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The molecular structure of ibogaine
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  • Ibogaine (12-methoxyibogamine) is an alkaloid found in the root bark of the Apocynaceae family of plants, most notably the Tabernanthe iboga shrub. The plant is native to West Africa and can induce a psychedelic experience when consumed.

    Ibogaine has been used for centuries by the Pygmy people and Bwiti tribes as medicine and in spiritual rituals. The word iboga can be translated to “to care for” or “to heal” in various tribal dialects of the Congo Basin. Traditional use of iboga is mainly concentrated in Gabon.

  • Ibogaine is prepared for consumption in three main ways.


    Iboga root bark

    This method of consumption is the traditional route used in Bwiti rituals. The root bark itself can be chewed but is often pulverised and swallowed in spoonfuls or transferred into capsules. The root bark has a bitter taste, and this method has a longer onset time than others, with the effects often lasting longer too.

    Ibogaine content in the root bark is usually low as it is not purified like with other methods. In Bwiti rituals, the root bark is often consumed continually over a period of three days.


    Ibogaine Hydrochloride

    Ibogaine is extracted from the root bark and converted into the hydrochloride salt form via a chemical process. This route of consumption has a faster onset time due to being metabolised more quickly in the body. Ibogaine hydrochloride is a shimmery white powder, which is put into capsules, ingested orally or diluted in liquids.

    Recently, there has been an increase in semi-synthetic production of ibogaine hydrochloride using the precursor voacangine (from the Voacanga africana tree), which is a more sustainable route than using the Tabernanthe iboga shrub, as it is currently critically threatened.


    Total alkaloid (full spectrum) extracts

    The desired alkaloid, ibogaine, is extracted from the root bark. This results in a powder which contains a higher concentration of ibogaine than the root bark. The powder is put into capsules before consumption.

    This method has a gentler, slower onset than the hydrochloride form. It is sometimes used alongside it as a booster dose after an acute detoxification period during substance abuse treatment. It is rarely used as an independent treatment in large doses.

  • Ibogaine produces its effects in the body by binding to various receptors in the brain. Firstly, it binds to 5-HT2A serotonin receptors, activating them and modulating the release of neurotransmitters such as GABA, glutamate and dopamine. These serotonin receptors have some control of cognition, memory, appetite, and mood, for example.

    Secondly, it binds to k-opioid receptors in the brain, activating them and therefore mediating consciousness, motor control, mood and perception of pain.

    Ibogaine is also known to have neuroprotective effects on dopamine and motor neurons, and stimulates the growth of new dopaminergic neurons, which is thought to support the mitigation of cravings for other substances, such as opioids. Dopamine is the main neurotransmitter associated with reward and pleasure and is released when one experiences something that is rewarding. When these dopaminergic neurons are diminished, less dopamine is released from other usually rewarding activities, potentially increasing the cravings for addictive drugs. Evidence for the drug’s effectiveness in this way has been exemplified by the reduction of cocaine and morphine self-administration in animals.

  • The effects of ibogaine differ from those of classical hallucinogens such as DMTLSD, mescaline, and psilocybin.

    Low doses of ibogaine can have stimulating effects. At higher doses, often referred to as a “flood dose”, it acts as a oneirogen, producing waking dreamlike states.

    Effects of the experience include:

    • closed eye visualisations

    • retrieval of repressed memories

    • profound self-reflection

    • ataxia

    • nausea

    • restlessness

    • loss of appetite

    The effects begin around 1-3 hours post ingestion and can last for 12-36 hours.

    Towards the end of the experience, most users experience what is called a “grey day”. As the effects of the ibogaine begin to wear off, the user may experience negative thoughts and feelings and feel guilty, irritable, and upset. The ibogaine experience is long and emotionally taxing, leading to an often uncomfortable recovery period.

    Anecdotal reports state that the negative thinking patterns experienced during this “grey day” (which can last for longer than just one day) are those which the user is later liberated from.

  • Ibogaine is not widely available for medical treatment. However, various clinics have been set up in the US and in Europe which use ibogaine in the treatment of substance abuse. Most notably, ibogaine can be used to help those addicted to certain opioids by treating withdrawal symptoms and reducing or even eliminating cravings and the desire to take the drug again.

    A more scientific investigation must be conducted into the use of ibogaine to treat certain mental health disorders. However, anecdotal reports state that taking ibogaine has improved their mental health. The experience can allow people to regain and reflect on memories and process trauma that they have experienced.

  • Taking ibogaine may cause users to experience some unpleasant side effects. These include:

    • Irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias)

    • Low blood pressure

    • Seizures

    • Gastrointestinal issues

    Ibogaine should be taken in a safe and comfortable environment with trusted people present. This will help to alleviate any stress or discomfort which may be experienced and ensure that support is available if needed. Starting with a low dose can also help to reduce the risk of side effects and unpleasant experiences.

  • Due to some of the negative side effects of ibogaine listed, those with existing heart conditions, blood pressure issues, a history of seizures, and certain mental health conditions such as schizophrenia should avoid partaking in an ibogaine experience.

    Certain medications may also react badly with ibogaine. These include medications which affect the heart (e.g., beta-blockers and anti-arrhythmic medications), SSRIs and antipsychotics.

  • Ibogaine should not be taken alongside other drugs.

    Mixing drugs increases the risks of all substances involved and can be very dangerous.

    After undergoing an ibogaine experience, users should abstain from taking any other drugs for at least 90 days. This is to decrease the chances of any dangerous interaction between ibogaine and other substances in the body. Complete detoxification of the body from any drugs (including alcohol) is also recommended before undergoing the experience to minimise risks of harmful interactions in the body.

  • There is currently no evidence that ibogaine is an addictive substance. Due to the intensity of the ibogaine experience, it is very unlikely that users would like to repeat it regularly.

  • It is vital not to take ibogaine alongside any other drugs. Doing so greatly increases the risks and can lead to fatalities.

    Ibogaine reduces physical tolerance to opioids and alcohol. Therefore, extra care should be taken with regards to dosage if a user decides to consume these substances after taking ibogaine.

    Ibogaine should be taken in a safe and controlled environment, with a trusted person present.

  • Ibogaine will make you feel better instantly

    Ibogaine will not make users feel instantly cured. The “grey day” after the experience is uncomfortable and can be extremely difficult. However, after this time period has ended, the positive effects of the experience will begin to be felt and can be taken forward into life. Work to ensure that the positive effects continue must be done by the person who has undertaken the ibogaine experience.


    Ibogaine is a ‘cure all’

    Whilst ibogaine can be very useful in treating the withdrawal symptoms of many opioids, it cannot do so for all of them.

    There is also very little scientific evidence to support the use of ibogaine for treating mental health disorders despite anecdotal reports.

  • Tabernanthe iboga, the primary source of ibogaine, is critically threatened. This primarily impacts those living in Gabon who rely on the plant for medicine and spirituality.

    All exports of iboga are currently banned in Gabon, and projects have been started attempting to regenerate the population of Tabernanthe iboga.

    Iboga is protected under the United Nations Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing.

    These sustainability concerns have encouraged the move towards using the voacanga tree for the extraction of ibogaine more frequently.

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