Iboga is a psychedelic plant native to central Africa and is used in tribal rituals. The active ingredient is ibogaine, which may have addictive properties.
Tabernanthe iboga, or iboga, is a rainforest shrub that grows year-round in Central Africa. Leaves of iboga contain ibogaine, which acts as a stimulant or a psychedelic depending on the dose. Lower doses have stimulant properties, and high doses cause hallucinations.
Iboga is used in tribal initiation rituals in Africa and has a history of use around the world, treating addiction to opioids and other substances. Iboga’s utility in the United States is limited because it is classified as a Schedule I substance by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). A Schedule I substance has no accepted medical utility and a high potential for abuse and addiction.
People who struggle with iboga abuse may need professional help to stop using iboga. Iboga treatment is similar to other types of drug addiction treatment.
How Is Iboga Addiction Treated?
Little is known about the addictive properties of iboga and ibogaine because it is not a common drug of abuse in the United States. However, we do know that ibogaine works by binding to similar receptors as opioids, so it has some addictive potential.
Iboga can be obtained outside of the United States and online. Iboga addiction is treated in the same way as any other substance use disorder or drug addiction, with a combination of medical, psychiatric and behavioral therapy.
What is iboga treatment? Addiction treatment can be broken down into a few main steps, which include:
- Detox: This first phase of rehab is the period when the drug leaves the body. The body has natural mechanisms to remove foreign substances and return to a healthy state of functioning. Ibogaine has a half-life of about six hours, which means the body removes half of the drug in that amount of time. Ibogaine will be completely cleared in about 24-48 hours.
- Withdrawal and medical treatment: Withdrawal symptoms may start during or after the initial detox period. Due to ibogaine’s legality, it’s difficult to say how long withdrawal might last. Since the drug affects opioid receptors, it may work like other opioid drugs. Therefore, withdrawal could last weeks or longer. Some withdrawal symptoms may require medical treatment, which is treated with prescription medication or a doctor observing to make sure symptoms do not become life-threatening.
- Therapy: Therapy for addiction involves teaching new habits, like healthy eating, regular exercise, and positive interpersonal relationships.
- Long-term support: Addiction is a disease and recovery for some people might be a permanent journey, especially those with a risk for relapse. Long-term support may include outpatient treatment with a therapist in an individual or group setting.
Types of Rehab for Iboga Addiction
Rehab for iboga addiction can be broken down into detox, inpatient rehab, residential treatment, and outpatient rehab. Each type of treatment has pros and cons. If a person is considering addiction treatment for iboga, they should consider the type of rehab program they might need.
Detox for Iboga Abuse
The first part of rehab for iboga is typically a detox program to cleanse the body of all traces of iboga. The best treatment centers will offer medical detox care, which includes medical support 24 hours a day until each client is physically and mentally stable.
Inpatient Rehab for Iboga Abuse
Inpatient treatment takes place in a treatment facility with a team of psychiatrists, counselors, physicians (for medical care), social workers and others. An advantage of inpatient rehab is the individualized approach the team can take.
Inpatient treatment removes negative influences and is very effective at achieving initial sobriety without relapse.
Consider that inpatient treatment, while effective, is the most expensive treatment option. It is also more time consuming and requires that a person take time off work or school.
Outpatient Rehab for Iboga Abuse
Due to the unknown nature of Iboga and ibogaine in the United States, outpatient treatment is probably not available in most areas. Addiction specialists will not be familiar with Iboga and may recommend inpatient treatment for this reason.
If outpatient therapy is chosen for Iboga addiction, it is a lower cost and more accessible option. Those in outpatient treatment programs attend weekly classes or therapy sessions to help maintain sobriety.
A dual diagnosis means that someone has both a substance use disorder and a mental health diagnosis like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or depression. Dual diagnoses require additional psychiatric treatment to help separate the symptoms of substance abuse and mental health disorders.
For example, someone with schizophrenia taking iboga may experience mood swings from the drug or the disease. Many addiction specialists lack the training for dual diagnosis treatment because they must be able to differentiate between very subtle symptoms. For those needing dual diagnosis treatment, they should carefully research the treatment facility beforehand.
Types of Therapies to Expect During Rehab
The field of psychology now has decades of research and multiple types of therapy to help treat the disease of addiction. Therapy is tailored to the individual needs of the patient and the disease. Some of the most common types of therapy in addiction treatment are:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): Teaches the person to recognize and correct negative thoughts that lead to destructive behavior. For example, someone becomes upset when their partner does not pay attention to them, so they take iboga to manage their stress. A therapist using CBT would confront the patient with a question like, “What other activities can you do instead of taking iboga to relieve your stress?” or, “When your partner upsets you, do those feelings help or hurt you?”
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT): This therapy is similar to CBT but more useful for people with certain personality disorders or a dual diagnosis. A therapy modality, DBT stresses mindfulness and awareness of one’s emotional reactions as well as thoughts.
- Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT): Essentially, IPT focuses on the role of interpersonal relationships and how they impact addiction. Therapy will focus on relationships to friends, family, and others close to the patient.
Group therapy is structured and to be effective follows a set of rules. Here is an example set:
- Do not use alcohol or any kind of illicit drugs before group
- Complete homework assignments and bring them into group
- All members need to participate in all group sessions
- Exhibit appropriate behaviors in groups
- Do not talk about group members who are not present
Group therapy helps integrate social skills into therapy sessions in ways that a therapist cannot accomplish alone. The relationship between a client and therapist by necessity must have boundaries, so group therapy encourages more natural discussions and can be an effective tool for some people in the healing process.
Most people see individual therapy and think of talk therapy. However, other types of individual therapy include yoga and meditation, art therapy or music therapy.
Individual therapy can focus on finding and building self-esteem for the individual. Often addiction is linked to personal, rather than interpersonal, factors.
Individual therapy helps build coping skills and healthy habits as an alternative to addiction.
How Long Is Iboga Rehab?
The length of treatment can range from weeks to months depending on the severity of the addiction. Important factors to considers are: Can the person quit without help? Do they experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop? Do they have coping skills to replace substance use?
At a minimum, treatment will last a few months. Someone with substance use disorder requiring treatment will need education and basic coping skills. Classes typically last one or more months.
An addiction that impairs daily functioning requires months to years of treatment with more intense therapy and monitoring.
Addiction that involves several substances or a dual diagnosis will also necessitate a longer time in rehab.
Ongoing Recovery for Iboga Addiction
Iboga addiction, like any addiction, will require long-term support and treatment. A good rehab facility will have connections to the community in which a person lives and continue to provide treatment after the initial rehab.
Continued support is similar to initial rehab treatment and can include:
- Group and individual therapy
- Medication management
- Follow-up appointments with doctors
- Aftercare planning from a rehab center
How to Find the Right Rehab for Iboga Addiction
Consider several factors when choosing the right rehab center. Not all rehab centers are the same, so when you are shopping around, starting asking these questions for yourself or a loved one:
- Comfort: Do I need to bring my bedding and toiletries? Is this a single- or multiple-gender facility? Do residents have roommates? Do residents have private bathrooms? What kind of other patients do you treat?
- Family and friend involvement: Are visits from family and friends allowed? If so, what part can they play in recovery?
- Location: Is the location close to home? Is it isolated from nearby towns or is it easy to get to?
- Meal plans: Does the facility support special diets? Who is the food vendor and who prepares meals?
- Treatment approach: Are clinicians up to date on the most recent treatment approaches? Do you have primary care (medical) treatment in addition to psychiatric treatment?
Do you need help finding a recovery and treatment center for Iboga or ibogaine addiction? Call The Recovery Village to discover information about treatment centers in your area.
Brown, Thomas Kingsley. “Ibogaine in the Treatment of Substance Dependence.” Current Drug Abuse Reviews, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2019.
Koenig, Xaver, and Karlheinz Hilber. “The Anti-Addiction Drug Ibogaine and the Heart: A Delicate Relation.” Molecules, 2015. Accessed June 17, 2019.
Nova Southeastern University. “Objectives, Procedures, Client Handouts, Pregroup Planning, and Sample Round-Robin Discussions Group Session 1.” 2011. Accessed June 17, 2019.
PubChem. “Ibogaine.” 2019. Accessed June 17, 2019.
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