The most common application of ibogaine therapy is in the treatment of substance use disorders. Ibogaine has been shown to decrease the self-administration of stimulants, opiates and alcohol, as well as to significantly reduce the withdrawal symptoms from opiates after a single administration.1 Other research shows a reduction of developed tolerance to opiates2 and alcohol,3 and a significant decrease in cravings for opiates and cocaine for an extended period of time after treatment.4
Ibogaine-assisted detoxification was pioneered by Howard Lotsof. In 1962, 19 year old Lotsof serendipitously found that a single dose of ibogaine not only interrupted his physiological dependence on heroin, it also took away his craving to use, all with no withdrawal symptoms. Lotsof spent the rest of his life advocating for the development of ibogaine as a prescription medicine.
Since the 1980’s, ibogaine has been used in the treatment of substance use disorders, first in peer-to-peer treatment networks such as the one conducted by the Danish Drug Users Union. Today, there are therapists and centers throughout the world that offer various programs, usually lasting from five days to two weeks, with some longer programs that focus on integration of the ibogaine experience and early continuing care.
Is ibogaine-assisted detox successful?
In the conventional addiction treatment industry, programs of this length are referred to as detoxification programs, and are distinguished from complete treatment programs, which often range between 30 to 90 days in length. Statistics show that conventional detox programs, which do not involve maintenance with methadone or buprenorphine, and which are not followed by complete treatment programs, have low completion rates, let alone long-term success rates, and practically never lead to long-term abstinence.
While these programs vary widely in the scope of what they offer, several studies into ibogaine-assisted detox efficacy have confirmed that even short-term programs have results that are comparably better than much longer conventional treatment programs. This may not always be the case, and there are several factors that were shown to have a strong impact, such as continuing care programs.
How does ibogaine-assisted detox work?
Some aspects of ibogaine’s effects and pharmacology are understood, while others remain unknown. What is clear is that ibogaine works on multiple receptor sites, and has effects that are both physiologically and psychologically therapeutic.
Physically, ibogaine resets neurotransmitter receptors to a novice state, and has demonstrated neuroprotective effects on dopamine receptors. It has been shown to increases levels of GDNF,5 a protein that facilities the development of new neurons, producing a period of neuroplasticity, during which it is easier to learn new habits. Ibogaine’s oneirogenic effect, or waking dream state, has been reported to help people to view difficult experiences in an objective way, and to help facilitate the closure of unresolved emotional conflicts,6 which is often a cofactor in severe substance use disorders.
Looking for Ibogaine Therapy
While more research is necessary in order to develop ibogaine as a medication in the United States and elsewhere, ibogaine-assisted detox has offered thousands an opportunity to detoxify, even after countless other attempts through conventional addiction treatment programs.
Programs are currently open throughout the world. Although GITA is presently not able to offer advice about treatment, or make recommendations about specific programs, we are in the process of developing professional standards for ibogaine therapy which will serve to notify those seeking treatment of the many programs that provide care both ethically and safely.
Popik P, Glick S. Ibogaine, a putatively anti-addictive alkaloid. Drugs of the Future. 1996; 21:pp 1109-1115. ↩
Trujillo KA & Akil H, Inhibition of Morphine Tolerance and Dependence by NMDA Receptor Antagonist MK-801, Science, 2512:85-87, 1991. ↩
Khanna JM, Kalant H, Shah G, Chau A, Effect of D-cycloserine on Rapid Tolerance to Ethanol, Pharmacology Biochemistry & Behavior 45(4):983-986, 1993. ↩
Dao-Yao He, Nancy N.H. McGough, Ajay Ravindranathan, Jerome Jeanblanc, Marian L. Logrip, Khanhky Phamluong, Patricia H. Janak, and Dorit Ron. Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Mediates the Desirable Actions of the Anti-Addiction Drug Ibogaine against Alcohol Consumption. The Journal of Neuroscience, Jan. 19, 2005, Vol. 25, No. 3, p. 619. ↩
Carnicella, S., He, D.Y., Yowell, Q.V., Glick, S.D., Ron, D. Noribogaine, but not 18-MC, exhibits similar actions as ibogaine on GDNF expression and ethanol self-administration. Addiction Biology. October 2010. 15(4):424-33. ↩