What to Look for in an Ibogaine Treatment Center
The Different Types of Ibogaine Centers
Ibogaine is a psychoactive substance, an alkaloid extracted from the root bark of the tabernanthe iboga shrub found in equatorial west Africa. Ibogaine has become a popular alternative to addiction and mental health treatment known for its ability to heal neurons and synapses in the brain, while inducing a rapid eye movement dream-like state that many say addresses psychological trauma, and interrupts physical withdrawal and post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS).
However, ibogaine has risks. It can cause cardiac and liver complications and these complications can be fatal if not monitored and addressed properly. The best way to mitigate risk is to book a stay at a safe ibogaine treatment center. There are different ways to experience ibogaine therapy. Most commonly, options include:
- A traditional ceremony with Bwiti rituals and providers who have been initiated into Bwiti, the West African belief system where iboga root bark is a rite of passage. These centers usually have more experience with psychospiritual sessions, rather than substance abuse. Song and dance are a large part of the experience and there is usually a doctor and/or medical personnel who are on-site for the ceremony. Emergency preparation and medical equipment are also on-site, but the focus is heavily on the ritual of the ceremony.
- Holistic and therapeutic medically monitored centers, where the provider usually has completed an apprenticeship at another ibogaine treatment center. These centers are typically structured around clinical protocols and medical monitoring, but offer it in a non-invasive and holistic atmosphere. Therapeutic modalities and integration are often included. Medically monitored centers are usually fully staffed with medical personnel, therapists and counselors, apprentices, and ibogaine providers. These centers range from humble and grounded to luxurious and full resort-like set-ups.
- Clinical treatment centers operated out of medical centers and hospitals. Ibogaine treatments are directed by doctors and medical staff. Clients are treated as patients. While some holistic centers may have a heart monitor on-site, a medical clinic set-up will have a heart monitor for every client and as a standard part of the treatment protocol. Some clinics have CCTV over each patient bed. There are no safety shortcuts at medical clinics providing ibogaine.
There is no shortage of ibogaine treatment centers and centers are located around the world from North America to South America, Europe to SE Asia, South Africa, and going to Gabon is an option for people in good physical health. Regardless of the set-up and focus a center chooses to center its atmosphere around, medical monitoring is vital to patient safety. Choosing an ibogaine treatment center can be overwhelming, follow this guide to vet your options carefully. This guide does not focus on Bwiti in Gabon with respect due to the lineage holders of this medicine and the limited knowledge of Bwiti by the author.
Ibogaine Provider Information
When choosing an ibogaine provider or ibogaine center, vetting your searches is key for safety and an optimal outcome. Ibogaine providers usually have a staff to support their clients and the treatments they offer. Use this guide to vet ibogaine providers and their centers; be thorough.
Call a wide variety of providers and centers and get a feel for the staff who will be supporting the experience. How long have they been working with ibogaine? Did the provider train? If so, with who and for how long? Research who they trained with and learn if they have a good reputation as well as a long history in the industry. The longer someone has been working with ibogaine, the more different types of unique circumstances they have seen.
The support staff should also have some experience with ibogaine. Multiple people on staff should have experienced ibogaine for themselves. Ideally, the person administering medicine will have at least one year of experience, but keep in mind that there are centers with providers who have had 10-20 years of experience.
It is important to find someone where it feels comfortable and natural to be 100% honest. The more a provider knows about a prospective client’s particular situation, the better of a job they can do.
Many ibogaine providers have a history of substance use. While this can be a strength for the job, peripheral staff should be many months away from their drug use, and providers should have a considerable amount of time away from their drug use. It is important that providers and their staff have spent time living without substance use and have worked through their trauma and spent time learning healthy coping skills.
Ibogaine Center History
Different treatment centers have different specialties and more experience in specific areas of interest for ibogaine treatment. Many people write down the reasons for their treatment and their intentions. Find out how much experience a center has with these reasons for treatment, with the medications one may be on, and the specific things unique to one’s physiological history. The risks that come with ibogaine therapy are often specific to the reasons people seek out ibogaine or the unique physiological or pharmaceutical history of the individual. Tell prospective centers everything and be specific.
Feel confident asking for references. Talk to people who have also sought treatment with the ibogaine centers you are interested in attending. Ask for more than one. Call these people and ask about their experiences.
Find out who the center has on their staff. Regardless if a client is interested in a traditional ceremony, holistic, or clinical approach to their experience, medical staff should be present. At the very least, a doctor who is consulted with and is nearby during treatments and a registered nurse or paramedic who is present for the full dosing of ibogaine and immediate days afterward is imperative for a safe session. It is also important to ask what sort of therapeutic and integration staff will be on site.
Ibogaine Medical Requirements
Pre-screening can eliminate many of the risks that come with ibogaine treatment.Ibogaine providers and their medical staff should have a screening process that determines if their prospective clients are good candidates for an ibogaine session. At a minimum, a 12 lead electrocardiogram (EKG) and a complete metabolic panel should be required for screening.
These results may lead to more tests. Aside from providing test results, a complete medical screening should occur with your chosen provider. Prospective clients should expect to give a full medical and psychiatric overview and history as part of the screening process. Following screening should be an extended period of time to focus on preparation for the experience.
There should be information regarding hydration, electrolyte intake, medication, supplement cessation and tapering, nutritional information, contraindications to avoid, and monitoring for regular bowel movements. For opioid users, this can be particularly challenging, and a gentle cleanse ahead of time will be required.
There needs to be medical equipment on site. At a minimum, any operational ibogaine center should have an EKG machine, an AED (defibrillator), emergency medications such as benzodiazepines and atropine, I.V. bags, and an oxygen tank. Many centers will also have a full crash cart. Along with medical equipment, close proximity to a hospital that can administer a pacemaker is imperative. Medical intervention should be within 15 minutes of the center. Someone on staff should have a relationship with the hospital so the hospital is prepared for an ibogaine-related emergency. Is everyone on staff trained for an emergency?
Ibogaine Treatment Safety Protocols
For those seeking out ibogaine for substance use and dependency, it’s important to ask how long clients are under observation and stabilized before ingestion of ibogaine. In general, longer is better. This gives a provider time to get to know the rate of substance metabolization, baseline vitals and EKG, and how one may respond to large doses of ibogaine. Four days of stabilizing is a good number to look for, and some substances might require more time. Four days is also a good number for post-ibogaine observation. Fatalities have occurred up to 3-4 days after ibogaine ingestion. Discharging a client earlier carries risk.
Prospective clients should also ask about the methodology of a center’s dosing. Dosing should be individualized and based upon a variety of factors, including EKG, blood pressure, pre-screening information, liver enzymes, reaction to smaller test doses in the days before treatment, the reason for treatment, body weight, and basic vital signs.
“Intuition dosing” and dosing only by body weight carry significant risk. Along with methodology, find out how often clients are monitored. Clients should have basic vital signs and blood pressure monitored every 20-30 minutes for the first 24 hours and should continue to be monitored for at least 72 hours in total. Centers will often do an EKG at the beginning of an ibogaine session and also after a session to ensure a client’s cardiac system has returned to baseline. Urine analysis to check for contraindicating substances should occur before any ibogaine is ingested.
After-care and integration are equally as important as preparation and treatment. While many of the life-threatening risks of ibogaine have simmered down by the time a client returns home, the process of healing is just beginning. Does the center have an integration phase to their program? What do they suggest for post-treatment integration when clients return home? Did the provider give safety information to the client for returning home? There are some risks, such as using any substances, in the weeks following ibogaine, that every client should be made aware of. Knowledge in this area is going to help clients have a well-rounded experience. Clients with mental health diagnoses may have challenging behavioral patterns that are best addressed by a center with a therapeutic setup.
Ibogaine is a very individualized experience. People seek out ibogaine treatment for many different reasons. There is no “one size fits all answer,” and it’s crucial to find a program and center that works for each individual’s specific needs and intentions. Most importantly, use your intuition and get to know your prospective ibogaine provider and their staff well through a series of phone calls and emails. This is a big thing to do and something many people only do one time. There is no reason to rush the process.