Ibogaine Drug Addiction Treatment: Breaking Through to the Core


The root of the iboga shrub has been used for the past centuries by the people of the sub-tropical rain forests of West Central Africa as part of a once in a lifetime rite of initiation. Modern researchers, both medical and metaphysical, have discovered that a derivative of the iboga root, called ibogaine, is an effective treatment for addiction, dysfunctional behavior, and spiritual anomie. This would not be a surprise to the tribal people, who revere Iboga as a god.

Practitioners of

West Africa

The root of the iboga shrub has been used for the past centuries by the people of the sub-tropical rain forests of West Central Africa as part of a once in a lifetime rite of initiation. Modern researchers, both medical and metaphysical, have discovered that a derivative of the iboga root, called ibogaine, is an effective treatment for addiction, dysfunctional behavior, and spiritual anomie
’s Bwiti religion use the iboga plant to induce visions and aid in the hunt. For three hundred years, the tribal people of the rainforest areas have been utilizing this shrub as an integral part of their religious rites. Through its ingestion, they get in touch with their ancestral hierarchy. For example, they may chew on the bark for a day or two and then go into an altered state, where they will dash into the forest and run a mile and a half, then dig under a tree and find a dowry that was put there a hundred and fifty years ago. In the early 1900’s Western scientists discovered, after watching wild boar eat this shrub and go into a frenzy, that iboga is some sort of psychoactive substance. In the 1940’s and 1950’s, pharmaceutical companies began experimenting on some of the alternative uses of the plant, and it was found to be a stimulant. However, in 1962, a man by the name of Howard Lotsof, who was then a heroin addict, took it to get high. After a thirty-six hour trip, he found himself to be free of his addiction, and consequently gave it to six of his friends. Five of them became free of their addictions. Lotsof realized that ibogaine was something beyond just another psychoactive experience.

Over time, the International Coalition for Addict Self-Help ran underground trial testing on ibogaine. Their anecdotal evidence shows roughly seventy-five percent success rates with addiction to heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, alcohol and nicotine.

In 1965, Lotsof formed NDA International and scheduled a use patent on ibogaine for treating drug and alcohol addiction. Scientific study began in the


in 1991 with more than three dozen addicts as test cases. Since then, the FDA has become very interested in this substance, so much that it has sanctioned the first human studies.

Presently, ibogaine, because of its psychoactive properties, is classified by the FDA as a “Class 1” narcotic (along with heroin and cocaine), and has been outlawed in the


since the 1960’s. Ibogaine, however, is not and never will be a recreational drug. In thirty years of


drug enforcement efforts, only three grams of it has been confiscated “on the street.” An ibogaine treatment, although of substantial benefit to an addict or a person trapped in dysfunctional behavioral patterns, is hard work, and not something people want to repeat. Ibogaine’s true status as a non-addictive substance is demonstrated by the fact that it is legal in every country in the world except the

United States




What is an ibogaine treatment like? This depends, to some extent, on the purpose for which the ibogaine is being ingested. The amount of the drug administered varies according to purpose, and the experience is, to some extent, shaped by the intent of the participant. A heroin addict seeking freedom from “the money on her back” will not take the same amount of Ibogaine, or have the same experience as the long time meditator whose goal is to become more connected with the Source, or the therapy patient wanting resolution to a chronic depression or anxiety. Nevertheless, all three will find that their treatment involves physical, psychological, and spiritual dimensions.

All ibogaine treatments have three stages. Stage one involves ingesting the ibogaine, which is given in capsule form. The potency is calibrated according to body weight. In the past, low-does ranges have been used for therapeutic sessions. At a low-dosage level, pictures and insights come slowly enough to be worked with by an attending therapist. A mid-range dose of ibogaine is given to a spiritual seeker wishing to have an initiatory experience. Recent experience suggests, however, that it may be unnecessary to calibrate dosage ranges differently for psychotherapeutic or spiritual purposes. If the person ingesting the ibogaine has experienced severe trauma, it is best to ingest a low-dose and have a therapist on hand, but many people can handle a mid-dose range and can access healing memories on their own.

In many cases, the insights received do not have to be experienced in the traditional Western psychotherapeutic mode. A readied initiate will experience a dissolving of emotional baggage on more abstract levels, which can be shown to be both cumulative and behaviorally altering. A high dose is used to interrupt addictions. It is necessary that the dose be high enough to overwhelm the addict’s drug programmed mind and body. Even at a high dosage range, however, ibogaine does not fragment an addict’s ego, which emerges from the experience intact and cleansed of cravings for the drug or drugs of choice.

The person ingesting the ibogaine may seem to journey backward in time and to re-experience significant life events. Some people undergo a “life review” similar to that described in The Tibetan Book of the Dead, and in modern accounts of near death experiences. If the person is an addict, he or she is sometimes brought to the place where the core issue that helped facilitate the addiction took began. The emotional content of that experience is relived, along with the visual, pictorial gestalt of the experience itself. In most cases, the experience is complete with 3-D effects and the sensation of actually “being there.” Yet, there is also the presence of the witnessing self, who watches and finds understanding. It is this understanding that seems to allow the former addict to begin again, making new, healthy choices.

Miraculously, there are no withdrawal symptoms whatsoever from the former drug, or drugs, of choice. The withdrawal period is interrupted for several reasons. One is that after ingesting the ibogaine, the addicts simply cannot get out of bed to find the fix. Also they are too preoccupied and overwhelmed with that they are experiencing to remember that they need a fix. In addition, medical research conducted at hospitals and universities in this country suggest that ibogaine inhibits the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter thought to play a central role in addiction. Since many addicts stay addicted simply to avoid the overwhelming pain and stress and withdrawal, absence of withdrawal is a key element of ibogaine’s amazing success in treating addiction.

Stage two of an ibogaine treatment seems to be a somewhat individual experience. Some people sleep for three to twelve hours. Most people, however, don’t sleep at all, but experience a dreamlike, reflective period. If they sleep, they usually wake up completely alert and ravenously hungry. This is a miracle in itself for a heroin addict of ten years.

Stage three lasts another twenty-four hours. Since a person feels quite open and vulnerable at this time, this twenty four hour period seems to provide the time necessary to reacclimate oneself to “real time.” People are functional, albeit slow and reflective, and much softer, but are not experiencing the full-fledged effects of the ibogaine.

After the ibogaine session, the former addict will now experience a three to six month period of freedom from craving the drug or drugs of choice. During this time, he or she needs to seek therapy and support to ground the changes and insights that have been set into motion. If this follow-up work is not done, the psychological factors that originally caused the addiction will come back. The same is true for people who take ibogaine to explore and interrupt dysfunctional behavior patterns, i.e., the effectiveness of the ibogaine treatment is “sealed” and extended by follow-up therapy. About twenty five percent of addicts who ingest ibogaine are not freed from their addiction, but most of these are successful after a second treatment.

People who take the lower, therapeutic dose of ibogaine experience its psychoactive effects at a lower, less intense pace. They maintain the control associated with normal, waking consciousness and are able to explore the insights ibogaine gives with an attending therapist. These insights can be most profound and poignant. One participant, adopted at birth, describes re-experiencing her connection to her birth mother: “I could kind of feel where I was this small infant, but I was part of this cast amount of soft skin, also. And I could feel the warmth and the smell, and everything was me! It was me… it was right… it was me. It was bigger than me, but it was me. And I could feel this woman’s tenderness. And there were points where I could feel tears hitting my body. I could feel her sadness, and it was my sadness. It was a sadness I have felt throughout my life… after awhile I felt “Okay, I think I’ve got it now! I’ve got it. I see now how this all got started.” This woman regards ibogaine as the greatest gift she has ever received.

There is less data available, outside of West Central Africa, on the use of ibogaine for spiritual initiation, but it is being used by Western people for this ancient purpose. The dose taken is less than that used for interrupting addiction. Some loss of waking consciousness is needed, to bypass the iron grip of ego, but not the amount needed to interrupt addiction. One initiate user, who had been doing inner, spiritual work for ten years prior to ingesting ibogaine, had this to say: “Ibogaine unravels all our set patterns- putting everything into motion- in flux. Even while it was deconstructing the world around me, the accelerating power of the Iboga was sending me outward to a level of fluidity where I could still reconfigure myself while the universe danced all around me… Ibogaine is an analog- a variation- of the Tree of Life. It has the capacity to help us achieve a new relationship with ourselves by assisting us to attain a never before achieved relationship between God and Self…”

Does ibogaine have side effects? For ninety five percent of the population, the answer is no. The three to five percent of the population who have had psychotic breaks or catatonia may experience hallucinations on ibogaine, and it is not recommended for use by this group.

Clearly, in a world devastated by addictions to alcohol, cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, methadone, and nicotine, with all the accompanying death, disease and crime, in a society where dysfunctional behavior is the rule rather than the exception, in a humanity hungering to reconnect with God, ibogaine has profound implications. At this writing, however, ibogaine is available to relatively few people outside of


. Howard Lotsof’s organization, NDA, administers ibogaine sessions in the




. This writer’s organization, I Begin Again, has been able to access ibogaine to a small but growing number of persons in a clinic located in the international waters of the



The opposing forces to widespread treatment with ibogaine are both economic and political. At the present time, taking the ibogaine treatment involves the expense of traveling to the international waters of the

Caribbean Sea

. Since it takes twenty-five pounds of plant material to make one and a half pounds of the shavings from which the ibogaine alkaloid is extracted, the supply is limited and expensive. Synthetic ibogaine is being manufactured, under the auspices of the NDA, but needs to be improved. The political opposition to the legalization and manufacture of ibogaine is all pervasive and deeply rooted. A drug which is a true cure for addiction threatens vested economic interests in the underground world of international drug cartels and also in the aboveground economy.

Addiction, like cancer, is a multi-billion dollar industry. In addition, giving any sort of legal status to a psychoactive drug goes against long standing cultural taboos. Nevertheless, the pressure to end the scourge of addiction is sufficiently intense that ibogaine may eventually receive FDA approval. In the meantime, ibogaine treatments are available at clinics outside the

United States

, albeit in limited numbers.

What is the future of ibogaine in Western society, and particularly in the

United States

, where the scourge of drug addiction has approached genocidal levels, particularly in the inner city?

A wise man said, “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” The I Begin Again Clinic, where I am presently, with the help of trained assistants conducting ibogaine sessions, is such a candle. It is my hope and my plan that over the next several years, a multitude of such candles be lit, to the point that we see visible and substantial improvements in the societal chaos and personal suffering of addiction and dysfunctional behaviors. I am actively seeking both individual and corporate funding for such clinics.

An ibogaine session at an adequately funded I Begin Again Clinic would involve staying for five to seven days (or more) in a relaxed and natural setting, and undergoing intensive therapy as well as support and grounding furnished by a variety of practitioners of physical therapy, massage, acupuncture, and herbal medicine- particularly in relation to detoxifying the body and relaxing and healing the nervous system. The staff might well include artists and poets to help the newly reborn ibogaine graduate reconnect with the ability to play creatively. In addition, there would need to be a doctor and nurse on staff to deal with any problems arising from the ravages of a long-term addiction. In this best of all possible worlds, the ibogaine administered would come from the iboga, rather than being a synthetic product. When the person leaves the clinic, he or she would be given referrals to therapists and support systems back home. Such a clinic would give each person who came there maximal opportunity to not only become free of addictions and negative patterns, but also to begin a new and better life. Each person who receives this complete treatment will cause a ripple effect that will contribute to the healing of others and of society.

It is clear that such a complete treatment is not going to be available on a mass scale within the near future. For that reason, the future of ibogaine needs to include developing a high quality synthetic, which will reach more people for a much-reduced cost. You should travel around

United States

to receive this addiction treatment, until FDA approval is achieved, the follow-up therapy and support services could be done at clinics.

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