Very few studies have reported the effectiveness of ibogaine as a treatment for chronic opioid use. Therefore, this study evaluated the acute subjective effects of ibogaine, outcomes on problematic opioid consumption, and the long-term associations with psychological functioning.
Using online data collection, 88 patients who received ibogaine treatment in Mexico between 2012 and 2015 completed our survey.
Most participants (72%) had used opioids for at least 4 years and 69% reported daily use. Most (80%) indicated that ibogaine eliminated or drastically reduced withdrawal symptoms. Fifty percent reported that ibogaine reduced opioid craving, some (25%) reporting a reduction in craving lasting at least 3 months. Thirty percent of participants reported never using opioids again following ibogaine treatment. And over one half (54%) of these abstainers had been abstinent for at least 1 year, with 31% abstinent for at least 2 years. At the time of survey, 41% of all participants reported sustained abstinence (>6 months). Although 70% of the total sample reported a relapse following treatment, 48% reported decreased use from pretreatment levels and an additional 11% eventually achieved abstinence. Treatment responders had the lowest rates of depressive and anxious symptoms, the highest levels of subjective well-being and rated their ibogaine treatment as more spiritually meaningful compared with treatment non-responders.
The results suggest that ibogaine is associated with reductions in opioid use, including complete abstinence, and has long-term positive psychological outcomes. Future research should investigate the efficacy of ibogaine treatment using rigorous longitudinal and controlled designs.
This study examined the lived experience of individuals who underwent ibogaine treatment for an opioid use disorder.
Semi-structured interview questions probed for potential changes in predetermined categories derived from a literature review. Participants’ experiences with ibogaine were analyzed for commonalities and emergent themes.
Categories that emerged revealed themes about subjective neurological and physical effects, auditory and visual phenomena, impact on withdrawal and craving, and shifts in outlook on self and life.
Ibogaine treatment provides a subjectively powerful physiological, emotional, and psychological experience, attenuates opioid withdrawal, and results in a more optimistic outlook on self and life.