The History of Ibogaine

The History of Ibogaine

Iboga was first discovered in western central Africa by the pygmies.  They used it for its hallucinogenic and healing properties and spread the knowledge to others including the people of Gabon where it is still used in their Bwiti practice as a way to evoke the spirits of their ancestors and to heal. 

Iboga made its way to the west in the mid 1800s.  In 1901 two French scientists extracted the main alkaloid from the plant and called it Ibogaine.  It was formatted into a prescription drug, Lambarene, and prescribed as a neuromuscluar stimulant to combat fatigue and depression.

Ibogaine’s addiction treatment effectiveness was realized by Howard Lotsof in 1962.  Lotsoff, at that time a heroin addict, took Ibogaine as a recreational drug.  He realized that once the effects of Ibogaine wore off that he had no desire to use heroin or cocaine and he was not suffering any withdrawal symptoms.  Lotsoff devoted his life to helping others recover from addiction and working towards making Ibogaine a mainstream addiction treatment.

Iboga Today
In much of the world Ibogaine is an unlicensed, unrestricted, experimental medication and is used successfully to treat many addictions.  The US rated it as a schedule 1 drug in the 1967 due to its hallucinogenic properties, and, although clinical trials have been approved since then, funding for research continues to be an issue.

There are several reasons cited for the lack of research and federal approval all of which are financial and have nothing to do with helping people or the effectiveness of this medicine.  One of the reasons is that, as a plant, Ibogaine cannot be patented so pharmaceutical companies are unwilling to invest in research due to the limited return on their investment.  Another reason is that Ibogaine is so effective that it usually only needs to be taken once – so there is no long term “customer”.

Currently addicts are prescribed Methadone, Subutex and/or Suboxone.  Often these drugs are more difficult to withdraw from than heroin as they can include up to 35 weeks of withdrawal symptoms.  A traditional US clinic receives approximately $24,000 per individual per year for supplying daily Methadone doses and approximately $5000 per year for Suboxone treatment.  In 2016 40% of all U.S. opioid overdose deaths involved a prescription opioid.  More than 46 people died every day from overdoses involving prescription opioids. The most common drugs involved in prescription opioid overdose deaths are Methadone, Oxycodone (such as OxyContin®) and Hydrocodone (such as Vicodin®). (source: 

Rehab centers usually range from $15,000 to $70,000 for a 30 day treatment and have very low success rates resulting in additional treatments being needed.  Obviously there is much money to be made using the currently approved treatments/methods. As more and more people become aware of the risks of pharmaceutical medications and turn to nature for a cure we are seeing increased interest in these ancient healing plants such as marijuana, psilocybin, ayahuasca and Ibogaine.