Quick withdrawal with ibogaine, not without danger

Ibogaine is a herbal drug that is used to aid withdrawal from heroin, cocaine, morphine and alcohol. The drug has acquired cult status because of the speed with which it eliminates drug dependence. However, the use of ibogaine is not without danger, as it has serious side effects. This mainly concerns strong hallucinations that mean that the user no longer knows what he is doing.

Withdrawal with ibogaine

  • Discovery of the effects of ibogaine
  • Side effects of ibogaine
  • Ibogaine banned in the Netherlands
  • Where is ibogaine offered to help with withdrawal?


Discovery of the effects of ibogaine

The drug ibogaine was banned in the United States in the 1960s. It was discovered that it can be addictive but has no health-promoting effect. It was therefore placed on the list of prohibited substances. Around the same time, heroin addict Howard Lotsof was looking for a new high and came across the bitter white powder derived from an African plant. Before he knew it, he had gotten rid of his heroin craving .
It motivated Lotsof to spread the word that ibogaine can help people overcome their addiction. He started lobbying the pharmaceutical industry to produce a medicine based on the Gabon plant Tabernanthe iboga , as it is fully called. In the 1980s he convinced a Belgian company to process the drug into capsules and offer it to drug addicts in the Netherlands. He started working with, among others, the Dutch psychiatrist Jan Bastiaans, known for his therapy in which he treated Holocaust survivors with LSD. Clinics where the drug was offered showed that its use was successful in at least three-quarters of the users. When someone died in 1993 after using ibogaine (according to the researchers because she also continued to use heroin), all trials were stopped.

Side effects of ibogaine

Anyone who takes a dose of ibogaine will first have to deal with ataxia (disruptions of balance and movement coordination, nausea, vomiting and a dry mouth. These effects last on average 4 to 24 hours. To prevent this, ibogaine is also inserted anally. Sometimes palpitations can also occur, as well as other heart conditions such as long QT syndrome and ventricular tachycardia. A common side effect of ibogaine is hallucinations that can become very intense and arouse aggressiveness.

Ibogaine banned in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, the use of ibogaine as a medicine has been prohibited since 2011 (pursuant to Article 18 of the Medicines Act). In 2014, a naturopath from Kockengen was sentenced to 141 days in prison for leaving someone she had treated with the drug in a helpless state in a hotel. The man then walked onto the highway – probably under the influence of hallucinations – and died. When dealing with the case of the healer from Kockengen, a report was used which states that, in addition to hallucinations, ibogaine carries the risk of cardiotoxicity and neurotoxicity. This can be life-threatening.
The Dutch Journal of Quackery is also not convinced of the positive effects of ibogaine because no recognized large-scale scientific research has yet been conducted. However, research conducted in Brazil, among others, shows that when use of the drug is closely monitored by a doctor and psychologist, it can indeed have a positive effect on a withdrawal process.

Where is ibogaine offered to help with withdrawal?

Ibogaine is not used in (legal) rehab clinics in the Netherlands. There are natural healers who use the drug in their therapies, but this is not legal. In various countries where ibogaine is not banned or tolerated, the drug is available in (often luxurious) clinics. Such clinics can be found in Canada, Mexico and Costa Rica, among others.