Ibogaine Treatment: A Psychedelic Answer to Opiate and Heroin Addiction

By Aeden Smith-Ahearn

The use of heroin and abuse of opiate pain-relievers has reached an all-time high in the USA. The addictive nature of these drugs has left us scrambling for treatment options that can offer us freedom from this epidemic.

The fact is, traditional treatments don’t work for everyone, and many are starting to look for more effective alternatives. Treatment that results in long-lasting sobriety is different for each individual.

When a traditional method isn’t working, it may be time to consider something new. Ibogaine is one such treatment, and the rise in opiate addiction has led to an increased interest in this alternative treatment for opiate and heroin addiction.

Iboga and Ibogaine

Ibogaine is just one of the many alkaloids found in the Tabernanthe Iboga shrub. Raw Iboga is one of the most powerful psychedelic plants in the world and has been used for its profound spiritual effect on those who experience it.

Iboga plant and Ibogaine molecule. Photo: Samwise – via Chacruna.net

This is why, for centuries, the Bwiti religion of Africa have been using Iboga as a way to induce introspection and a higher self-awareness.

In the early 1900s Ibogaine was extracted from the Iboga root and used by athletes, in very small doses, as a stimulant. At the time, Ibogaine was used because of the way that it excites certain pathways within the brain.

But in the 1960s, all of that changed.

Ibogaine as an Addiction Treatment

Howard Lotsof was suffering from an addiction to heroin when he tried Ibogaine for the first time in 1962. He was 19 years old and experimenting with any substance he could find.

Hours after trying the Ibogaine, Lotsof had an epiphany—he had not taken opiates for almost a day, yet, he had no withdrawal symptoms.

He waited, but the withdrawals never came.

Howard Lotsof. Source: https://psychedelictimes.com/iboga/the-legacy-of-ibogaine-therapy-pioneer-howard-lotsof/


Ibogaine had allowed Lotsof to break his heroin addiction with just one dose. He knew immediately that these implications could have a massive impact on others who were struggling with heroin and opiate addiction.

But, given the importance of this conclusion, Lotsof realized he needed to perform further testing. So, he rounded up a few of his opiate and heroin-addicted friends, gave them the Ibogaine, and the results were stunning—none of his friends went into withdrawal.

This was the beginning of Ibogaine treatment for addiction. As Lotsof introduced more and more studies on the effects of Ibogaine on withdrawal, it became a real point of interest for scientists who were looking for more effective ways to help addicts beat their dependence.

Unfortunately, this also came at a time when the US government began making psychoactive substances illegal. Ibogaine was classified as a Schedule 1 drug, putting it in the same class as the drugs that it was meant to treat. It also made it very difficult for scientists to study its positive effects on addiction.

Lotsof was forced to study Ibogaine and treat addicts in Europe, where he founded the Global Ibogaine Therapy Alliance. He worked hard to try and change the laws in the USA and other countries, but, unfortunately, lacked the resources he considered necessary to do so.


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How Does Ibogaine Treat Physical Withdrawal?

Ibogaine has a unique effect on the chemical levels in the brain.

When the addict begins using opiates, these drugs release massive quantities of chemicals that plug into the brain’s neurotransmitters.

The brain becomes addicted to these high levels of pleasure-inducing chemicals, changing the way that the brain would normally function.

Because of these addictive adaptations, when the supply of drugs is cut off, the brain goes into a frenzy. Depression, seizures, and other symptoms are often the result. This is what we call withdrawal.

Ibogaine has the ability to work on the chemical receptors in the brain. It repairs neurons in the brain that have been damaged due to opioid addiction. It also restores balance to the brain so that naturally produced chemicals can work properly to control feelings of pleasure and happiness.

This gives addicts a fresh start, and the ability to start focusing on changing their lifestyle, instead of just fighting withdrawals.

But Ibogaine doesn’t just treat the withdrawal symptoms, it also affects the brain on a psychological level.

Psychological Effects of Ibogaine

In many addicts, though not all, Ibogaine induces a dreamlike state.

Those who have experienced this state often say that Ibogaine made them face their fears, past traumas, and helped them conquer many of the underlying reasons that caused their addiction in the first place.

This kind of psychological clarity and introspection is unique to the effects of Ibogaine and psychedelic medicines.

This is also why Ibogaine has been recommended, by some, as a treatment for trauma and other mental conditions—such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

The psychedelic effects of Ibogaine have the ability to treat these mental issues in ways that therapy never could. Some describe it as taking a look at themselves from the outside in, finally being able to address the core of their problems and address the root cause.

Is Ibogaine Right for You?

Just like any other treatment method, Ibogaine requires close supervision from medical professionals. Because of the way Ibogaine reacts in the body, it can be dangerous. This is why it is recommended that Ibogaine treatment should be done in a medical setting.

No treatment is risk-free, and it’s important to be educated before undergoing treatment with Ibogaine.

Addiction is a deeply personal disease and one that requires a different type of treatment for every individual. Ibogaine is not for everyone. It’s important to look into all of your options and talk to your physician.

Sobriety is possible. Every individual deserves a happy and successful life. Take the time to study all of the treatment options available and make the right decision for you or your loved one.

About the Author

Aeden Smith-Ahearn was a massive heroin addict for 7 years. After trying every traditional treatment method available, he put his last hop into Ibogaine treatment. Now, he has been clean and sober for 5 years while also helping thousands of addicts find freedom through Ibogaine. He is currently the treatment coordinator for Experience Ibogaine treatment centers and works hard every day to help people find success and happiness in life.

For the Use of Entheogens – Ibogaine

Ibogaine Ceremony

By David Stetson

How can we use our mind, intellect, or heart to diffuse or address the origin of our problems that arise from the same place?

Iboga, Ayahuasca, Kambo, and 5-MeO-DMT have wandered from their origins and into our western culture during an ominous time for humanity – a time that is naturally calling for healing and metamorphosis. At Oka Center, it is our privilege to work with and integrate these medicines with their traditional uses into our lives and the lives of all who come here.  Each guest brings benefits to all who are involved.

For us, the traditional use of entheogens is just as important (or more) as the recently developed ideology and protocols created by western doctors, scholars, and laypeople.  Westerners have only recently started using these medicines significantly within the last 50 – 60 years. Traditional indigenous use is centuries old – perhaps older according to many – and comprises the vast majority of experience with these powerful medicines, not to mention their original discovery. Generations of use has naturally given rise to refined protocols, beautifully disarming spirituality, sublime music, and just the right amount of humor. We include standardized western medical guidelines to ensure safety which is imperative, but not intrusive. Particularly with ibogaine, it is of utmost importance to have medical prescreening, monitoring, and supervision before, during, and after the treatment.

We are grateful for the research and empirical data that has helped to assess the risks and benefits of Ibogaine and other entheogens, particularly from Ken Alper and the late Howard Lotsof.  At the same time, the new trend in attempting to fit entheogens into the framework of the western medical schema is questionable.  

Since there are enough anecdotal reports that suggest so many applications and benefits of these entheogens, it makes sense to try and “legitimize” them in order to make them available in our healthcare system. However, we need an honest review of our healthcare industry – especially within the mental health sector – to gauge how genuine a reference point our system is for validating or practicing any medicine or modality, especially for plant-based medicine which is off limits for patenting.

The enormous profit margins of the healthcare industry would be significantly reduced if lifelong prescription medications were no longer considered final solutions to common mental “disorders.”  You need only do minimal research on the ruthless financial methods and ethics of the healthcare industry to come to some disturbing conclusions.  In our experience, many people coming to Oka Center have reached a point at which their ongoing use of prescribed medications has provided no change or only damaged their situation further.  

For those of you who want to get off hard drugs and have heard about the medicinal value of plant medicine like ibogaine, you might not see the relevance of its traditional use.  Perhaps you have come to ibogaine because of its ability to alleviate opiate withdrawal or interrupt addiction, or your friend of a friend got off dope with ibogaine and it was miraculous.

While we do not force our ceremonially based protocol on anyone, almost everyone – including those coming to get off hard drugs – respond very positively to it. In the end, it is embraced and appreciated as an important element of the healing process.

Ruptured spirituality is common to everyone that comes to Oka Center – drug use or not: We are broken, tired, angry, bored, confused, stressed, frustrated, and oftentimes infinitely sad. Reflection, prayer, song, and dance may seem frivolous at first, but these things are much needed in our lives and are important in respecting the medicine and for laying the groundwork for your experience.

Oka Center - Ibogaine Center in Mexico

In many ways, our western culture has separated itself from nature. As individuals, we have lost an innate intelligence or awareness because of it. What might have been awe and wonder has been replaced with sarcasm and cynicism.  Although our advancements in technology and industry have paved the way for practical efficiency and comfort, the downside is that it is getting increasingly easier to forget where we come from and where we are going. It is normal for us to feel alienated and unhappy in such a competitive, indifferent society built with concrete, computer chips, and suffocating ethical standards and expectations.  Hard drug use is an appropriate response as any attempt to get through each day with a smile on your face.

Whether it is drugs, alcohol, gambling, depression, anxiety, exhaustion, or whatever else we have adopted or suffered from in the attempt to get by, somewhere along the line we realize discomfort, harm, and despair. Naturally, this is when we look for a way out of these negative cycles.  

Beyond a certain point, to truly view and examine ourselves deeply and objectively in waking life can be almost impossible. The attempt at doing so most often ends up being more of the same self-deception. How can we use our mind, intellect, or heart to diffuse or address the origin of our problems that arise from the same place?  

This is one of the main reasons why we advocate for the use of entheogens. The incessant internal rapport we have with ourselves never allows us to look beneath the masks we have created which project the flawless versions of ourselves we present to the world. Entheogens have a way of blasting our masquerade into pieces. With any luck, we are left with a beautiful nightmare that shines a light on our humanness: our fallibility, our fragility, our innate goodness, and our capacity for softness and empathy toward others because at the very root, we all share the same capacity for madness and beauty.

About the Author

David Stetson‘s passion has been Bwiti since his Iboga initiation in 2007. David is extensively well-traveled in Gabon, Africa where he is known as Okukwe.  During his time in Gabon he learned Bwiti traditions, music, and ceremonial practices and is proficient on both the moungongo (musical bow) and ngombi (harp) instruments. David views Bwiti and Ibogaine as a lifeway that champions communion with others while also empowering the individual.  His approach to working and healing with others starts with the awareness of alienation and isolation as common and appropriate responses to our western culture, and is based in non-judgement. Learn more about Oka Center here and check out David’s podcast interview with us here

MDMA – Confessions of an Underground MDMA Therapist

Psychedelic Therapy with MDMA

“Can I use my mind as a tool to help me open a closed heart?”

We talked to a 79-year-old underground MDMA psychotherapist. Remaining anonymous, due to the illegality of this work, he shares some of his greatest insights from his many years of experience helping people with psychedelic therapy. Succeeding a twenty-year hiatus from MDMA therapy, he continues to provide this healing psychedelic work to individuals today. 

The following is an excerpt from our interview. Check out the full audio interview here.

Edited by: Alyssa Gursky

MDMA – Confessions of an Underground Therapist

Psychedelics Today: How did you get exposed to the literature and science around psychedelics in those early days?

Anonymous: It wasn’t the literature. In 1958, when I was 20 years old, someone got a hold of some acid. I was living in Boston and a friend of mine said,

“Would you like to try this new drug?”

I was naïve and I didn’t know. The only drug I’d ever consumed was alcohol. I said, “It is habit-forming?” They said, “No.” I said, “Alright. I’ll try it.”

I told my friend I was going to try it that day. The next day, when I met him on the street, he asks, “How was it?” I said, “Considerably more interesting than the sum total of my life up until this point.”

Psychedelics Today: What has surprised you the most about working with people at MDMA? Do you see rapid transformations? Is it kind of a catalyst for a longer set of transformations or transformational process? How do you think about it?

Anonymous: In order to answer that, I have to emphasize that people are in different stages of understanding and growth in their own level of self-knowledge. Also, people have set a lot of defenses against change in the conscious and unconscious mind.

I especially like looking at relationships; relationship to one’s self, relationship to nature and something beyond one’s self and relationship to one’s friends, to one’s lover, or one’s past lovers, and to the people that push your buttons. Looking at the difference between the way that the relationship feels normally and the way you feel towards the person when your heart is more open because of the medicine is the greatest benefit, in my eyes. Looking at those relationships, people sometimes get glimpses of what it could feel like if their hearts were open instead of closed. Sometimes, they even realize that they do not have any good reason to keep it closed.

Psychedelics Today: It’s like one of its better effects is just kind of a reorientation towards daily life. No need to be closed off, no need to be fearful.

Anonymous:  Of course. That doesn’t mean they don’t go back to being have been closed off and fearful, but when you go back to the old place because you’ve tasted the new place, the old place is never quite the same.

Psychedelics Today: I am am curious if you could share any stories of people’s healing, anonymized, of course.

Anonymous: One comes to mind, a man who was brought up in a minority community out West and was molested by a man who was not part of the community. The man told him at the end, “You better not tell anyone about this or else … ” and he threatened him with something pretty terrible. This young boy did tell. He told his people in his community. They found the man and beat him until he was at the ends of his life. My client told me that he felt really guilty for what had happened, even though it’s not rational to feel guilty. He felt really guilty and the guilt spilled over until many areas of his life and was the sort of central pillar of his psychology, this feeling of being bad, unworthy of love as a result of that.

When he took the medicine, he told me about his situation. I just asked him, “Pretend that it is your son who gets molested and is told that he mustn’t tell and then, he told anyway; how would you feel towards him?” He had a moment’s pause and said, “I will just love him.” Then, he made the connection himself and there was a visible, immediate change that came over his facial expression and looked like a different person. He dropped the majority of his guilt. It stayed with him because I saw him the next day and he still looked much more relaxed, whole, and happy. He said that there was a fundamental shift in him as a result that couldn’t just end when the effects of the medicine wore off.

Relating to my own growth, I found that emotional maturity and self exploration are key portions of my journey. I found that every single relational difficulty that I found in myself, if I looked at it it deep enough, brought me to the same lesson- that I wasn’t being kind to myself. When I’m feeling good about myself, I just don’t have relational difficulties. Of course, most of us have a ways to go before we can feel good about ourselves. Another thing, I realized, is the hurt doesn’t come from rejection, it comes from my taking offense at rejection. If I learn not to take offense, I’ll get hurt a lot less. That would just be an example of a much bigger principle.

Psychedelics Today:  I really appreciate your focus on the relationship aspect of healing work. My teacher and I were discussing  psychedelic use in traditional cultures. To the Native Americans, Peyote usage is all about relationship; a relationship to the medicine, a relationship to the universe. It doesn’t seem like that’s always the case.

When we were asking another teacher about like, “How would you pitch breathwork to somebody that’s interested?” His first response was, “Are you curious? Are you curious about your relationship to the world?” I think that’s kind of like the cornerstone of self-discovery. It’s about learning about your relationship to yourself, learning about your relationship to others, learning about your relationship  to the universe and how you interact with it.

Anonymous: One more side on the matter is that I look at the spiritual literature of the world. I noticed that there’s very little believable and useful literature about intimate partnerships between two equal people in the spiritual literature. Most spiritual literature just says, “Be loving. Be kind. Be forgiving.” That’s very nice, but they don’t talk about how do you do that when your heart is closed?

I think the deepest question when one is in relationship is, am I safe? Is it safe for me to love? Do I need to close my heart in order to stay safe? I believe the answer to that question is always no, but we often think it’s yes.

The MDMA affected my work by the nature of the changes it brought about in me. We saw things about opening… I really saw that the central issue for most people is very simply put, the need to open the closed heart. I look at everything in the world that I found distasteful; war and violence, starvation and hunger, economic inequality, environmental disaster, the stuff that goes on in the homes, and every single thing seemed like it wouldn’t take place if they were loved.

It seemed like the same factor that caused disharmony in the home is what caused war among nations, you know, like “as above, so below.” It felt like there’s this one change needed in the human consciousness which could be summarized by the opening of the closed heart, and that became my biggest interest. Can I use my mind as a tool to help me open the closed heart?

Psychedelics Today:  Looking back at all these years of doing your own self-exploration and providing a space for people to do their own exploration and healing, is there a piece of advice that you have gathered and would like to pass on? You must have seen a lot and been through a lot. To us, you are this elder passing some serious wisdom on. I’m curious if you have any deep insights.

Anonymous: Boy! From what I’ve experienced, I can say that most of the time, people start from an assumption that the world is unsafe. In order to make it safe, they attempt to control people, events, and circumstances. If you start with “I’m not safe,” then the only thing I’ll ever arrive at is, “I’m still not safe.” We’re all looking for a feeling of deep, deep safety. I think safety is like love. The only safety worth anything  is unconditional safety. A safety that doesn’t depend on circumstances is the most valuable because circumstances are out of our control. I think that the piece of advice would be — consider the possibility that the world is safe. Start with that and see where that takes you.

Psychedelics Today:  Thank you for that. That’s a really, really great piece of insight.

If you enjoyed this excerpt of the interview, be sure to check out the full podcast: Confessions of an Underground MDMA Therapist

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MDMA is hugely beneficial for some (most?) people, and it makes sense to optimize for the best outcome. People can now try this on their own. It is easier and safer than ever. With all of the new research being published, this is happening with increasing frequency. Interested in learning about integration and self-care? Be sure to check out our “Psychedelic Integration & Self-Care” course! Free course preview in the sign up link below. Learn about MDMA and many other drugs in the course we created for you and your friends.