For drug and alcohol rehabilitation
Ibogaine is used therapeutically for several indications, particularly detoxification from opiates. It has been shown to decrease the self-administration of stimulants, opiates and alcohol, as well as significantly reduce withdrawal symptoms from opiates after a single treatment. Other research shows a reduction of developed tolerance to opiates and alcohol, and a significant decrease in cravings for an extended period of time after treatment.
Ibogaine therapy has also been used for other indications, such as in the treatment psychological disorders like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Its psychological effects have been reported to help people to view difficult experiences in an objective way, and to help facilitate the closure of unresolved emotional conflicts.
There is also anecdotal evidence, and a theoretic framework, to suggest that ibogaine can have therapeutic benefits in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and similar disorders. Ibogaine has been shown to be neuro-protective, and also stimulate increased levels of glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) in the brain, which stimulates the growth of new neurons, and has been shown to have a strong benefit for Parkinson disease in animal models. People have found benefits from ibogaine therapy for these and other reasons applications, including increasing fertility, the reduction in viral load counts for Hepatitis C, and the cessation of symptoms of Tourette’s syndrome.
Outside of its potential medical benefits, ibogaine is used by many who wish to explore its potential for personal and spiritual growth. Many have made reference to the nature of addiction described in Buddhist practice, as clinging to the world, to life events, or to aspects of personal identity, and suggest ibogaine has helped to relax the “existential grasp.”
In any treatment offered for substance use disorders, there are a large number of variables that make it difficult to predict the success of treatment. This is partially because people’s needs and goals when entering treatment vary dramatically based on their personality, age, gender, employment status, and other social factors. However, in order to consider the efficacy of ibogaine-assisted detoxification, there are a few efforts have been made to quantify treatment outcomes.
Ibogaine Efficacy Research
Two studies being conducted by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), attempt to track the long-term efficacy of ibogaine-assisted detox for opiate dependence. The studies, in Mexico and New Zealand, have reported preliminary results of 20% and 50% respectively, for clients remaining free from their primary substance of abuse for at least 12 months. Factors influencing this range were suggested to be the ease of follow-up in the New Zealand study become of closer proximity, as well as other factors such as plans for continuing care.
Another study recently completed in Brazil shows a 61% rate of long-term total abstinence from alcohol, cannabis, cocaine and/or crack in a total of 75 people who completed a combination of ibogaine therapy and psychotherapy. There were several important distinctions in the treatment offered. For example, participants were encouraged to be abstinent, either at home or in inpatient care, for 30-60 days prior to ibogaine administration, and also had access to an extended stay inpatient treatment environment after treatment. Also, several of the participants underwent multiple treatments during the course of the study.
Comparisons with Conventional Detox
It is difficult to compare these results to conventional substance use disorder treatment programs for several reasons. Firstly, conventional inpatient treatment usually describes programs between 30 to 90 days in length. Programs that manage the initial withdrawal symptoms are generally described as detoxification programs, which usually last between 3 to 7 days. Ibogaine therapy programs usually last between five days and two weeks, and in several ways resemble conventional detox services, particularly the time-frame and the support for acute withdrawal symptoms.
Secondly, conventional detoxification programs in the United States have a completion rate of only 78% for three day to seven day programs, including those who were transferred for further treatment. Short-term inpatient treatment programs are completed, or lead to further treatment, in 74% of cases. The ibogaine-assisted detox studies above saw participants drop out of study follow-up, but everyone enrolled completed treatment.
In conventional studies, success rates for those who do complete treatment are never measured by strict abstinence as in the ibogaine studies mentioned above. The rates are based more generally on reduction of use and the negative consequences associated with it, such as the improvement of health, familial, social and economic situations. By those indicators, NIDA has compiled research statistics on the success of treatment for substance use disorders, and describes relapse rates following treatment ranging between 40 and 60%, where relapse is a worsening of symptoms related to substance use disorders.
NIDA’s first large-scale study on the treatment of prescription pain medication showed that 49% of participants saw an improvement during a 12-week or longer Suboxone treatment. The success rate dropped to 8.6% once Suboxone was discontinued, which again, does not mention levels of abstinence. Most conventional detox-only programs report negligible results without following through with a comprehensive treatment program, and that, again, is only considering an improvement in substance use disorder related symptoms. Sustained abstinence after attending only a conventional detox program is practically non-existent.
While the above is an attempt to connect the dots between two separate bodies of research, it is primarily a call for further research to be done. GITA sees great value in and supports the diversity of treatment options that are able to help people to reach their recovery goals.
When ibogaine is administered in programs of similar length to conventional detox, and even without long-term case management, ibogaine-assisted detox seems to lead to total abstinence from substances more often than most conventional treatment programs. And while many of the participants who were listed as “unsuccessful” on the MAPS’ studies, based on the criteria of a year of abstinence, most reported across-the-board improvements in the indicators used by NIDA and other agencies to calculate success.
While more research and comparative analysis is needed, the data above suggests that ibogaine can be highly effective, not only in detoxification, but also in treating the underlying causes of substance use disorders.