Related Chapters:
Treatment for Substance Use Disorders
Addictive Properties of Various Drugs

Page last updated June 9, 2020 by Doug McVay, Editor/Senior Policy Analyst.

1. Reported Effects of Ibogaine and Effectiveness in Treatment for Substance Use Disorders

"Ibogaine, a natural alkaloid extracted from the root bark of the African shrub Tabernanthe Iboga, has attracted attention because of its reported ability to reverse human addiction to multiple drugs of abuse, including alcohol. Human anecdotal reports assert that a single administration of ibogaine reduces craving for opiates and cocaine for extended periods of time and reduces opiate withdrawal symptoms (Sheppard 1994; Mash et al., 1998; Alper et al., 1999). Studies also suggest that ibogaine attenuates drug- and ethanol induced behaviors in rodents. For example, ibogaine reduces operant self-administration of heroin in rats, as well as naloxone precipitated withdrawal in morphine-dependent rats (Glick et al., 1992; Dworkin et al., 1995). Administration of ibogaine decreases cocaine-induced locomotor activity and reduces cocaine self-administration in rats (Cappendijk and Dzoljic, 1993) and mice (Sershen et al., 1994). Rezvani et al. (1995) reported that ibogaine reduces ethanol self-administration in alcohol-preferring selected lines of rats; however, the effects of ibogaine have not been tested in an operant procedure in which oral ethanol reinforces lever press behavior. Our first aim was to extend the characterization of the effects of ibogaine on ethanol self-administration to the operant procedure, including a test of the effects of ibogaine on reinstatement of ethanol self-administration after a period of extinction."

Dao-Yao He, Nancy N.H. McGough, Ajay Ravindranathan, Jerome Jeanblanc, Marian L. Logrip, Khanhky Phamluong, Patricia H. Janak, and Dorit Ron, "Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Mediates the Desirable Actions of the Anti-Addiction Drug Ibogaine against Alcohol Consumption," The Journal of Neuroscience, Jan. 19, 2005, Vol. 25, No. 3, p. 619.

2. History Of Ibogaine As Treatment For Substance Use Disorder In The US

"In 1962, the anti-addictive property of ibogaine was inadvertently discovered by 19-year-old heroin addict Howard Lotsof.58 Lotsof was part of an experimental group of mostly 20-something Caucasians attending college.59 The group, which included seven heroin addicts, shared a common interest in experimenting and subjectively evaluating their experiences with various psychoactive drugs, including Mescaline, LSD, DMT, and psilocybin,60 in an effort to determine the psychotherapeutic value of hallucinogenic drugs.61 As psychedelic drugs were not illegal at the time, Lotsof had access to many of these drugs through his company, S & L Laboratories.62 Rather than simply providing the hallucinogenic, euphoriant high the group anticipated, the heroin addicts noticed that ibogaine actually alleviated their craving for heroin.63 Lotsof ceased using heroin, cocaine, and all other drugs during the six months following his initial dose of ibogaine, an effect most members of the group shared.64
"In 1986, more than two decades after his initial discovery, Lotsof: [sic] founded NDA International (NDA); obtained patents for the use of ibogaine in treating opiate, cocaine, amphetamines, and alcohol addictions under the name Endabuse; and started unofficially distributing ibogaine to addicts in Holland.75"

Donnelly, Jennifer R, "The Need for Ibogaine in Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment," The Journal of Legal Medicine (Schaumburg, IL: American College for Legal Medicine, March 2011), Vol. 32, Issue 1, pp. 100 and 101.

3. Mortality Risk From Ibogaine

"All available autopsy, toxicological, and investigative reports were systematically reviewed for the consecutive series of all known fatalities outside of West Central Africa temporally related to the use of ibogaine from 1990 through 2008. Nineteen individuals (15 men, four women between 24 and 54 years old) are known to have died within 1.5-76 h of taking ibogaine. The clinical and postmortem evidence did not suggest a characteristic syndrome of neurotoxicity. Advanced preexisting medical comorbidities, which were mainly cardiovascular, and/or one or more commonly abused substances explained or contributed to the death in 12 of the 14 cases for which adequate postmortem data were available. Other apparent risk factors include seizures associated with withdrawal from alcohol and benzodiazepines and the uninformed use of ethnopharmacological forms of ibogaine."

Alper KR, Staji? M, and Gill JR, "Fatalities temporally associated with the ingestion of ibogaine" (ABSTRACT), Journal of Forensic Sciences, March 2012;57(2):398-412. doi: 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2011.02008.x. Epub 2012 Jan 23.

4. Health Risks From Ibogaine Use

"Because ibogaine inhibits cardiac ion channels in therapeutic concentrations, the drug is potentially proarrhythmic. The risk of its administration, however, is possibly reduced by the fact that the drug also shows antiarrhythmic properties."

Xaver Koenig, Michael Kovar, Lena Rubi, Ágnes K Mike, Péter Lukács, Vaibhavkumar S Gawali, Hannes Todt, Walter Sandtner and Karlheinz Hilber, "The anti-addiction drug ibogaine inhibits cardiac ion channels: a study to assess the drug’s proarrhythmic potential," BMC Pharmacology and Toxicology 2012, 13(Suppl 1):A38 doi:10.1186/2050-6511-13-S1-A38

5. Physical and Psychological Effects of Ibogaine in the Context of Addiction (Substance Use Disorder) Treatment

"Within three hours after ingesting a higher dose of ibogaine, the user will enter into the 'acute phase,' typically lasting four to eight hours.42 It is during this phase that the user experiences ibogaine’s most intense effects, characterized as the 'panoramic recall of a large amount of material relating to prior life events from long-term memory, primarily in the visual modality,' or the 'waking dream' state.43 If the user is an addict, he or she will usually be taken back to the place and time where the underlying issue leading to the addiction arose, allowing the addict to gain critical insight into the reasons why he or she abuses."

Donnelly, Jennifer R, "The Need for Ibogaine in Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment," The Journal of Legal Medicine (Schaumburg, IL: American College for Legal Medicine, March 2011), Vol. 32, Issue 1, pp. 98-99.