Ibogaine is a psychedelic drug that can induce effects similar to those associated with LSD or mushrooms. Although the substance can lead to short-term side effects, including anxiety related to experiencing hallucinations, it has also been touted for a few years as a potential treatment for addiction problems. Recently, research in the West has begun to focus on ibogaine for this reason, and it has been found that it may be beneficial for those who are addicted to alcohol, opioids, methamphetamine, and cocaine especially.
Anecdotal reports suggest that ibogaine, which is derived from a plant found in the African rainforest, modifies brain chemistry in a way that reduces withdrawal symptoms and cravings in people struggling to recover from substance abuse. However, researchers exploring the potential of this drug in addiction treatment do not imply that ibogaine ultimately ends addiction, and, instead, it interrupts the process.
How Does Ibogaine Work?
Addiction is now widely believed to be a chronic disease caused by long-term changes to the reward centers of the brain. When a person uses ibogaine, the drug is converted into a compound that targets these regions and addictive behaviors. This compound essentially “rewires” these areas, allowing the brain to return itself to a state comparable to before addiction developed.
While it is believed that ibogaine can ease withdrawal symptoms and block cravings, this process is more like detox than actually ending an addiction. There are still many steps that need to be taken, such as comprehensive therapy and counseling, after a person is no longer physically dependent on a substance.
Medical providers who have employed ibogaine report a 50-80% success rate among those with meth addictions. That said, long-term recovery and relapse prevention also depended largely on undergoing a rehab program after using ibogaine as directed under a doctor’s supervision.
One physician reported a 70-80% success rate with effective aftercare and noted that, when people recovering from meth addiction used ibogaine but returned to the same environment in which they had originally used meth, there was a 90% percent rate of relapse. This finding is believed to be, at least in part, because visual cues and emotional associations are more prominent for people with meth addiction compared to those who are battling opioid addiction.
Ibogaine treatment for a few addictive substances results in a 20-50% rate of abstinence at a one-year follow-up, and that included people working to overcome opioid addiction. These numbers may not seem significant, but, comparatively, Suboxone treatment for opioid addiction shows only an 8.6% success rate once the person no longer requires its use.
A review from Brazil, where ibogaine is uncontrolled and often used in conjunction with psychotherapy to treat alcohol, cocaine, and marijuana addiction, showed higher rates of success. It should be noted, however, that subjects in the study underwent a combination of ibogaine treatment and therapeutic follow-up care. Still, one-time ibogaine treatment resulted in abstinence of more than five months on average. Significantly, repeated sessions of ibogaine treatment resulted in abstinence on average for more than eight months.
Although ibogaine treatment may be effective for some individuals, it may not be for everyone. For example, a 2012 study of subjects who received a one-time ibogaine treatment that struggled with opioid addiction revealed that 80% relapsed within the first six months. Another 20% stayed abstinent for more than six months but less than a year, and just 13% successfully remained abstinent for more than a year.
Those who did relapse during the study, however, were found to use fewer opioids when compared to their previous levels of use. One of the first studies involving ibogaine from 1983 suggests that multiple treatments using the drug may be more beneficial. The study revealed that four treatments helped a person in recovery maintain abstinence for three years, while one treatment was effective, on average, for about six months.
It’s vital to remember that drugs like ibogaine, which is controlled in the U.S., should not be obtained illicitly and self-administered. In other words, if you are interested in what ibogaine might have to offer, you would need to travel abroad to get medical care and appropriate comprehensive therapy. Fortunately, however, effective treatment can also be accessed in the U.S., and new potential approaches are continually being researched. The FDA is also approving addiction treatments found to be relatively safe and beneficial.
Getting Treatment for Drug or Alcohol Addiction
At the time of this writing, Recovery in Tune does not offer ibogaine treatment. Although it is used in other countries to treat various addictions, it remains illegal in the United States. Instead, we offer several other solutions for addiction to substances, including Suboxone for opioid dependence and naltrexone, which is a medication that relieves cravings over the long term for both alcohol and opioids.
In addition to pharmaceuticals, we offer comprehensive programs, in both outpatient and partial hospitalization formats, tailored to the unique needs and goals of each individual. Our programs feature a variety of evidence-based services, such as psychotherapy, counseling, and group support.
If you are suffering from an addiction to opioids, other drugs, or alcohol, contact us today to find out how we can help you get on the road to recovery, one step at a time!