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Ibogaine and its Potential in Treating Opioid Withdrawal Effects

Where does Ibogaine come from?

Ibogaine is an indole alkaloid that can be derived from the roots of the Tabernanthe iboga shrub, primarily found in West Africa.

For centuries, the ethnobotanical literature has documented the therapeutic and oneirophrenic (dream-like) effects of iboga roots. These roots have been traditionally used for ceremonial and medicinal purposes, with the ingestion of ibogaine root preparations playing a significant role.

Ibogaine and rebirth:

Within the context of the Bwiti religion, which is practiced by approximately 2-3 million members in countries like Gabon, Zaire, and Cameroon, large doses of ibogaine are taken as part of the “Bwiti initiation ritual.”

This powerful ceremony is considered a form of “rebirth” and is typically undergone by group members before they enter their teenage years.

Ibogaine for addiction treatment:

Ibogaine has not been officially approved as a medicine for treating drug addiction in most Western countries. Nevertheless, anecdotal evidence suggests that single large doses of ibogaine can effectively alleviate withdrawal symptoms and cravings in individuals dependent on drugs. In fact, the initial discovery of ibogaine’s potential in this regard was made by heroin addicts who self-administered the substance in the 1960s.

Ibogaine Study (1999):

A study conducted by Alper and colleagues in 1999 sought to gather data from individuals who had taken ibogaine between 1962 and 1993 with the aim of “interrupting” their heroin addiction.

The researchers found that out of the 33 human subjects who received doses ranging from 6 to 29 mg/kg of ibogaine (with an average dose of 19 mg/kg), 25 reported a blockade of opioid withdrawal symptoms and a subsequent loss of desire to continue using heroin in the days following the treatment.

Current opioid detoxification methods:

The most widely used and effective method for opioid detoxification involves substituting and gradually tapering methadone or buprenorphine to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. However, neither of these methods has shown consistently better long-term outcomes, as the effectiveness of treatment primarily depends on post-detoxification care and support.

Why Ibogaine could aid detoxification?

The detoxification of individuals dependent on opioids serves two purposes:

Facilitate immediate improvement after discontinuation of drug use.
Address the persistent post-acute withdrawal symptoms that can last for days or even weeks.

Ibogaine and its active metabolite, noribogaine, present an alternative approach to target the neuroadaptations occurring in addiction circuits that contribute to a cycle of relapse following abstinence.

Ibogaine vs methadone and buprenorphine:

Unlike a methadone or buprenorphine taper, ibogaine administration is a rapid detoxification method that shortens the withdrawal period to approximately 2-3 days.

The long-lasting effects of ibogaine are likely attributed to noribogaine (dream-like state), which may explain the reported improvements in mood and reduced cravings for opioids and cocaine observed in most individuals.

More recent studies results (2018):

  • Potential benefits for opioid-dependent patients in transitioning to sobriety and establishing a substance-free recovery.
  • Ibogaine may target specific sites in the addiction circuitry of the brain, reducing cravings and the desire to use opioids, which are key factors in the relapse cycle of addiction.
  • Ibogaine has shown rapid antidepressant effects with a single dose. This is particularly beneficial because depression often co-occurs with opioid and cocaine addictions.

Reducing Risk Via Harm Reduction

Opioids obtained from illicit vendors are often cut, or misrepresented. The potent opioid Fentanyl is a common cut or substitute in opioids in North America. This has led to numerous injuries and deaths. Testing drugs with reagent kits or strips provides a measure of protection. It’s possible to rule out unwanted drugs, and test for fentanyl. Please see our drug test kits.

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