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Is Ibogaine Treatment for Opioid Addiction Effective?

by | Last updated Oct 13, 2020 at 1:16PM | Published on Oct 13, 2020 | Addiction Treatments, Medication-Assisted Treatment

Ibogaine Treatment

In the fight against the opioid crisis in the United States, many are looking to control the opioid epidemic effectively. One new approach to treating addiction to opioids is ibogaine treatment. However, its long-term effects and effectiveness at treating substance abuse remain controversial and highly debated. 

What is Ibogaine?

Ibogaine is a psychoactive substance that produces hallucinogenic effects similar to LSD. Traditionally, the iboga plant’s substance, a Western African shrub, is used in healing ceremonies and initiation rituals. Anecdotal evidence suggests it can help adjust brain chemistry to prevent withdrawal symptoms or cravings. However, there’s no scientifically-proven research to back these claims.

What is Ibogaine Treatment?

In small doses, ibogaine treatment works as a mild stimulant, while at higher doses, it can put a person into a severe psychedelic state. When someone takes ibogaine, the substance targets the brain areas that are usually targeted by drug-seeking and addictive behaviors. Ibogaine rewires these areas and allows the brain to restructure itself to a state similar to how it was before the addiction began.

For those with substance use disorders, ibogaine treatment can reduce opioids’ withdrawal and help them control substance-related cravings. However, these short-term effects are more helpful during the detox process; they don’t necessarily cure addiction. 

Unfortunately, most tests have been done in animals, so there’s not enough evidence to report humans’ same effects. 

Success Rates for Controlling Opioid Addiction

So far, researchers have completed small tests and analysis around ibogaine treatment. Many of them have had favorable success rates, while others can’t attribute the positive results to ibogaine treatment alone. Here’s what research about ibogaine for opioid addiction treatment says so far.

  • One study using ibogaine treatment to help people recovering from methamphetamine addiction reported a 50 to 80 percent success rate. 
  • A doctor reported a 70-80% success rate with effective aftercare and added that after using ibogaine treatment for recovering meth addicts, 90 percent returned to the same environment that triggered their addiction. 
  • Research suggests treatment for addiction with ibogaine results in a 20-30 percent abstinence rate at a one-year follow-up. Compared to the 8.6% success rate on Suboxone treatment. 
  • A review of ibogaine treatment from Brazil, where this substance is unregulated, showed that one-time ibogaine treatment resulted in abstinence for 5.5 months, while multiple sessions resulted in abstinence for 8.4 months. 
  • Another study in Mexico analyzed ibogaine treatment for opioid addiction and found that one-third of the participants relapsed within the first month. Only four out of the 30 participants did not relapse after a year of a single treatment. 
  • A larger study of 191 patients with opioid or cocaine use disorder helped participants complete detox, and many maintained abstinence for several months, often reporting fewer drug cravings. 

Ongoing Research

After these studies, researchers believe ibogaine treatment works almost as an interruption of addiction rather than a cure. It’s important to note that most of these studies are on very small sample sizes that may not apply to a more significant population.

While there’s promising evidence that ibogaine treatment for opioid addiction might be useful, we need more controlled studies and clinical trials to determine this treatment’s safety and efficacy. Also, we need more long-term studies to analyze the long-term effects of ibogaine in the body.

Risk Factors for Ibogaine Treatment

Because ibogaine treatment is still not fully developed, there are many risk factors. It’s paramount to only try ibogaine treatment under the direction of a medical professional that understands the various complications, which include:

  • Seizures
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Heart complications
  • Ataxia, a degenerative disease of the nervous system
  • Death 

Throughout studies, researchers also noted other adverse effects like dizziness and lack of muscle movements. These dangerous side effects are reason enough to stay away from the drug. Some serious consequences include cardiac arrest that can cause death. With the minimal literature surrounding ibogaine treatment, many medical professionals believe there’s no justification for these use of ibogaine for treating opiate dependence.

Ibogaine treatment comes with many side effects, including schizophrenia, drug-induced psychosis, relapses of drug use, and system failure. 

However, many believe research into ibogaine treatment is critical to managing the opioid epidemic despite these adverse effects. These efforts are based on claims that the substance can help people ease through their detox process, offer relapse prevention assistance, and eliminates the worry of daily or weekly redosing like other opioid treatments such as buprenorphine. Maybe adding ibogaine therapy could help some people.

Other Treatment Options for Opioids

While ibogaine treatment brings hope and poses the potential for treating opioid addiction, a lot remains to be proven. If you are seeking help for opioid addiction, it’s best to start with evidence-based therapies. Most treatment programs for opioid follow this process:

  • Medical detox: This is best to do under the supervision of a medical professional at a treatment center who can help assess any complications during the detox process.
  • Behavioral therapy: Addiction therapy often includes cognitive-behavioral therapy to address the core of addiction and any underlying conditions that might trigger the addiction.
  • Medication-assisted treatment: For opioid addiction, some prescription medications might help ease the consequences of detoxing. But this must occur under medical supervision.
  • Group therapy: Struggling with addiction can often feel isolating; group counseling gives recovering addicts a safe and protective environment to voice their struggles and emotions.
  • Long-term recovery: Overcoming addiction is challenging; seeking aftercare recovery programs that offer support from medical professionals can help people remain drug-free.

Seeking Help for Opioid Addictions

If you or someone you know is struggling with long-term opioid use disorder, don’t wait any longer. Countless treatment options can help them conquer their addiction and manage any withdrawal symptoms. Remember, quitting potent drugs alone can be life-threatening and produce uncomfortable side effects. It’s essential to have the support and supervision of drug addiction specialists by your side. 

At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we believe in offering customized drug addiction treatment plans. On a case-by-case basis, we look at each program to cater to your needs and get better and walk towards recovery. From detoxification programs to group meetings and more, everyone in our team is committed to helping you win the battle of addiction.

Geraldine Orentas

Geraldine Orentas

Geraldine is Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s Digital Marketing Manager. She has a Bachelor’s in Journalism and experience in the digital media industry. Geraldine’s writing allows her to share valuable information about mental health, wellness, and drug addiction facts, hoping to shed light on the importance of therapy and ending the stigma.
Medical Disclaimer:

Lighthouse Recovery Institute aims to improve the quality of life for anyone struggling with substance use or mental health disorder. We provide fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their outcomes. The material we publish is researched, cited, edited, and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide in our posts is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be used in place of the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider.

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