Ibogaine, The Powerful Psychedelic That Gets You So High You’ll Need A Diaper

Published May 10, 2018

Though it's considered a Schedule 1 drug, making it illegal in the states, many claim that the drug could be the most helpful substance for opioid addicts.

Iboga Tree Root Powder

Wikimedia Commons The powdered root of the iboga tree, which is where ibogaine comes from.

In 1901, researchers in France isolated a compound that would be the beginning of a revolutionary drug. Over the next 65 years, the compound would be synthesized, creating a psychedelic known as ibogaine. Though it was initially intended to be a hallucinogenic, to take users on the trip of their lives and get in touch with their spiritual sides, the researchers quickly realized a second purpose.

When taken responsibly and in small doses, the drug almost entirely counteracted the side effects of heroin withdrawal, targeting not only the physical symptoms but reducing the psychological craving altogether.

History Of Ibogaine

Tabernanthe Iboga

Wikimedia CommonsTabernanthe iboga tree

Ibogaine was first discovered in Africa, though not as it is synthesized today. The Pygmy tribe, native to West Africa, would often use the drug in its purest form during religious ceremonies. The drug comes from a tree known as the iboga tree, from which the drug also gets its name.

The tribe would pull the roots and bark from the tree, and chew on them in order to achieve a psychedelic state. The drug was often used to enhance religious ceremonies and rituals performed by the tribes. Ibogaine was reportedly so powerful that users lost control of their bodily functions, and needed buckets or diapers nearby in the event that the trip was too intense.

When western researchers visited the tribes, they noticed the psychedelic effects that the drug was having on the Shamans and wondered what else, if mixed with other compounds, the drug was capable of. They had almost no idea what they were getting into but brought the drug home for synthesis anyway.

Ibogaine In Modern Form

Howard Lotsoff

YouTubeHoward Lotsof

In the 1930s, before ibogaine was officially synthesized, the French began to market it as a stimulant under the name Lambarène. The drug quickly became popular among athletes, as it resulted in increased energy and lack of fatigue. However, doctors soon realized there was the potential for cardiovascular injury with long-term use, so Lambarène was quickly pulled from the market.

Researchers were no longer allowed to sell and market the drug, but behind the closed doors of their labs, they continued to test and synthesize the drug. By the mid-60s, they had found a viable, stable form of ibogaine.

Around the same time, a 19-year-old heroin addict accidentally realized that there may be more to ibogaine than researchers realized. The teenager, Howard Lotsof, had taken the drug recreationally with four of his friends after hearing of its psychedelic properties. Coincidentally, as he was getting high on ibogaine, he noticed that his cravings for heroin had subsided. His friends echoed his feelings and additionally noted that they weren’t feeling withdrawal symptoms either.

Before long, the young enterprising addict had come up with a patent for ibogaine and had signed a contract with a Belgian company to produce ibogaine in tablet form with the intent of treating addiction. Clinical trials took off in the late 80s and showed promise in reducing withdrawal symptoms in addicts. But when a 24-year-old woman was given too high a dosage in 1993 and died, the trials were shut down.

Since then, despite its restorative properties, ibogaine has been classified as a schedule 1 substance. It is considered illegal to possess, distribute, and manufacture in the United States.

CIA Usage

Ibogaine Molecule

Wikimedia CommonsIbogaine molecule

Though it’s no longer used to treat addiction (despite many experts pushing for it), rumors abound that throughout history it has been used in other sectors — most notably the MKUltra experiments.

In the early 50s and 60s, the Central Intelligence Agency conducted a series of experiments known as MKULTRA, that pushed the boundaries of the human mind, not to mention medical ethics. One section of the experiments revolved around the prospect of mind control, and the possibility that it could be done with drugs.

According to some, ibogaine was one drug used for MKULTRA. Due to the drug’s tendency to make one more attune with others’ feelings, many believed that it could be adapted for mind control.

When under the influence of ibogaine, one goes through a three-stage high. In the first, known as the “acute” phase, the user becomes hyperaware of their surroundings. A “panoramic” view of past memories has been reported, along with reports of meetings with a transcendent being. During this phase, the user is easily influenced.

During the second and third phases, which can last between 12 hours and three days, the user’s high starts to wear off, but their hyper-awareness of their surroundings and their heightened willingness to discuss their introspection remain. The user’s pliability during these stages further increases the drugs likelihood as a mind-control substance.

Of course, as most of the MKULTRA documents were destroyed, redacted, or can’t be found, there’s no way to tell how large a part, if any, ibogaine played.

Today, researchers in the field of psychedelics are still pushing for ibogaine to be used as an opioid-dependency cure, though movements are so far, slow.


Next, check out another psychedelic drug, peyote. Then, read about the study that proves psychedelic drugs create elevated levels of consciousness.

Katie Serena
Katie Serena is a New York City-based writer and a staff writer at All That's Interesting.
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