This post is written by Dominic Fagan and reflects his subjective views. The views of this post do not reflect the views of Selfhacked. I have not taken or researched Iboga, nor do I plan on taking it, because I don’t need it. I am not part of the group of people who hold that hallucinogens are risk free. I’ve seen some lasting negative effects on people, although I have not had any lasting issues with LSD when I tried it. Iboga is different than LSD, so I can’t speak to the effects of that, but it isn’t well studied. If someone has a serious addiction issue to drugs, then I could see Iboga being something that you should speak to your healthcare practitioner about.
What Is Iboga
Iboga is the name of a tree (Tabernanthe iboga) that grows in western Africa, namely in Cameroon, Gabon and Zaire where it has been used by the indigenous Bwiti tribe in healing and initiation ceremonies for hundreds of years. The root bark of iboga contains a number of active alkaloids, the most well known of which being ibogaine. Ibogaine has a complex, multifaceted mechanism of action, much of which is as of yet, unknown to modern science.
Iboga is one of the few substances known to man capable of curing deep psychological and spiritual ailments such as post traumatic stress disorder and long term addiction, with a single dose. Iboga induces an intense visionary experience in which one dives into ones own psyche and is given the opportunity to heal oneself of deep rooted psychological and physiological ailments. Iboga can literally rewire ones brain chemistry and enable one to break free from old patterns and habits, and recreate oneself and create a new healthy lifestyle.
Iboga is not what it seems on the surface. Iboga gives us the tools to heal ourselves, but we have to use them. It gives us the strength and power to break out of old patterns and habits and develop a new lifestyle.
Iboga can be used in two ways:
- a “flood” is the administration of a high dose of iboga which induces a deep visionary state in which one is immersed in one’s psyche, and faced with one’s inner demons and problems, and given the means to resolve them.
- Microdosing is the administration of low doses which produce little or no visionary effects, but enhance ones energy levels and exhibit antidepressant, and anti-addictive effects.
Iboga alkaloids have numerous proven benefits to ones health and well being, the most widely studied area is treatment of drug addiction, but its healing capacity is vast and encompasses a wide range of psychological and physiological conditions including depression, and post traumatic stress disorder.
Iboga is the only substance known to man capable of clearing PTSD with a single administration. Some of the benefits of iboga include treating:
- Alcoholism [ref].
- Acute opioid withdrawals [ref].
- Opioid dependence [ref].
- Nicotine addiction [ref]
- Meth addiction [ref]
- PTSD [ref]
In the area of treating addiction with iboga, the most widely studied area is in opioid addiction. Not only does iboga alleviate (in some cases completely nullifies) the acute withdrawal symptoms [ref], it also remedies the psychological symptoms for months after the initial acute withdrawal. Many of the benefits of iboga, as of yet have only anecdotal evidence supporting them.
The mainstream Western model can only account for a small portion of the properties of iboga. Iboga contains a number of active alkaloids, many of which having anti addictive properties.
The anti addictive mechanisms of iboga alkaloids are mediated by numerous neurotransmitter systems. Ibogaine activates kappa opioid and sigma-2 receptors, and blocks nicotinic receptors (nACh) .[ref]
Ibogaine has strong activity in the cerebellum, which is why it causes such significant impairment to ones physical balance while on the substance. Ibogaines exceptionally long half life is attributed to its active metabolite noribogaine (half-life of 24-48 hours). Noribogaine is more potent than ibogaine itself. The diagram below illustrates the receptors that ibogaine and noribogaine bind to, and their respective binding affinities (which means how strongly they bind to the receptors, the lower the number, the more strongly they bind):
Due to ibogas complex mechanism of action, it is dangerous to take it alongside other substances, many of the reported deaths that occur during or after administration of ibogaine are due to fatal interactions with medications/drugs. Certain iboga alkaloids have potent SSRI activity [ref], therefore the interaction between iboga and SSRI medications can be fatal.
Cautions (added by Joe)
In humans, ibogaine is used in dosages anywhere from 5 mg/kg of body weight for a minor effect to 30 mg/kg in the treatment of strong polysubstance addiction. Efficacy (and risk) of dosages higher than 30 mg/kg in humans is unknown. In animal neurotoxicity studies, there was no observable neurotoxicity of ibogaine at 25 mg/kg, but at 50 mg/kg, one-third of the rats had developed patches of neurodegeneration, and at doses of 75 mg/kg or above, all rats showed a characteristic pattern of degeneration of Purkinje neurons, mainly in the cerebellum. While caution should be exercised when extrapolating animal studies to humans, these results suggest that neurotoxicity of ibogaine is likely to be minimal when ibogaine is used in the 10–20 mg/kg range typical of drug addiction interruption treatment regimens (R).
My Liberation Story
This is the story of how I freed myself from chemical enslavement (addiction, both physical and psychological). My transformation was catalysed by an iboga ceremony. However, I must note that it is not what it appears on the surface. The iboga did not heal me the easy way like I was hoping. Rather, it gave me the incentive I needed to free myself the hard way. And in doing so, I underwent a complete transformation physically, mentally and spiritually. I was seeking freedom from chemical enslavement, the kind of freedom I found is something far more profound than anything I could have anticipated. The ceremony signaled the beginning of my spiritual awakening. I was chemically enslaved for many years, and after years of being medicated 24/7, I had reached a point where I felt I had no hope of freeing myself from this affliction without some kind of help. Some kind of help that I could not find through mainstream western medicine, or any other commonly known healing practice for that matter. I had tried everything that was available to me, I had exhausted all my options and was left with only one thing left to try. And that was iboga.
Since I was a teenager, I had this idea that I could not be content and happy and content unless I was in an altered state, and the only way I knew of to alter my state was through psychoactive substances. As a result, I was on one substance or another more or less consistently for over a decade. When I was not on some kind of mind altering substance, I was actively searching for a way to alter my consciousness, as I believed that this was the only way to relieve this spiritual ache I was feeling, to scratch that unscratchable itch. For many years I was attempting to scratch that unscratchable itch with cannabis, but it was becoming more and more apparent that I was prone to cannabis induced psychosis which was gradually intensifying to the point that I decided to quit cannabis. At that time I decided to dedicate my life to science and believed that I could pursue my goal of doing my part to relieve the collective suffering of humanity. I believed that I could do this through science. I believed that mind altering substances were the answer to all of humanities problems. That if we could just discover the right way to modulate our neurochemistry, we could overcome what I believed to be the neurochemical causes of all of our pain and suffering. There was a major roadblock on my path to pursuing this dream. I was experiencing chronic fatigue. How could I go through college and become a scientist if I had no energy to do anything?
At the time, I had a neurochemical explanation for all of my troubles and consequently, I sought a neurochemical solution. I believed the solution could be found through pharmacology. My explanation for the fatigue was that I was suffering from a deficiency of monoamine neurotransmitters, and my solution was to find a substance to correct that. Amphetamine was that substance. At first, I believed I had found the solution I was looking for but then realised that it caused all kinds of side effects which were increasing over time. Once again, I sought a neurochemical solution, I started taking various different classes of medications to remedy the side effects and long story short, I went through a 5 year cycle of being on almost every class of medication known to modern man, and one by one they stopped working. It became blatantly clear to me that this path in which I had been seeking salvation for so many years was a dead end. The time had come to stop taking substances, but I had become chemically enslaved and did not know if it was possible to ever recover from the damage and neurochemical changes I had produced in my brain from using myself as a guinea pig for so many years. I had attained the college degree which I believed was going to enable to follow this dream and help people through science, but it was useless now as I had lost my ability to function and did not know if I could ever get through the withdrawal symptoms, let alone regain my ability to function.
I got off the substances and got through the initial withdrawal symptoms but the fatigue had come back with a vengeance and now with a range of other symptoms to go with it. The most notable of which was this inner restlessness. This inability to feel physically relaxed due to a maddening sense of inner restlessness. I believed that it was due to desensitization of my dopamine pathways caused by years of amphetamine use. Combined with the fatigue, it put me in a state where I was too fatigued to do anything, and too restless to relax. I was cornered. Trapped. I found myself again slipping into this cycle of using substances in an attempt to get relief from the symptoms. I tried every potential remedy I knew of, I tried every potential treatment I could afford, I got my blood tested, stool analysed, I went to doctors, acupuncturists, even Reiki masters but nobody could help me relieve this maddening inner restlessness I was feeling. I tried ayahuasca, I tried hypnosis, I even tried Amazonian tree frog venom (aka kambo), but nothing I did gave me any more than some very temporary relief from the symptoms. I was on the edge of despair.
I connected with Joe Cohen around this time period but I was not yet ready for his help because although I had faith that his protocol could heal me physically, there was still the obstacle of addiction to overcome first. Joes help would come in after the ceremony. I had exhausted all my options in life, all potential solutions I could see, all sources of help. All but one. Iboga. The one I had most faith in, but had not yet come upon an opportunity to try. I was well aware of the reputation of iboga as one of the most powerful healing substances known to man, and I was well aware that it is not something to be taken lightly, it is something to be approached with the deepest respect. I knew I was about to embark on possibly the most intense spiritual experience of my life. Having been backed into a corner in life, with nowhere else to go, I was as ready as anyone could be.
I was not fully sure that I would survive the experience as I had no idea how the ibogaine would interact with my unique neurochemistry given that the interaction between iboga and the rare neurophysiological changes I had induced through years of using myself as a guinea pig was uncharted territory. I arrived at a small house in the north of Holland where the ceremony was to be held. There were two people guiding the ceremony, a man and a woman. The woman Maria had this aura about her, she knew exactly what she was doing and there was an almost tangible sense of empathy and compassion coming from her. I felt safe and cared for in her presence. I could rest assured knowing that whatever happened, I was in good hands. There were about 10 others participating in the ceremony. Two of them would play an intricate role in the spiritual awakening that was soon to follow for me. There was Swedish girl named Jennifer – I noted that I instantly felt at ease when she entered the room – and a Bulgarian guy named Dobri, who had scraped together all the money he could to make it to the ceremony. He had to take two planes and two trains to get there. I respected his determination.
Before we received the doses, we were each given a card from a deck of what looked like about 100, these cards had a message written on them which was to guide us in our journey. Dobri sitting to my left pulled his card before me – I noted that his said something along the lines of “you will get all that you desire”. The card I pulled said “you will receive no help from us, you now stand on your own two feet”. I made the joke “which basically means you’re on your own buddy, good luck”. It was a serious joke though, as this is how I interpreted it. The males and females were separated into two different rooms and we each chose a couch, I chose one at the back of the room. We were each given a blanket and a blindfold, and given our doses. The blindfolds were like goggles so that there was space in there which enabled us to keep our eyes open.
Something very bizarre we would all make note of is that while under the effects of the iboga, we could see through the microscopic holes in the goggles, indicating that our eyes can act like a microscopic lens. After taking the first dose, Maria touched each of us on the forehead and said “good journeys”. I was immersed in a dreamlike visionary state, and while I don’t remember this first half of my journey, I remember that it was relatively pleasant. About halfway through the journey, 12 hours in, I was looking into the darkness and a blue face came out of the darkness, I sensed the face was female and had some child like qualities to it. The face cried. This was familiar, I had seen this before, I had dreamt about this happening a week before the ceremony. It was an intense dream exactly a week before the ceremony which left me disturbed. This time though, I felt an emotion with the cry. It was a mixture of sadness and love. I knew exactly what this emotion means – it means compassion. About 2 seconds later, I heard a physical cry coming from the room where the females were, it was Jennifer’s voice. This signaled the beginning of the point at which my visions turned dark, and my experience became challenging.
I was now immersed in an intense spiritual struggle. The iboga began bringing to the surface years worth of insidious beliefs, ideas and mental viruses which had got lodged in my mind over the years, and began releasing them in front of my eyes. It was like the equivalent of running an antivirus on my mind. I found myself faced with the most intense spiritual battle of my life. I was up against what I perceived to be a system of spiritual enslavement which had human consciousness trapped in a limited reality, and that this system was designed to enslave consciousness (not just human consciousness, but also animals) and inflict suffering upon us. It was something so deeply disturbing, so deeply sad that I had no choice, I had to battle this system. I did not believe that I could take on something so immense by myself and was hoping that I would have some help, but then I remembered the card I had pulled at the beginning of the ceremony which told me that I will receive no help and that I am on my own. I had to face this spiritual battle alone. Having no choice gave me all the drive and incentive I needed, I battled this system of corruption with all my might, I performed extremely well, my timing was impeccable. My mission was to free humanity from as much suffering as I possibly could. It was becoming increasingly evident that I could not defeat this system alone, it was too well designed, every attack I made, the system had been prepared for. As the visions began to subside, I was left feeling utterly defeated on every level. I had failed my spiritual mission. There was no hope. Humanity was enslaved in this spiritual trap and there was no way out. I would not sleep for the next three days and I went into a state of psychosis in which all of my deepest fears surfaced and I had to face them.
Facing the Shadow
The iboga created the situations in which I was forced to face my deepest fears. A series of mind blowing synchronicities involved both Jennifer and Dobri created these conditions in which my deepest fears would surface, and in which I felt I had no choice but to face them head on by accepting them. It turns out my deepest fears were of hell and evil spirits. Fears I had been carrying since I was a little kid. I believed that I had ripped open a portal to hell by not preparing adequately for the ceremony and that I would live the rest of my existence in a state of suffering. I believed that someone else at the ceremony, Dobri was possessed and that the entity jumped from host to host, and that I was its next stop. What made me feel I had no choice but to accept these fears was Jennifer. At about 3 in the morning, I heard her wake up crying. I believed she was being tormented by spirits and that I had to go up there and help her. It took all of my courage to break through this fear I was feeling, so I went up there and asked “do you need help” and she said “yeah” so I went into the room, and she was sitting on the bed and told me she has something for me. She asked me to promise to keep it and protect it forever, which I agreed. She then pulled it out of her bag. It was a stone. The stone had a hole in the center of it. She handed it to me and said “you’re through”. This sense of dread overwhelmed me. In the state I was in, her handing me a stone, it seemed so deeply ominous, but I had promised her that I would take it so I had no choice. I believed this sealed my fate, that it meant I was doomed. And that the hole in the center of the stone I thought symbolised the portal to hell, and her telling me “you’re through” was in reference to me passing through this portal.
I believed that if I kept the stone, I would be possessed and spend the rest of my existence in hell and that if I did not keep the stone, then Jennifer would have to suffer that fate. It was the most difficult thing I had to do in my life. I had no choice, I had to accept that horrible fate. I was going to be possessed. The following morning, I still had not slept but somehow, like magic, the psychosis symptoms wore off and a deep peace came over me. I realised how absurd my beliefs the previous night had been, my mind and logic had returned to normal. I now saw Jennifer handing me the stone as a positive thing.
After the ceremony was finished, we were driven to the train station. I had booked a hotel room to stay in Holland an extra night. That night at the hotel room, something happened me. I began feeling a sense of love in my heart. It was slowly intensifying. It kept intensifying. I realised something profoundly significant was happening as I had never experienced anything like this in my life, but I didn’t question it. It got so intense, that I thought I might be dying. I was crying tears of joy. I was having visions. I felt energy moving throughout my body, I felt like I was no longer just male, like I was androgynous. I felt that it was connected to the stone and Jennifer, but that this was most certainly a paranormal experience. I felt compassion more intense than anything I knew possible.
Over the next week, I felt the intense love and was continuing to experience the vision and feeling of spiritual unification with Jennifer. I knew in my heart that this was the greatest thing that had ever happened to me, this spiritual unification was beyond anything I could have ever asked for in this life, I had transcended suffering and entered paradise and the most beautiful aspect of it was I was now spiritually connected to another being. In the beginning, I was not questioning it, I was just letting it be, but over the course of the week, my mind started thinking and analysing more and more and as it did, the suffering began coming back and the moment came when I thought the source of love had been ripped away forever, and this plunged me into the darkest place I have ever been in life, with pain more intense than anything I knew possible, all I could do was pray to God to set me free from the suffering.
The universe connected me with Jennifer, and in doing so gave me the inspiration and means to pull myself out of the hole I was buried in. I had the feeling I had to fight to get back to the state of intense love, that I had to change my lifestyle to a healthy one so I quit drugs completely, I started eating healthy and started exercising. I began challenging myself and facing my fears each day, the practice I started with was swimming in the cold sea. Initially it was absolutely terrifying getting into the icy water, but the more I did it, the more I realised that the fear was becoming less and less of an inhibition, that I could just dive in and do it. The early days after the iboga ceremony were both the best days and the worst days of my life, the most difficult, and the most wonderful and beautiful. Gradually as the intensity balanced, I regained my ability to function and operate in life in a happy and joyful way and quite soon I was functioning better than I was able to on substances, and accessed states greater than any drug induced state I had ever experienced. I began daily meditation after a few months, which was initially extremely challenging for me, but with time became natural and part of my daily practice. My physical and emotional state has been up and down, there have been periods of illness and emotional distress, and there have been periods of good health and joy. This is the time period I integrated the anti lectin diet I learned from Joe Cohen into my lifestyle, and this is when I discovered that diet was indeed a major cause of the fatigue and brain fog I had been experiencing for many years.
Along the way I tapped into states of love greater than anything I had known before iboga, and tapped into states of universal compassion so intense, it was made clear this is the most powerful force in the universe. It reinforced what I’ve always known in my heart, that kindness and compassion are the holiest of holy, the truest expression of God. Our true nature. That we’re all in this thing together, and that under the ego, love and unity is our nature.
Attending the iboga ceremony, and experiencing the spiritual/heart awakening that followed, and connecting with Jennifer has been the greatest thing that ever happened to me. There have been many challenges and struggles and even setbacks along the way, and what I have come to realise is that we are all where we are meant to be, we are all on our own unique path of evolution and we all awaken in our own time, in our own way. We’re all the one consciousness playing a game of separation in which we get to know ourself on a deeper level.
Iboga does not give you what you want, it gives you what you need. In my case, I needed the incentive to pull myself up out of the hole I had found myself in.
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