Ibogaine is a naturally-occurring psychedelic compound derived from the iboga plant. It was first discovered and used by Pygmy tribes in Central Africa, and has since spread worldwide.
Ibogaine causes a dream-like, hallucinatory state and may enhance your ability for introspection. Early research on ibogaine shows promise in treating drug addiction, although there are concerns about how it affects the heart. Nonetheless, there are legal ibogaine-assisted rehabilitation centers in several parts of the world.
Here’s a look at how ibogaine works, as well as its effects, dosage, how long it stays in your system, what to expect on an ibogaine trip, and more.
What Is Ibogaine?
Ibogaine is a naturally occurring psychedelic compound. It ’s derived from the Tabernanthe iboga plant, an evergreen shrub native to Central African rainforests.
Ibogaine was originally discovered by the Pygmy tribes of Central Africa, who used it both for spiritual ceremonies and as medicine. The Pygmy tribes shared knowledge of ibogaine with the Bwiti tribe of Gabon, who adopted many similar ibogaine rituals, then shared ibogaine with the French around the year 1900.
By the mid-20th century, ibogaine was being researched and used for its possible anti-addictive properties. Howard Lotsof, the scientist who pioneered ibogaine as a medicine in the West, used it to cure his own heroin addiction.
Today, ibogaine rehabilitation clinics are prevalent in Mexico and Brazil, although ibogaine is illegal in the United States. Ibogaine is almost exclusively used in a medical context to treat addiction. It’s rarely taken as a recreational drug.
You can take ibogaine as an IV infusion, a rectal suppository (which can avoid causing nausea, a common side effect of ibogaine), or orally, as either a pill or as ground-up bark from the Tabernanthe iboga plant.
Ibogaine has both psychedelic and dissociative properties. It’s often referred to as an oneirogen—a compound that makes you feel as though you’re in a dream state.
Ibogaine activates a wide variety of brain receptors, including serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, and opioid receptors.1,2 Ibogaine’s widespread brain activity sets it apart from classical psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin, which mostly activate serotonin receptors.
Ibogaine is still not well understood. Its mechanism of action in the brain isn’t fully clear, and research on ibogaine’s effects is still in its infancy.
Cognitive effects of ibogaine
- Visual and auditory hallucinations
- Dream-like states
- Ego death (a sense of oneness with the world around you; loss of sense of self)
- Distorted sense of time
- Increased introspection
- Enhanced memory recall
- Dissociation (a sense of being outside yourself or emotionally detached from yourself)
In 2017 and 2018 studies, addicts who received ibogaine treatment reported that ibogaine made it easier to explore underlying traumatic events that were driving their addiction. 3,4
However, research on ibogaine is still early. Many ibogaine studies are either small or poorly controlled, and as a result, ibogaine’s psychoactive effects are still not fully understood.
Physical effects of ibogaine
Ibogaine can also produce physical effects, including: 5
- Enhanced tactile sensations (feeling vibrations, experiencing touch more vividly)
- Changes in body temperature (feeling hot or cold)
- Appetite suppression
- Changes in weight perception (feeling heavy or light)
- Ataxia (impaired muscle control)
- Loss of balance and coordination
People who take ibogaine typically lie down and remain still for the majority of the experience. Patients often report that moving while on ibogaine is difficult because of impaired muscle control and balance, and that trying to stand or walk can cause disorientation, nausea, or vomiting.
Ibogaine and Addiction
Ibogaine shows promise as a way to help treat addiction. It seems to be effective in several ways.
Ibogaine also increases introspection, which may help treat underlying psychological mechanisms causing addiction. Study participants who have taken ibogaine say it helped them face and overcome trauma in their past, and made them realize that the trauma they had experienced was driving them to use drugs as an escape. 3,4
Research on ibogaine for addiction is still early. Many ibogaine studies have been small or poorly controlled, and it’s difficult to make strong statements about ibogaine’s effectiveness n treating addiction. However, there has been an increase in ibogaine clinical trials since 2015, and as more research comes out, ibogaine’s effects on addiction should become clearer.
The Timeline of Ibogaine
Here’s a look at the timeline of ibogaine, including:
- How long ibogaine takes to kick in
- How long an ibogaine experience lasts
- How long ibogaine stays in your system
How long does ibogaine take to kick in?
Ibogaine’s effects typically kick in about 1-2 hours after you take it. You may vomit or feel nausea as ibogaine’s effects begin to take hold. That’s normal.
How long does ibogaine last?
Ibogaine is one of the longest-lasting psychedelic compounds. Its effects last anywhere from 12-36 hours, depending on the dose you take and your personal tolerance for the drug.
Some study participants report that the ibogaine experience comes in phases: 5,7
- Several hours visual hallucinations
- Several hours of a dream-like state in which you feel disconnected from your body and reality
- A period of deep introspection that can last for 12-24 hours
While ibogaine’s effects are very long-lasting, it’s worth noting that it can distort your sense of time. You may not feel like your trip lasts as long as it does.
How long does ibogaine stay in your system?
There’s no formal data on how long ibogaine stays in your system, although case studies suggest that it remains detectable in blood for at least seven days after ingestion. 9
Standard drug tests do not screen for ibogaine.
Ibogaine Risks and Side Effects
Most psychedelic drugs come with the risk of having a bad trip—a challenging or unpleasant psychological experience. When taking any psychedelic drug, you can decrease your odds of a bad trip by preparing ahead of time and managing your set and setting.
However, ibogaine also comes with specific risks that classical psychedelics do not have.
Cardiotoxicity is the biggest concern with ibogaine and the main reason clinical trials on the compound slowed down in the early 2000s. ,10
Research suggests that ibogaine can cause cardiac arrhythmia—irregular speeding up or slowing down of your heartbeat.11,12 Arrhythmias can be dangerous and can lead to stroke, heart failure, and increased risk of blood clotting.
In a 2018 case report, a man’s heart stopped beating after he took a larger dose of ibogaine. He was saved, but because ibogaine stays in your system for a long time, his heartbeat didn’t return to normal for seven days. 9
At ibogaine clinics in Mexico and Brazil, before giving you ibogaine, doctors will often administer magnesium sulfate and other medications that protect against heart destabilization. Well-run clinics also typically hook patients up to an EKG, which monitors heart function in real time.
It’s possible to overdose on ibogaine. High-dose ibogaine can cause long QT heart rhythm, which means the heart takes longer to recharge between beats. As a result, ibogaine can cause fainting or death, especially in higher doses and particularly when the person taking it doesn’t haave access to high-quality emergency healthcare. 13
No effective dose has been established for ibogaine, and your genetics may have considerable impact on your body’s response to ibogaine. 13 As a result, doctors administering ibogaine typically start with a low dose and work their way up, while monitoring their patients for any irregularities.
Ibogaine is illegal in the United States. It’s a schedule I drug and is not approved for any medical or recreational use.
Mexico, Brazil, Australia, Holland, and several other countries worldwide have approved ibogaine for medical use. It’s also fully legal in New Zealand for recreational or medical use and does not require a prescription.
Ibogaine-assisted addiction clinics are common in Mexico and Brazil. United States citizens interested in ibogaine often travel to those clinics to receive treatment.
Frequently Asked Questions About Ibogaine
Here are some frequently asked questions about ibogaine.
What is the difference between iboga and ibogaine?
Iboga refers to Tabernanthe iboga, an evergreen shrub native to Central Africa. The iboga shrub contains ibogaine, which is a powerful psychedelic and dissociative compound. You can take ibogaine by swallowing ground up bark from the iboga plant, or you can take ibogaine as an IV or a pill.
Is ibogaine similar to Ayahuasca?
Ibogaine and Ayahuasca are both psychedelic compounds that cause altered states of consciousness. However, they are chemically distinct and have different effects on the brain. Ayahuasca is a brew that contains DMT and comes from Amazonian tribes in South America, while ibogaine comes from the iboga plant in Central Africa.
How long do ibogaine effects last?
Ibogaine is one of the longest-lasting psychedelic drugs. Its effects can last anywhere from 12-36 hours, and in some cases longer. The length of ibogaine’s effects depends on how much you take, as well as your genetics; certain genetic variations seem to make ibogaine last longer.
What does ibogaine do to the brain?
Unlike most psychedelics, which primarily work via serotonin receptors, ibogaine targets a wide range of pathways in your brain. It influences dopamine, serotonin, opioid, and glutamate receptors. The widespread changes to brain chemistry could explain ibogaine’s dissociative and anti-addictive effects.
Is Ibogaine addictive?
Ibogaine is not known to be addictive. Research has not found that it causes tolerance, withdrawal, or cravings. In fact, ibogaine shows promise as a way to treat addiction, and that is its main medical use in most countries in which it’s legal.
Can I overdose on Ibogaine?
It is possible to overdose on ibogaine. Taking too much ibogaine can cause heart arrhythmias, cardiac arrest, unconsciousness, and death. There is no medically established dose for ibogaine. Doctors who administer ibogaine usually start low and gradually increase the dose to therapeutic levels, monitoring your vitals to ensure you’re safe.
Ibogaine is a psychedelic and dissociative drug derived from the iboga plant. It shows promise as a way to treat addiction.
Ibogaine may be cardiotoxic. Early research suggests that it can cause heart arrhythmias or cardiac arrest, especially at higher doses. For that reason, it’s essential to take ibogaine under the care of a doctor.
If you’re interested in taking ibogaine, keep in mind that it is illegal in the United States at the time of this article’s publication. Ibogaine rehabilitation clinics are common in Mexico and Brazil, where the drug is legal for medical use.
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