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  • Writer's pictureDr. Martin Polanco

What are the risks of ibogaine?

Ibogaine is a potent medicinal substance that has been used for centuries by the Bwiti tradition in Gabon. Their use of iboga, from where ibogaine is extracted, includes rites of initiation and healing ceremonies. During their ceremonies the whole community gather and play instruments like the Mwimbi harp and drums to support the initiate going through the medicinal journey. The ceremony usually takes 3 or more days during which the individual is carefully prepared, taken care of and guided by the shaman and other participants. How do the Bwiti manage the risks of taking iboga?

Ibogaine has been used for addiction detox for more than a decade, and much has been learned about its risks and what it’s important to consider for safe treatments. Some of the risks associated with taking ibogaine are related to the person’s mental, physical and emotional health. Most complications from taking ibogaine are related to medical conditions like cardiac risk factors, ingestion of medications that increase the risks of arrhythmias and from abusing drugs after an ibogaine treatment.

The majority of risks associated with ibogaine treatments can be mitigated by medical screening prior to treatment and educating the patient on the risk of taking drugs after ibogaine. The most important part of the screening process is to have trust and have open communication between provider and patient. Part of the medical screening to consider is whether an individual is qualified for an ibogaine treatment. It includes an electrocardiogram, basic metabolic panel, pharmacological history, medical history, mental and personality assessments.

  • EKG: An electrocardiogram is a snapshot of the heart’s electrical activity and helps determine if there are pre-existing cardiac conditions. A patient undergoing ibogaine treatment should be required to submit an EKG to confirm their cardiac health.

  • Metabolic blood panel: Blood chemistry is indicative of a patient’s overall health, particularly their liver health (which is of particular concern with ibogaine treatments). Altered levels of electrolytes are also problematic with ibogaine administration.

  • Medical History: A complete medical history should be completed before an ibogaine treatment to check for any conditions that may be contraindicated with ibogaine. It is important for patients to be completely honest when answering all questions to avoid possible risks.

  • Mental and Personality Assessments: Every patient should go through a psychological screening to determine the overall mental health. Some mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, may be a disqualifier for treatment.

Ibogaine affects the heart and the cardiovascular system, lowering the heart rate and potentially causing arrhythmias. Cardiac issues are the most common cause of ibogaine-related deaths, from the nineteen deaths reported between 1998 and 2008. All of the deaths were related to pre-existing conditions. Since some patients may not know of any heart condition, an electrocardiogram and medical screening assessment can provide information on any pre-existing conditions.

The number of deaths from ibogaine is relatively low, according to a report from 2012 there were 19 reported cases of people dying from ibogaine between 1990 and 2008. Even so, it’s important to be educated about the risks related to ibogaine and who are considered to be high-risk for treatment.

Ibogaine is known to intensify the effects of opioids, methamphetamine and cocaine, so it's very important that there are no contraindicated drugs in the system if the person is undergoing ibogaine therapy. And to abstain from using drugs after the treatment since the body becomes more sensitive to the substances and there’s a high risk for overdose after an ibogaine detox.

Another important aspect to consider for a safe treatment is mental illness, those who suffer from mental illness may be self-medicating with drugs of abuse. It is recommended that all patients go through a mental health screening to identify any disorder that may disqualify them for ibogaine treatment.

Ibogaine treatment is safe when provided by experienced professionals with medical protocols. The importance of being aware of the risks empower the individual looking for an ibogaine treatment to choose the most trustable and safe provider and clinic. Crossroads Treatment Center focuses on providing safe ibogaine treatments based on the most up to date information and research. Our medical and therapeutic team have years of experience providing ibogaine therapeutic treatments with the utmost care and compassion for each patient.

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