Ibogaine as a treatment for substance misuse: Potential benefits and practical dangers

Prog Brain Res. 2018:242:217-257. doi: 10.1016/bs.pbr.2018.08.005. Epub 2018 Oct 12.


Ibogaine is an indole alkaloid found in the root bark of the Iboga shrub native to west Africa possessing hallucinogenic properties. For centuries it has been used in religious ceremonies and to gain spiritual enlightenment. However, since the early 1960s, its apparent ability to reduce craving for psychoactive substances including alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine, opiates, and nicotine has led to its use in detoxification treatments. In many instances, clients receive treatment in non-medical settings, with little by way of robust scientific clinical trials. This chapter provides an overview of the potential benefits that could arise from such research. This is balanced against the serious adverse effects that can occur due to undiagnosed health conditions and/or concomitant use of other drugs. A detailed update is provided of the 33 deaths known to have occurred, including 5 in the UK. Looking forward, there is a need to develop better opiate detoxification treatment against a background of increasing opioid-related fatalities. A congener of ibogaine, 18-MC, appears to be safer and is to undergo clinical trials. In the meantime, would-be consumers and treatment providers must make more careful, detailed risk-assessments before using ibogaine. Treatment outcomes, including deaths, need to be accurately recorded and published.

Keywords: Cure/remedy; Deaths/fatalities; Ibogaine/iboga; Opiate/opioid addiction; Treatment; UK.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic*
  • Female
  • Hallucinogens / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Ibogaine / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Substance-Related Disorders / drug therapy*
  • United Kingdom


  • Hallucinogens
  • Ibogaine