This Schedule I substance could help people recover from opioid addiction

what is ibogaine

The opioid overdose epidemic has only continued to grow, but plant medicine ibogaine may have the answer. Ibogaine research has demonstrated intriguing results, reversing gene expression of opiates. The therapy makes opioid receptors shiny and new like they were before addiction.

In 2021, over 75 percent of drug overdose deaths involved an opioid, with synthetics like fentanyl cited as the compound most rapidly increasing opioid-related deaths. These drugs are like heroin or morphine but 50 to 100 times more potent. That, paired with severe withdrawal, makes kicking fentanyl addiction grueling, even with the looming overdose danger.

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Detoxing off of opioids requires counseling, behavioral therapy, and medications. These prescriptions, like methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone, abate uncomfortable cravings and relieve withdrawal symptoms like muscle and bone pain, sleep problems, and cold flashes. Each medication has its own side effects, such as vomiting, but reduces risks of fentanyl.

Recovering addicts might end up replacing their addiction to opioids with medication, but that is where therapy and counseling come in, probing at the root issue. However, getting through withdrawal and staying off of synthetic opioids has proven difficult for many.

Amanda Siebert, author of Seven Cutting-Edge Psychedelics Changing the World and host of the podcast Ibogaine Uncovered, is an author well-versed in health, drugs, and altered states.

“Because of its unique ability to interrupt the process of withdrawal from opioids, ibogaine has gained a reputation as an ‘anti-drug drug,’ making it a potentially revolutionary treatment for people suffering from opioid use disorder,” Siebert explained.

With opioid overdose deaths raging in the U.S., a medication that brings receptors back to their pre-addiction state sounds like magic. The tryptamine ibogaine comes from the plant Tabernanthe iboga, a shrub that originates in West Africa. It has been used for centuries, with history in the initiation rights of the Bwiti religion in Gabon.

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Boys would ingest large quantities of the root between ages nine and 12 as a coming-of-age ritual. They would slip into a hallucinogenic state with tribal elders standing by for care and support.

Ibogaine therapy in the U.S.

Ibogaine should still be administered under the care of professionals, with medical monitoring and cardiac life support measures nearby. Though rare, 33 people have died after ingesting ibogaine since 1990. This risk may contribute to the compound’s Schedule I DEA status, which implies the substance has no medical use, lacks evidence of safety under medical supervision, poses the risk of abuse or addiction, and is generally dangerous.

“Speculation in studies suggests that previous deaths occurred in settings where medical monitoring did not occur, and because participants may have had opioids in their system upon receiving ibogaine treatment,” Siebert said before explaining that “this is dangerous because ibogaine can increase the effect of opioid toxicity.”

The compound may also alter the heartbeat, causing a rare, rapid, atypical heartbeat called torsades de pointes (TDP), which is why Siebert recommends cardiac life support as a crucial component in ibogaine therapy. Though the fatal risk is worth considering for some, stopping opioid withdrawal in its tracks is a feat.

Phase II clinical trials are yet to be published on the topic, but research suggests that under the correct medical settings, monitoring, and administration, ibogaine “may offer novel treatment opportunities for specific individuals.” Anecdotal and observational data support indications that ibogaine treatment may help people stay clean.

“Opioids are involved in the majority of overdose deaths in the United States: more than 80,000 Americans died in 2021 as a result of an opioid overdose,” Siebert said. “If the treatment was approved and offered widely, it could lead to a reduction in overdose deaths and improved quality of life for people living with opioid use disorder.”

What is ibogaine?

The potential of ibogaine for a country in crisis is a beacon in the dark however, even with rescheduling or Phase II clinical trials, sustainable sourcing is a hurdle. Iboga is protected in Gabon and unique to West Africa due to its connection to Bwiti spiritual rites and rituals.

Maintaining the bush for those who practice this religion is vital, a topic well covered by the Chacruna Institute. The article outlines the need for fair-trade, ceremonially harvested medicine for the most effective experience and that many online sources are weak or contain harmless additives.

Filament Health Corp. made history in May 2023 after facilitating an import of iboga with authorization from the Gabonese government. The valuable shrub was extracted into ibogaine and shipped to retreat facilities in Mexico, like Beond, where Siebert had a singular ibogaine experience that inspired her podcast.

“After my experience, Talia (Beond’s founder) and I agreed that we wanted to create a podcast focused solely on ibogaine. We started recording episodes a few months later, with the goal of uncovering what prompts people to seek it out and if and how it transforms their lives,” Siebert shared. “Recent guests include Dr. Nolan Williams, Tricia Eastman, David Bronner, and Dr. Deborah Mash.”

An upcoming guest is Bryan Hubbard, an ibogaine supporter who recently stepped down as chairman of the Kentucky Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission. His mission hasn’t ended, though, as he was hired in a similar position in Ohio, a sign that the movement might find a home eventually. His story will be featured soon on Ibogaine Uncovered.

Ibogaine has a high risk for some and a high reward for others. Additionally, equitable access and sustainable harvesting will be crucial as interest in the psychedelic compound grows. The country continues battling fentanyl; it’s time to get real about finding solutions, and it sounds like ibogaine might be one.

Cara Wietstock is senior content producer of and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.