was the moment a potential alternative to substance abuse was born.

The first trial of Ibogaine

Howard quickly assembled several of his drug using compatriots and offered the same Ibogaine experience. Out of twenty of his friends, seven were either heroin or cocaine addicts and five of them stayed sober for six months or longer after their initial experience. The most surprising was that they had not even experienced any opiate withdrawal.

The two for whom it did not work replied when asked why they were getting heroin again said “because we’re junkies, we like being junkies.”

Even more surprising, these two “junkies” lived with one of the newly sober friends who still did not use heroin despite it being around him all the time.

The end of Ibogaine

In 1963 the FDA began to investigate hallucinogens and found Lotsof’s lab by tracing a large order of Mescaline. They confiscated the Mescaline. They did not know what the Ibogaine was but offered to purchase it from him

In the mid 1960’s hallucinogens like LSD and Mescaline were made illegal. With the law in affect the authorities paid Lotsof another visit and was able to get him convicted for his previous possession of the chemicals.

Lotsof was asked by a Judge “Mr Lotsof, you claim to be a serious researcher. Name one thing you ever discovered.” Lotsof replied “Well, your honor, I discovered that Ibogaine can interrupt cocaine and heroin addiction with a single dose.” The judge slammed his gavel and disregarded the testimony.

Lotsof spent fourteen months in federal prison. When he was released in 1968 he traveled to Nepal. After five years of abstinence from heroin he ate opium again and reignited his addiction. He tried finding Ibogaine but in 1969 it was completely unavailable.

What does the research show about Ibogaine?

This study done by Mash et al was a clinical trial that actually showed good evidence for

  1. Efficacy for opiate detoxification
  2. Short term stabilization of opioid addiction
  3. Significant decreased craving for cocaine and heroin during inpatient treatment
  4. Lowered depressive symptoms

This study looked at 191 participants who were seeking opioid and cocaine dependence treatment. They were given Ibogaine HCL doses of 8-12mg/kg (with a total of 500-1000mg). Their vitals and 12-lead ECG were monitored for safety.

Has Ibogaine been approved as a medicine?

Ibogaine was available in France in the form of Lambarene a 200mg tablet marketed as a neuromuscular stimulant. As a result several groups reported the benefit in opioid detox and stabilization.

Ibogaine is currently available in New Zealand and Mexico.

There are Ibogaine rehab facilities in Mexico.

Why is Ibogaine illegal in the United States?

Ibogaine was briefly approved in the 1990’s for studies but unfortunately between the years of 1990 and 2008 there were a total of 19 deaths. Most of these were from acute heart failure or heart attacks.

It was also declared unsafe due to the psychoactive properties and the World Health Organization declared that it can cause dependency and addiction.

What is the risk of Ibogaine?

Slowed heart rate and arrhythmias are the greatest concern. Other medicines or herbs may also cause a slowed heart rate and together with Ibogaine can be fatal.

Ibogaine may cause whole body tremors or even cerebellar damage.

How does Ibogaine work in the brain?

Ibogaine is converted to Noribogaine which enters the brain. It is a very potent Serotonin reuptake inhibitor. It is similar to the common antidepressant Prozac but causes much more Serotonin to be released.

Serotonin affects mood and feelings of wellbeing.

According to a study cited here, Ibogaine cause decrease extracellular levels of Dopamine in the NA (Nucleus Accumbens) and increase levels of Serotonin in the NA.

Ibogaine blocks Morphine-induced and Nicotine-induced Dopamine release in the NA.

Ibogaine also enhance Cocaine-induced increase of Dopamine in the NA.

Ibogaine Treatment Centers

Experience Ibogaine – Tijuana Mexico, Cost $5000-$7000

Clear Sky Recovery – Cancun Mexico, Cost $9000 includes 8 days, everything included, Ibogaine detox, Cardiology Evaluation, yoga, meditation, vitamin drip

Please do your homework on the safety of this treatment.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Z.

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