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What is Ibogaine Therapy?

Ibogaine therapy is used to aid the treatment of drug addiction and mental ailments. The psychedelic substance ibogaine has psychoactive effects, which may help people conquer their fears and face negative emotions with patience and strength. This natural property helps give patients the confidence to overcome their addictions—be they drugs, alcohol, or smoking.

A naturally growing substance, ibogaine has long been used by various tribes in Africa for its psychedelic properties.[1] It acts as a stimulant in small amounts but may help overcome symptoms of drug withdrawal when consumed in substantial doses.[2][3]

Further research still needs to be conducted to fully ascertain its effectiveness and understand any potential health concerns, even temporary effects.

Ibogaine molecule
Ibogaine Therapy

Applications of Ibogaine Therapy

Ibogaine has been used by professional medical practitioners and native African tribes because of its natural properties and effects. Its principal application is in the treatment of addicts.

When administered in substantial enough doses, it may help overpower the effects of withdrawal—and it is used in clinical therapy to treat patients addicted to alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes.[2][3]

Benefits vs Risks

For all its effectiveness, there are certain risks associated with ibogaine as well. Listed below are its various benefits and risks:




Ibogaine History

A Brief History of Ibogaine

Psychedelics have a long and convoluted history in terms of their applications. Although their usage can be traced back to prehistoric times, most research and study have been conducted in the 21st century.

Pre 1900s

Ibogaine is discovered and used by a pygmy tribe—its knowledge passed on to the Bwiti tribe in Western Africa. Tribal shamans used it to commune with their ancestors in trance-like states, while tribe members used smaller amounts to combat illnesses, impotence, stomach ache, addiction, and other ailments.

Pre 1900s

Early 1900s

French explorers bring ibogaine back to France and sell it as a stimulant named Lambarene—a practice that continues today.

Early 1900s


The CIA studies ibogaine and its effects as a stimulant as well as a psychedelic.



Howard Lotsof, an addict himself, discovers ibogaine’s properties as a psychedelic drug that helps overcome addiction. Up until then, it was marketed and sold simply as a stimulant. Lotsof sets up the Global Ibogaine Therapy Alliance.



The United States government forces Howard Lotsof to cease his research.



Persuaded by Lotsof, a Belgian company begins distributing ibogaine in small, consumable tablets and initiates trials in the Netherlands.



The US government tests ibogaine’s properties and potential applications. While its use as a drug to overcome addiction is found to be significant, funding is cut before research can be completed.


Present Day

Research has recently been recommenced because of renewed interest in psychedelic therapy since the 2010s.

Present Day

Modern Day Research on Ibogaine Therapy

The extent of ibogaine’s properties, potential applications, and benefits is not yet comprehensively known or understood, even if there have been many cases that have helped people overcome addiction.[5] However, several pharmaceutical companies, including MindMed and ATAI Life Sciences, are lobbying the FDA to allow mass production of ibogaine for research purposes.[6]

Available research indicates ibogaine rewires the brain to eliminate, or at least mitigate, the symptoms of withdrawal—an effect which is relatively rare when compared to other drug addiction medication.[7]

Clinical trials conducted with rats have shown how the substance can help increase proteins in the brain, enhancing its plasticity and encouraging the growth of new neurons.[8] However, there has not been enough research done to understand its effects on the human brain fully.
Conversely, ibogaine use has, in a few cases, been linked to slowed heart rates and blocked channels in the heart, leading some researchers to deem the substance unsafe.[9]

Prevalence and Acceptance

In contrast to most other psychedelics, ibogaine is yet to be approved as a treatment for addiction by the FDA—in large part because further research is still required, even if initial studies have shown considerable promise.

Many addicts consider independent ibogaine therapy to be the solution for their addiction problems. The substance’s use is unregulated in many countries, especially in South America—which is why people travel there to try out the wonder drug and often come back with favorable results.[10][11] 

Effectiveness of Ibogaine Therapy

Ibogaine therapy has often proven to be highly effective as an aid in treating those suffering from addiction. In treatment sessions, ibogaine is ingested orally in the form of a pill. Once consumed, the patient lays down, wearing blinders and noise-cancelling headphones so they can shut out the world and allow the psychedelic experience to take its full effect.[12]

Patients who underwent the treatment have reported how Ibogaine therapy brought out their subconscious in full force during the process—including past trauma and a host of fantastical hallucinations, such as meeting long-dead friends and family members.[13]
Ibogaine therapy allows for some semblance of an ‘awakening’ in the subject—to where they are better aware of everything around them and overcome their difficulties through greater understanding and courage. The substance’s effects allow for higher self-actualization enabling patients to understand the potential for a better life.[14]

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  1. Pope, H.G. Tabernanthe iboga: an African narcotic plant of social importance. Econ Bot 23, 174–184 (1969). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02860623
  2. Noller GE, Frampton CM, Yazar-Klosinski B. Ibogaine treatment outcomes for opioid dependence from a twelve-month follow-up observational study. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2018;44(1):37-46. doi: 10.1080/00952990.2017.1310218. Epub 2017 Apr 12. PMID: 28402682.
  3. Brown TK, Alper K. Treatment of opioid use disorder with ibogaine: detoxification and drug use outcomes. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse. 2018;44(1):24-36.
  4. DOI: 10.1080/00952990.2017.1320802
  5. Corkery JM. Ibogaine as a treatment for substance misuse: Potential benefits and practical dangers. Prog Brain Res. 2018;242:217-257. doi: 10.1016/bs.pbr.2018.08.005. Epub 2018 Oct 12. PMID: 30471681.
  6. Brown TK. Ibogaine in the treatment of substance dependence. Current Drug Abuse Reviews. 2013. Vol 6, No. 1, pp 3-16.
  7. Oaklander M. Inside ibogaine, one of the most promising and perilous psychedelics for addiction. Time. 2021 April.
  8. What is the success rate for ibogaine? American Addiction Centers. 2021 July.
  9. Marton S, González B, Rodríguez-Bottero S, Miquel E, Martínez-Palma L, Pazos M, Prieto JP, Rodríguez P, Sames D, Seoane G, Scorza C, Cassina P, Carrera I. Ibogaine Administration Modifies GDNF and BDNF Expression in Brain Regions Involved in Mesocorticolimbic and Nigral Dopaminergic Circuits. Front Pharmacol. 2019 Mar 5;10:193. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2019.00193. PMID: 30890941; PMCID: PMC6411846.
  10. Koenig X, Hilber K. The anti-addiction drug ibogaine and the heart: a delicate relation. Molecules. 2015 Jan 29;20(2):2208-28. doi: 10.3390/molecules20022208. PMID: 25642835; PMCID: PMC4382526.
  11. Levinson J. Americans going abroad for illegal heroin treatment. BBC. 2018 April.
  12. Prueger S, Stone K. Is ibogaine illegal? Worldwide legal status of ibogaine. Psychable.
  13. Interested in taking ibogaine? ICEERS.
  14. Schenberg, E.E., Comis, M., Alexandre, J., Tófoli, L.F., Chaves, B.D., & Silveira, D. A phenomenological analysis of the subjective experience elicited by ibogaine in the context of a drug dependence treatment. 2017. DOI:10.1556/2054.01.2017.007. Corpus ID: 149038200
    Goldsmith NM. Psychedelic Healing: The Promise of Entheogens for Psychotherapy and Spiritual Development.