What are the Different Stages of an Ibogaine Experience?

Ibogaine is a unique psychedelic most commonly used for helping opiate addicts break their addiction. A typical “flood dose” for addiction interruption is 12mg/kg of body weight.1 Some clinics will administer a higher dose, or a lower one followed by a booster over the next 12-24 hours.2 When such a dose is taken, the ibogaine experience will last between 36-48 hours and will consist of 3 main phases: onset and “acute” effects, the introspective stage with dreamlike effects, and the residual phase including after effects.3 In this article, we explain what you can expect to experience in each phase of a standard ibogaine dose for addiction interruption.

Phase 1: The Onset

Initial Effects

The first effects of a flood dose are generally felt within the first hour and tend to be physical in nature. Commonly experienced onset effects include difficulty walking and controlling movements, buzzing auditory sensations, and nausea or vomiting. You may notice either an increase or decrease in heart rate. A heavy dose of ibogaine can produce serious cardiac arrhythmias in some people, so it’s important to choose a clinic with medical professionals on staff who can monitor your vitals during the experience.4

Acute Effects

The initial onset is followed by what most individuals consider the most intense phase. The physiological and psychedelic effects will both build over the next 4-6 hours, and generally include visual and auditory hallucinations, sedation, and a change in perceptions of space and time.

While the nausea and visual intensity may bring up some comparisons to ayahuasca, ibogaine is truly unique among psychedelics in both molecular structure and subjective effects. During the acute phase, brainwaves most resemble those seen during the REM phase of sleep, a phenomenon reflected by the nature of the visuals.5

Many people describe the hallucinogenic effects to have more of a dissociative, dreamlike nature than that of classic psychedelics like LSD or psilocybin. One individual seeking to treat an addiction revisited childhood memories in a process resembling a cinematic slideshow.

Some experience an overwhelming sedation and even fall asleep during the peak, a phenomenon unlikely to happen on other psychedelics. Another former heroin addict recalled intermittently drifting between sleep and wakefulness during this phase of an ibogaine treatment, and having trouble distinguishing between the two states.6

Auditory hallucinations are extremely common, and the visual effects often include seeing visions of deceased family members or specific childhood memories. A typical narrative involves revisiting past experiences relating to drug use, and coming to terms with former negative choices made in life. This can be very helpful in understanding the psychological and spiritual roots of an addiction.7

The intensity of the visuals and level of mental control over the experience varies between individuals. Keep an open mind; those who find themselves disappointed by a lack of psychoactive effects can still benefit greatly from the medicinal effects of ibogaine.

Phase 2: The Introspective Stage

The acute effects will eventually fade in intensity and give way to the introspective stage. This is the longest part of an ibogaine experience, and it normally lasts for around 8-20 hours but can vary between individuals.

During this stage you will continue to reflect upon significant memories and life experiences from the past, including those related to ongoing substance abuse. Ibogaine provider Levi Barker considers this to be the most important stage of the treatment, as the life review process allows for a “third person” perspective and insight on an addiction that may otherwise be inaccessible. Visuals may continue, but your mental clarity and critical thinking abilities will be less impaired. As awareness of the outside world starts to return, you may choose to rely on dim lighting and headphones in order to block out distractions and focus on the psychoactive effects as long as possible.8

While in both the acute and introspective phase, you will probably have little interest in verbally communicating, eating, or moving around. You will most likely need assistance in doing tasks like walking to the bathroom or staying hydrated. The clinic facilitators will respect your privacy but remain nearby in case you need any support.

As the introspective phase proceeds, you will gradually regain your appetite and ability to walk unassisted.

Phase 3: Immediate After Effects

After the ibogaine wears off, the experience will be followed by a 1-3 day period of immediate residual effects. While most people are relieved to find that they no longer feel withdrawals or drug cravings, insomnia and restlessness are common after effects. You may also have some minor muscle pain or general physical discomfort as the ataxia recedes. Some people find themselves feeling depressed or lingering on negative thoughts and memories the day afterwards. These are normal and often very fleeting in duration, but treatment options can be discussed with clinic staff if any of these symptoms are severe enough to cause you any distress.9

Do not be discouraged if you still experience some drug cravings in the immediate aftermath. While ibogaine can prevent some opioid withdrawal symptoms on a biochemical level, the psychological basis of an addiction is a matter that can take months to resolve. Some opt for additional ibogaine sessions or more frequent use of “microdoses” in the aftermath of a flood dose.

Conclusion

Some of the residual effects may last for weeks or months following a large dose of ibogaine. It’s common to feel an afterglow or continued introspection on life. This is only expected after undergoing such a profound experience, and most individuals consider these after effects to be positive in nature. Treating the underlying causes of an addiction is very complex, and ibogaine is only one part of this lifelong process. It’s important to remember this perspective in the following months and supplement your ibogaine session with substance abuse counseling and other medical treatments as needed.10

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