Ibogaine Treatment & Therapy For Depression/Anxiety

Mental illness is a topic that is gradually receiving more attention in modern society; although, historically, it is a topic that does not get much discussion.  Interestingly, however, mental illness is pervasive and has far-reaching and long-lasting implications to our overall health on the individual and societal levels.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental illnesses in the United States, affecting 40 million adults.  Furthermore, depression is an even more common disorder, affecting about 15.7 million adults in the United States.  

There are a number of different treatment options available to address anxiety disorders and depression, and that number is increasing as attention on this topic grows.  Scientific evidence shows a correlation between deficiencies in certain chemicals within our brains called endogenous neurotransmitters and these types of mental conditions.  The standard prescriptive treatment focuses on restoring systemic balance by controlling these chemicals.  There is some intriguing evidence from certain studies that ibogaine can aid in the treatment of some anxiety and depressive disorders over an extended period of time after medication administration.              


Anxiety Disorders and Depression


An anxiety disorder generally involves persistent worry or fear that interferes with daily activities including job performance, relationships, and school.  The anxiety is not temporary, and it can become more pervasive over time.  Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of varying risk factors including life events, brain chemistry, genetics, and temperament.   


Social Anxiety Disorder

Social Anxiety Disorder involves significant fear of social situations wherein an individual may feel embarrassed, judged, rejected, or fearful of offending others. This type of disorder leads to avoidance behaviors and physical symptoms associated with fear.   


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychological reaction in response to a particularly stressful event. This disorder triggers recurring memories, flashbacks, and nightmares of the event; and, individuals suffering from PTSD may be anxious and fearful even without danger present.


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a chronic, pervasive condition during which an individual has repetitive thoughts and behaviors that are irrepressible.    “Obsessive” refers to the repetitive, chronic thoughts that trigger anxiety, and “compulsive” refers to the repetitive behaviors an individual pursues in response to the obsession.    



Generally, Depression is a chronic state of sadness, discouragement, hopelessness, and helplessness that interferes with daily activities.  Depression and anxiety are separate conditions, but an individual may suffer from both conditions simultaneously.     



Ibogaine is a naturally occurring substance derived from the root of a shrub called Tabemanthe iboga.  It has traditionally been used by native people in western Africa to treat hunger, thirst, and fatigue, and, in higher doses, for religious ceremonies.  More recently, Ibogaine has been implemented to treat drug dependence because it has been shown to decrease signs of opiate withdrawal and reduce drug cravings.  Ibogaine has also been found to be helpful in the treatment of various anxiety disorders, such as those noted above, as well as depression.  More notably, the effect of Ibogaine has been shown to remain for a protracted period of time after the medication is administered.  Its effectiveness in treating these conditions is thought to be related to two main factors.  First, Ibogaine has been shown to biochemically control neurotransmitters to restore balance, just as traditional prescriptive therapies do.  Second, Ibogaine also assists individuals with viewing difficult past experiences in a different, more objective manner, which helps facilitate resolution of emotional conflict over these past events.    



As reported in the Neurobiological Mechanisms of Drugs of Abuse in September 2000, researchers have found that there are neurobiological similarities between depression and drug dependence such that drug abusers may self-medicate to address their mental illness.  In one study, a single-dose of Ibogaine to drug-dependent individuals appeared to reduce cravings for drugs while significantly improving depressive symptoms, as reported by study participants.  

A second study entitled Life after Ibogaine: An exploratory study of the long-term effects of ibogaine treatment on drug addicts from November 2004 also concluded with encouraging results with regard to Ibogaine and its positive impact on quality of life.  Respondents for this study reported positive major changes to quality of life in terms of social functioning and psychological well-being after treatment with Ibogaine, which remained for a longer period of time after conclusion of the treatment.              

Despite these encouraging results, there are notes of caution with regard to Ibogaine treatment.  First, as Ibogaine works to increase serotonin levels in the brain, it should not be administered in conjunction with traditional medications commonly prescribed to treat depression (e.g., Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors and Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitor-based drugs).  Next, while Ibogaine has demonstrated success in treating the types of anxiety disorders noted above as well as depression, there is not much known about its interaction with other psychiatric disorders that require regular treatment (e.g., epilepsy, psychosis, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, dementia, cerebellar dysfunction, organic brain disease).  As such, Ibogaine should not be administered to individuals that are afflicted with these types of disorders.            



Ibogaine is a naturally occurring substance that has shown positive results in small-scale studies with regard to anxiety disorders and depression.  It works to rebalance the natural biochemical system in an individual’s brain as well as assist with cognitively revisiting past challenging and traumatic experiences from a more objective perspective in order to aid in healing.   Additional study is needed with larger groups, but initial studies show promising and encouraging potential for affecting positive change for individuals suffering from the chronic mental conditions mentioned.  It is incredibly important to find effective and long-term treatment options for individuals suffering from anxiety disorders, depression, and mental illness in general.  There are a great number of individuals afflicted by anxiety and depressive disorders in the United States; and, while treatment of mental illness is not as commonly discussed in society, there is a gradual shift toward recognition of positive mental health in terms of its importance to overall health.      




References (Accessed 6/6/17):