Ibogaine Risks: Keeping The Iboga Journey Safe
18th July 2019
18th July 2019
Iboga therapy has been rapidly increasing in popularity as an alternative to conventional addiction treatments, such as the use of methadone. Iboga’s powerful, positive effects on the symptoms of withdrawal and cravings for various drugs have changed countless lives, sending many down the path to recovery. But like many powerful substances, its use comes with a number of potential side effects and risks. While we at Iboga Tree Healing House are passionate advocates for Iboga's use in the treatment of addiction, we are equally passionate about educating prospective users about ibogaine risks and the potential dangers that go hand in hand with its benefits, and ensuring that providers and users are forewarned and forearmed against any and all potentially harmful side-effects that could occur.
The Global Ibogaine Therapy Alliance has a laundry list of potential side-effects and ibogaine risks, as well as medical conditions that can be exacerbated by Iboga use. They report that between 1990 and 2008, 19 deaths were associated with the ingestion of Iboga, which were “associated with a number of pre-existing conditions and factors that include pre-existing cardiac conditions and seizures resulting from acute withdrawal from alcohol or benzodiazepines” as well as mixing iboga with other “drugs of abuse.”
It is recommended that people with heart conditions, impaired kidney or liver function, certain psychological conditions, and those experiencing withdrawal from a certain of substances (such as methadone, benzos, alcohol, and others) should avoid using Iboga. Some studies have found that abnormally high doses of the drug may induce seizures, although in smaller doses it acts as an anti-convulsive.
Mitigating the Risks
Any responsible provider should exclude those with pre-existing heart conditions from iboga therapy. Of the 19 Iboga-related deaths which have occurred, six were determined to have resulted from cardiac arrest, and in all but one of those cases, the deceased had a pre-existing heart condition. The one cardiac arrest death which occurred in a user with a healthy heart was the result of self-administration of Iboga along with an unspecified “booster” which he had purchased on the internet.
There is debate on whether patients with HIV and certain psychiatric disorders should use iboga. The main reason offered for excluding these groups is a lack of research into whether iboga use will exacerbate the symptoms of disease. As there is no evidence that the treatment is harmful to patients with HIV, some treatment facilities offer iboga to those suffering from the virus, but at Iboga Tree Healing House we prefer to err on the side of caution, as the data on the ibogaine health risks under these conditions is not conclusive. For a full list of our inclusion and exclusion criteria, follow this link.
Using iboga while drugs of abuse are in your system is extremely dangerous, and must be avoided. Iboga can intensify the effects of opiates, so it’s imperative that they must be completely out of your system before you enter treatment. The intensely reflective state, reduction of cravings, neurological effects, and sense of well-being that iboga can provide have helped many recovering from addiction to alcohol, but withdrawal from this substance must be completed before iboga can be safely administered. It is recommended that patients dealing with alcoholism complete a minimum of 7 days of medically supervised withdrawal, or they risk a host of side-effects including cardiomyopathy, delirium tremens, and seizures.
It should also be noted that iboga reduces substance users to a so-called “novice state.” This means that following treatment, a users tolerance to opioids and other drugs of abuse is dramatically lowered. While addicts clearly intend to stay sober forever, it’s important that they are aware of this in the event of a relapse, as their vulnerability to overdose will be far greater.
Finding a Safe Provider
If you’re dealing with a responsible iboga provider, they will ask you for a great deal of medical information to assess your ibogaine health risks. This “Psychedelic Times” article offers a detailed breakdown of what a clinic needs from you to provide for your safety. At Iboga Tree healing House we go even further, requiring our clients to take an EKG test, be free from stimulants (including coffee), undertake a comprehensive blood count and metabolic panel, and test liver and kidney function. We also check and monitor levels of serum electrolytes and thyroid function for patients over 45 years old.
We cannot over-stress this: if a clinic doesn’t ask you for a detailed medical and psychiatric history, run! This means that either they value your money far more than they value your safety, or that they are ignorant of the significant harm iboga can do if used irresponsibly.
The Iboga Tree Healing House Difference
In spite of all of these dangers, and in spite of the fact that iboga is frequently administered without adequate (and in some cases any) medical supervision, iboga remains safer than methadone! Of the 19 deaths temporally associated with Ibogaine use, 14 have provided adequate post-mortem data. Of those 14, 12 were associated with a pre-existing medical condition or the presence of other drugs of abuse. The other two occurred in situations without adequate medical supervision.
As we’ve written before, there are certain conditions under which iboga is not completely safe, but we feel that every single death resulting from its use has been avoidable. Because we have seen its immense potential to re-shape lives at risk, we have become advocates for educating the public about its risks, as well as its benefits. Irresponsible use has the potential to end lives, as well as making this promising tool for fighting the opioid epidemic away from multitudes who could use it to regain their health and well-being.