About Ibogaine

What is Ibogaine?Iboga-plant

Ibogaine is an alkaloid compound that is found in the root bark of the African Iboga plant. It is used to treat various addictions (alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, food) and also certain mental conditions.

Iboga preparations have been used for thousands of years for spiritual development and as a rite of passage into adulthood.

In Gabon today, two year olds have been seen eating the root bark of the Iboga plant, attesting to its potential safety. It is here to help, not harm; but like any medicine, it must be consumed respectfully and with a sense of responsibility.


Ibogaine-containing preparations are used for medicinal and ritual purposes by members of the Bwiti religion in various parts of South Africa.

eating-ibogaThe oral tradition of its discovery is this: An African hunter killed a porcupine which was in the process of eating the root of the Iboga plant. He brought it home to his wife, who after cooking and eating it, began having visions. The hunter then returned to the site and collected the magical roots and thereafter it was used in spiritual ceremonies.

It was first marketed as a medical stimulant in France in the late 1800’s. Then in the 1960’s, its anti-addictive properties were discovered by Howard Lotsof, an addict who was completely freed from his heroin addiction by a one-time ingestion of Ibogaine.

The use of Ibogaine for treatment of drug addiction and for other conditions has grown substantially over time in the many countries where use of the compound as a medicine is permitted. However, research about it for the treatment for drug addiction has been restricted because of its prohibition in several nations, such as the United States.

Why Not in the United States?

In the United States, Ibogaine is currently listed on Schedule I under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act. This means it is illegal to manufacture, buy, possess, or distribute without a DEA license.

Ibogaine is however available in many other countries including the UK, Canada, South Africa, the Netherlands, Mexico and Norway as an unlicensed, experimental medication, and is used to treat addiction.

A growing number of people are lobbying to legalize Ibogaine in the US, given its extensive documentation of success elsewhere (read our own clients’ success stories here). Recently, Vermont’s governor (Governor Shumlin, 2014) dedicated his State of the State speech to the issue of addiction and the necessity of alternative treatment options. In response, members of the Vermont State Legislature proposed a bill to allow a non-profit Ibogaine detox center in the state. As early as next year, the bill could be approved.

Controlled studies of Ibogaine’s medicinal properties have taken place in New Zealand and Canada and derivatives of Ibogaine that don’t have the psychedelic properties are under development. A study about the long-term effects of Ibogaine on addiction is currently underway, sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).


Judge holding gavel in courtroom

Approval Is Likely Inevitable

In 1962, Howard Lotsof used Ibogaine to conquer a heroin addiction, and subsequently became a pioneering advocate for it.

Researchers like Deborah Mash, a neuroscientist specializing in addiction at the University of Miami, and Stanley Glick, a neurobiologist at Albany Medical College, have studied Ibogaine’s anti-addiction effects.

In 1995, Mash and Howard Lotsof secured approval from the FDA to study the drug’s potential for use in humans. Unfortunately, the research trials fell through for lack of funding. Research trials like Mash’s are usually financed by pharmaceutical companies and, until the pharmaceutical companies can make money from Ibogaine (which they currently cannot, due to patent issues), they have no interest in funding research.

Many proponents of Ibogaine indeed blame its unavailability in the U.S. on the pharmaceutical industry. They argue that Big Pharma easily has the funding necessary to vet Ibogaine to the FDA’s satisfaction, but pharmaceutical companies choose not to do so because it doesn’t make business sense. *An interesting clip from a recent episode of Law and Order, discussing this very topic, can be seen here (1 min 30 sec).

We believe it is very likely that Ibogaine will be legal in the US eventually, once Big Pharma figures out how to profit from it. But until then, we at Safe Haven are happy to continue to build our success stories here on the lovely shores of Rosarito Beach, Mexico.

Why Ibogaine Worksbreaking-the-addiction

Addicted patients arrive in their addicted state often suffering from two addictions. The first is a physical addiction to their drug of choice. The second is the psychological addiction.

These physical and emotional cravings for relief must be removed before the addiction cycle can be permanently interrupted.

The reason Ibogaine is so effective is that it often relieves the patient from both their physical as well as their psychological addiction. After Ibogaine treatment, patients often report complete freedom from both physical cravings and psychological addiction.

Ibogaine is believed by some medical providers specializing in drug addiction to have upwards of an 80% success rate in freeing patients from their addictions, measured six months post treatment.

Who Ibogaine Is For

Many factors play into whether or not any one specific individual will be effectively relieved of their addiction by Ibogaine treatment. These factors can include:

  • the type of substance,
  • time the addiction has existed,
  • frequency and amount the patient historically has taken,
  • post-treatment social factors,
  • previous treatment,
  • the level of suffering, and
  • the dedication the patient has to remaining drug free after their treatment.

So, while it can easily be seen that assigning a probability for success to any one patient would be a difficult thing based upon the complexity of factors involved and the difficulty of evaluating them, it is our experience from treating over 1,800 patients with Ibogaine, that the majority of  patients will still be drug free six months after treatment, and that most lack of future drug free success is attributed to environmental factors (spousal addiction, medical pain treatment needs, social factors, environmental surroundings) rather than physical addiction.

Ibogaine provides a chemical dependency reset of the brain, so it reduces the amount of medication needed to treat chronic pain after treatment. Many patients who have been treated with Ibogaine report that it “resets their brain” to a point before their addiction developed.

Mental Illness and Mood Disorders – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Depression, Bulimia, Anorexia, Bipolar, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Anxiety

Ibogaine, being a catalyst for psycho-spiritual change works at the very engine that empowers many mental illnesses and mood disorders, namely the ability of patients to healthfully interpret and process their past experiences, paving the way for envisioning a free and happy future.

Many patients report that Ibogaine not only brings them back to a state of mental clarity providing them with a vision of a wonderful opportunity-filled future, but just as importantly, it leaves them there in that state of mental clarity; a place where they are not only freed from crippling emotions, but also restored chemically, freeing the patient from the abnormal mental states of depression, anxiety and mania.

Like treatment for food addiction, treating mental illnesses and mood disorders with Ibogaine is currently at the beginning stages. So while study data about recovery rates from these mental disorders is scarce, our experience, testimonials and anecdotal evidence indicates that Ibogaine is effective in many if not most of the patients with whom it is administered.


The short term effects of Ibogaine typically last only 36 to 48 hours. Experiences vary depending on the size of the individual, their resistance to the drug and other physical and psychological factors. These are some of the potential, temporary side effects:

Psychoactive Effects

At times, Ibogaine causes or induces rapid-eye-movements indicating deep dream filled sleep.

Its psychoactive effects normally produce what patients describe as a waking or lucid dream-like state of consciousness. Some people describe the dreams as vivid memories and reflections.

Almost all patients treated with Ibogaine report that these reflections are ones that are filled with what can best be described as “truthfulness”. They often report that they are able to see their past, the way they behaved, the way they were treated and the way they interpreted these events and allowed them to be affected by them in an objective way that allowed them to dispense universal forgiveness to others and themselves. They report that upon waking, they feel an overwhelming sense of relief from the mental burdens from the past that plagued them up unto their recent past.

They also report that feelings of hatred, fear, guilt and shame were totally removed by the administration of Ibogaine.

Patients further report that this freedom from their destructive memories and beliefs allowed them to envision a future filled with freedom from the constraints of the past and that this vision and the value of embracing it gave them the strength and commitment to feel and know that they would remain drug free.

Visions are not reported by all patients administered Ibogaine however it appears that all patients, whether or not they experience visions, still experience long-lasting therapeutic effects on their ability to break clean from their addiction.

Physical Effects

Ibogaine’s physical effects (during treatment) vary to some degree for every person. Most report sensitivity to movement, light and sound, a lack of appetite and a decrease in muscle coordination. Many report feelings of vibrations and oscillations.

The following effects are reported occasionally: mild tremors (shaking), nausea, and vomiting, slight changes in blood pressure, slight back pain and sleeplessness.

Any side effects experienced subside within 24 to 48 hours after the therapy begins. It is worthy to note that these mild negative effects can be greatly differentiated from the painful withdrawal symptoms usually associated with chemical dependence, which are greatly reduced or completely removed with Ibogaine.


Even with precautions, some people will have complications during treatment. Despite careful and rigorous screenings, about one percent of patients will require medical attention. However most medical emergencies with Ibogaine are avoidable with proper medical screening, and when administered without contraindicated drugs.

Long Term Effects

Long term effects usually include freedom from drug cravings, reduced anxiety, depression and mania, stabilized and normal moods, and increased energy. No long term adverse effects have ever been reported.