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Ibogaine FAQ’s: Pro’s & Con’s

Ibogaine FAQ’s: Pro’s & Con’s “Taking a patient off opioids is not the same as taking a patient off one high blood pressure medication and putting them on another.”

William Curry, MD

It would take the great cultural revolution of the 1960s to break open the psychedelic doors to the future palaces of healing, yet it would not be until nearly 10 years later that the field of ethnopharmacology produced studies which found that a purified extract of the Tabernanthe Iboga root, indigenous to West Africa, was beneficial in treating fevers, toothaches and high blood pressure.
However, we have come a long way from the shimmering innocence of the 60s, the comedowns of the 70s, the dark heroin hug of the 80s, through the Ecstasy, MDMA and GHB dance culture in the 90s, to now—where globally we have seen the rise of all sorts of crossover recreational—i.e., addictive—new drugs from horse tranquilizer down to plant fertilizer.
The irony is surely not lost on the US government when one thinks that the very counter-cultures who first made illegal drugs internationally über-cool (the beats, and the hippie subculture after them), would eventually have children who would in time provide a brand new market for the country’s Big Pharma giants which, as of the 90s, would turn to the Baby Boomer’s children for profit and over-the-counter opioid peddling.
Now that research on Ibogaine and Treatment centres are beginning to flourish slowly across the globe, the US Big Pharma must be feeling their feathers stirred over more legislative attempts to make ibogaine legal, as well as the growth of off-territory clinics around the globe.
Going historically back to street drugs such as cocaine and heroin and their entry into US territory via the state of Florida in the 1970s: if international trafficker Griselda Blanco started the Miami Drug Wars, and Pablo Escobar took her place after the DEA arrested her in California in 1985, with Escobar becoming notorious for them as he continued the stranglehold on Miami; it is unsurprising that the Cali Cartel now in power further tightened an unmoveable, vise-like grip on the “South-American bottleneck,” (where most drugs come into the US from the former region).
Perhaps because of its highly problematic status in this respect, it is not odd to find alternatives for addiction being funded in Miami: one of the very few places in the US to allow researchers to study ibogaine, an alkaloid found in the bark of the Tabernanthe Iboga tree which has hallucinogenic properties and can be used to halt substance abuse.
Even if rarely, and while certainly not legally, the Iboga root and its most common extract, ibogaine, have been used internationally in Western medicine since the 1860s.
Dr Bryce Pardo, PhD, MA, who is an associate policy researcher of opioid control with recourse to new psychoactive substance markets has told scientific sources that “the benefits of treating opioid use disorder with ibogaine would be immense.”

On the downside, though, it is also common to hear—a fact to be flung about freely by state-funded media channels—that ibogaine can cause death. Do not get us wrong: it can (but such cases have mostly been found in patients who either self-administered or already had pre-existing heart or liver conditions).

As it stands, with current legislation, ibogaine still remains—even after some initial efforts—a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Schedule I drug, along with others such as heroin, LSD, peyote, cannabis, methaqualone and ecstasy.

Substances in the DEA’s Schedule I list are found to have “no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse,” the possession and distribution of which may result in arrest, according to the DEA official list cited above.

Considering such facts, it does not seem surprising then that some experts, to quote Dr Bryce Pardo, believe that of the 130 Americans killed every day by the current US opioid crisis, some could be positively helped by ibogaine as a workable alternative treatment.

Falling in line with this sort of thinking is another institution which, since the 90s, asked an independent expert panel to investigate what the merits of setting up regulated, directed clinical programs for ibogaine could be.
One such institution has been the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA), whose experts reviewed issues such as pre-existing medications being taken by patients, how toxic ibogaine may or not be for the body, as well as studying how the body absorbs, distributes, and excretes ibogaine.
In conclusion and voting against the endorsement of such programs, most panel members were unanimous—it did not seem entirely safe; so, although research efforts from that institution came to a halt, the results did not, however, put a stop to further independent research.

In 2018, an extensive report was published in the scientific community, called “Progress in Brain Research,” (Vol. 242 of “Psychedelic Neuroscience” collection).

According to findings by leading experts in this study, a single heaped teaspoon of iboga root bark is enough to trigger feelings of euphoria.
5 mg/kg of a person’s body weight seems to cause mostly stimulatory effects.
Doses of 10mg/kg or more can cause more visual hallucinations lasting from 1 up to 4 hours; the next phase being followed by an introspective stage where it is said most patients gain profound insights into what kind of situations trigger their addiction—the first step in developing coping mechanisms to adequately deal with them in real-world situations.
In addition to this fascinating breakthrough, some of the study’s researchers also found that ibogaine resolved and shortened the patient’s withdrawal symptoms down to a mere 48 hours.

Another example of independent research was that of Dr Deborah C. Mash, PhD, (who for over 25 years has been researching ibogaine and is now the CEO of DemeRex: a company investigating ibogaine’s effects) and has revealed to scientific news source Helio Primary Care, that the plant effectively targets a select few of the brain’s neurochemical systems, to bring about a reset that seems to block both withdrawals, and cravings of opioid addicts.

Dr Mash further remarked that safety concerns may be effectively handled were administration and treatment to take place in a clinical setting, as one already does with the administration of brexanolone, the FDA-approved medication for post-natal depression.
In conducting one of the biggest, open studies on ibogaine outside US territory (where the former is illegal), she gathered a group of 190 patients with opioid and cocaine abuse issues. The conclusions drawn from this research group was that all participants successfully completed their opioid detox, and that many kept to their newfound sobriety for months after the treatment, even reporting improved mood and fewer heroin cravings.
As a health and safety concern, Mash added that any patient looking to ibogaine for a possible opioid resolution must not have any pre-existing heart or liver conditions. While research had come a long way, she also noted that “clinical trials are needed to test ascending doses of ibogaine in order to accurately estimate the safe and effective maximum tolerated dose.”
Those opposed to the use of ibogaine turn to the lack of studies within larger cohorts to prove their points, alleging that its Schedule I status, as well as the adverse effects that go with its use, including an inability to move and dizziness, are enough to steer common sense away from pondering it as a workable and legal alternative.
One of such physicians is Jeremy B. Richards, MD, who as an ER doctor at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, describes treating a forty-year-old man who had self-administered ibogaine to lessen the symptoms of heroin withdrawal. As it appears, the patient experienced acute cardiac arrest, cerebral edema and, ultimately, death. Richards went on to argue that, according to the limited scientific literature around ibogaine’s clinical usage, there seemed no justification to advocate its use.
Stirred by his patient’s death, when Dr Richards set about investigating the scientific literature available at the time with some colleagues, they found a few cases they could not ignore.
One, where a twenty-five-year-old man suffering from heroin addiction died from multiorgan system failure, likely because of aspiration and pre-existing pneumonia at the time of ingestion.
Another, when a thirty-one-year-old woman had a seizure-like episode. Still another, where a forty-nine-year-old man developed a rare form of polymorphic ventricular tachycardia after taking ibogaine.
Other complications tied to ibogaine use include cardiac toxicity with possible mechanisms of bradyarrhythmia and/or possible QT prolongations; EKG changes; and schizophrenia, psychosis and relapses of drug use, according to researchers.
Dr Mash counter-argued that case reports do not tell the whole story involving ibogaine: “You can’t equate taking ibogaine outside of supervised medical use as equal to a drug that is studied in clinical settings by qualified doctors and researchers.”
NIDA’s director, Dr Nora D. Volkow, wrote in the publication “The Lancet” that new forms of treatment aside from the known ones of buprenorphine, methadone, or extended-release naltrexone are urgent if we are to turn the tide on the opioid epidemic.
Even the drugs cited above, she claims, were ridden with problems all their own such as the patient’s entry into treatment, and how long they should be kept there, the varying dosage levels, as well as the duration of the treatment and lastly, depending on which medication patients were given, potential side effects such as abdominal pain, headaches, and rhinorrhoea.
Much in the same line of reasoning, Dr Pardo—who has over a decade of experience working in crime and drug policy—has added that the mere assessment made by NIDA that there is insufficient data, confirms the need to further research ibogaine as an acceptable treatment for opioid use disorder.
“You would need fewer treatment episodes, sometimes as little as one,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about daily and weekly redosing like we do with buprenorphine. The stigma with opening methadone treatment clinics is limiting. We’re currently treating opioid use disorder with one hand behind our back. Adding ibogaine would be a huge leg up for some.”
Encouraging NIDA, Dr Mash revealed to Halio Primary Care she was “extremely hopeful” that they would resume funded research.

The former said they would do so once they had received a grant application, and added that between 2008-2018 alone, more than $700 million had been allocated to ibogaine research.

“Think about the choices we have for treating opioid use disorder available today.. We have naltrexone, which is an abstinence-based drug that is given after completion of opioid detoxification. Medication-assisted therapy including methadone and buprenorphine, although they help many people, are opioid substitution therapies. We have had methadone, which is an old drug that has been in use for many decades. For some people, ibogaine may be a nonaddictive alternative to a lifetime of liquid handcuffs.”
Dr Mash, in Healio News
Her colleague arguing against ibogaine—Dr Richards—stated in clear terms that ibogaine is not a simple one-stop-shop cure for opioid addictions, and that any claims to being beneficial are simply based on too little evidence and inconsistent clinical proof, concluding that its risks do outweigh the benefits.
Regarding the subject of adequate clinical dosage, Mash countered that a dose of 800-1,000 mg had proven to be efficient and low risk.
As you may see from the sources cited, we here at Ibogaine Treatment UK (a subsidiary of Tabula Rasa Retreat TM) are not keen on exalting the unregulated, self-administration of ibogaine, but have had it proven, not only by studies, but through our own work and constant learning, that ibogaine administered under the correct clinical settings and in case-appropriate doses has proven successful.