By Kaia Roman:
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a seeker. A seeker of truth, a seeker of healing, a seeker of answers. But I’ve been told that seekers don’t find, and perhaps that’s been my problem all along.
You see, my endless inquiry was fueled by a desire for physical healing (I was born with some genetic conditions that make life challenging for me) as well as emotional healing, since like most humans, I have trauma from my childhood that I’d love to leave in the distant past.
I tried it all — every Western medicine treatment, workshop, self-help technique, mantra, and meditation, until my quest for healing eventually led me to psychedelic medicine. Since 2017, I’d had a number of psychedelic experiences which were incredibly profound. However, my seeking never ceased.
I hadn’t quite found the healing I was looking for, and I’d heard that as far as psychedelic medicines go, ibogaine was the big kahuna, the one to bring the toughest cases to, the end-all, be-all of the “How to Change Your Mind” compounds.
I was actually quite scared to try ibogaine because of its ass-kicking reputation, but when the stars aligned for me to spend a week at Beond, an ibogaine treatment center in Cancun, Mexico (where ibogaine is legal and administered in a clinical setting), I felt like I finally found a place where I could feel safe to do this treatment with a team I really trust.
Ibogaine is a medication derived from the root bark of the West African shrub known as iboga (Tabernanthe iboga). Ingesting a large enough dose of this psychoactive root induces a temporary psychedelic experience that can last up to 12 hours (or more in some cases).
For hundreds of years, indigenous African peoples, such as those practicing the Bwiti tradition, have ingested large doses of ibogaine in its raw root bark form (iboga) for its spiritual and healing properties. This practice is treated as a rite of passage in certain villages, where the iboga experience is meant to connect the initiate with an ancestor for guidance and strength.
Over the past thirty plus years, ibogaine has been used in various clinics around the world for medical treatment purposes, most often to treat addiction to opioids and opiates, alcohol, stimulants, and prescription medications, as well as severe mood disorders, chronic destructive behaviors, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
As a medical treatment, ibogaine is usually administered as ibogaine hydrochloride, a puriﬁed form of the shrub’s raw root bark extract with some alkaloids removed, rendered as a pill or a powder in a consistent concentration to enable controlled dosing.
This is the form of ibogaine they use at Beond in Mexico, typically as a single concentrated “ﬂood dose,” which causes the body to metabolize a large quantity of ibogaine at once. In some cases, supplemental doses are given over a period of days following the ﬂood dose. Administering ibogaine in this way contributes to its psycho disruptive effects.
In fact, it’s been medically established that a brief and controlled ibogaine experience can disrupt the mental and physical patterns that underpin addiction and unwanted experiences, including physical illness, leading to permanent life changes and an improved quality of life.
Beond (Beond.us) is a residential treatment program in Mexico, which means that once you enter the serene and beautiful retreat center, you aren’t leaving for the next week. This was fine with me; I had a beautiful room (with huge bathtub!), I enjoyed the pool, delicious food, and daily activities like yoga, art therapy, and sharing circles with the other guests.
There’s a series of blood tests and an EKG to make sure it’s safe to take the ibogaine and in my case, I assumed this would all be pretty straight forward since I don’t do drugs or drink alcohol, and am in basically good health these days. However, I had a huge shock when my blood test came back positive for heroin!
A word of advice: make sure you don’t consume a large amount of crackers filled with poppy seeds the night before your blood test if you want to avoid this false positive adventure.
So, while I waited for my blood test to come back clean of all poppy-derived substances, I enjoyed the lovely Beond amenities, friendly staff, daily massages, watsu, Qi Gong, and meetings with the on-site therapist. I also asked the resident physician, Dr. Felipe Malacara, a lot of questions.
Like, a lot. I wanted to know everything from ibogaine’s mechanism in the brain to what to make of any visions I might see, and Dr. Malacara patiently answered every single question without hesitation.
When the day finally came to have my treatment, I was terrified of vomiting, being uncomfortable, and having horrifying visions. But because Beond is a medical setting, I felt incredibly safe and taken care of the entire time.
I layed down in the hospital bed, swallowed several pills, and waited. The doctor checked in on me often, there was an angelic nurse by my bedside, my blood pressure and heart were continuously monitored, and I had an IV to prevent nausea and keep me hydrated. All I had to do was relax, cover my eyes, listen to relaxing music in headphones, and go inside my own mind for answers and healing.
Waiting to feel the medicine felt like it took a long time, but once its effects were in full swing, time flew by quickly. Despite my fears, in my case, the ibogaine was actually very gentle. The entire experience lasted about 12 hours, during which time many insights came to me in waves and I was lucid enough to write in a journal for about the last 6 hours.
A lot of people who seek ibogaine treatment are suffering with some kind of an addiction, which isn’t something that I personally identified with. However, what I discovered in my experience, to my surprise, is that I actually did have an addiction, and it was an addiction that was not easy for me to admit.
I wrote a bestselling book called The Joy Plan. I’ve tried my whole life to practice mindfulness and positive thinking, but I’ve struggled for as long as I can remember with this incessant negative voice in my head. Even though I could find techniques to work with it, I’d never really been able to silence it.
In the ibogaine experience, I realized that in my case, negative thinking was like an addiction. The negative voice in my head would speak to me and release adrenaline and that adrenaline would act like a drug.
During the treatment, I was able to analyze that voice, slow it down, really listen to it, and for the first time, uncover where it came from. It turns out that the voice was based in some deep childhood trauma, as well as genetic experiences passed down through my DNA that weren’t even mine.
The most powerful moment of my experience was when I got to see myself as a little girl, who, because of some things that happened, didn’t feel safe in the world. And I got to hold her, stroke her, tell her I love her, and really help her feel safe.
Through that process, as I came out of the ibogaine treatment, I felt like my whole nervous system had been rewired. And when I listened for the negative voice in my head, it was gone.
I felt this new sense of calm, deep peace, and lightness that I probably haven’t felt since I was two years old. And the lasting effects have been truly remarkable for me.
Like any pharmacological substance, when administered improperly or in unsafe conditions, ibogaine can have undesired and potentially serious side effects, including death. But a 2012 research study identiﬁed a total of 19 individuals outside of West Central Africa over 28 years who died within 72 hours of ingesting ibogaine.
The study found no evidence that ibogaine itself was inherently toxic; rather, most of the 19 deaths in 28 years were directly tied to either the patients’ advanced pre-existing medical conditions, using impure product or administering it unsafely, or the ingestion of opioids during ibogaine treatment.
While ibogaine remains a scheduled drug (aka illegal) in many countries, including in the United States, it has been used safely and effectively in clinical settings worldwide for more than thirty years.
And, there’s a growing body of evidence that ibogaine is both highly effective and extremely safe when it’s prescribed by a clinician and administered in a medical setting. In some countries, such as New Zealand, ibogaine is now legal for physicians to prescribe and use.
For addiction treatment in particular, ibogaine has been used so widely that a consortium of experienced physicians, clinicians, and researchers known as the Global Ibogaine Therapy Alliance have developed a comprehensive set of clinical guidelines for its safe and effective use.
Do I recommend the ibogaine experience? Yes, I do! Most people, if they’ve been alive lately on planet Earth, have some amount of trauma, PTSD, addiction, and/or mental health challenges — especially post-pandemic. So I actually think that most people can really benefit from this treatment, whether they realize it or not.
Ibogaine changes the brain’s wiring, creating a newly neuroplastic blank slate for re-architecting internal programming. Because the temporary disruption of habitual thoughts and behaviors is believed to be a signiﬁcant driver of ibogaine’s clinical effects, ibogaine is likely to be effective not only against addictive conditions but also against other conditions and states that are driven by habitual or compulsive behavior.
And who among us doesn’t have at least a little bit of addiction or negative habitual behavior? I mean, come on. We all do. Ibogaine essentially gives you an opportunity for a do-over on your life, without trauma and addiction running like malware in the background.
However, it’s not as simple as “take the medicine, live happily ever after.” The 90 days after the experience are critical, as your brain is in a highly neuroplastic state during this time. Which is why Beond highly recommends integration coaching to help solidify the treatment’s positive effects.
Imagine that your brain is made out of molding clay. You get to decide how you’ll shape it over the next 90 days of neuroplasticity — based on your thoughts, words, and actions in the integration period after the treatment.
So, while ibogaine is not a panacea, when taken in the right setting, with the right mindset and preparation, and with proper integration support afterward, it can absolutely rock your world in all the best ways.
If you’re considering an ibogaine experience, I suggest you diligently do your research, read testimonials, and talk to people who have been wherever you’re considering going, because not all ibogaine treatment centers are the same. At Beond, I felt 100% safe and completely cared for physically, mentally, and spiritually, and under those circumstances, I believe the medicine can really do the work that it does on each person individually.
Is ibogaine for you? It depends on whether you want to seek or find.
Today, I’d say that I’m no longer a seeker. I’ve found something that was with me all along, but that I’d lost touch with — a love for myself and for life, and a deep appreciation for the connection that binds us all together in this miraculous and mysterious physical experience. I have ibogaine and the incredible angels at Beond in Mexico to thank for this.
I’m a work in progress of course, but ibogaine rocked my world so deeply that I know I’ll never be the same.
Huge thanks to Tom Kingsley Brown, Ph.D, for his contribution to the clinical aspects of this article. Dr. Thomas Kingsley Brown is a prominent researcher into the effects of altered states of consciousness on behavioral health conditions, and has been investigating ibogaine treatment since 2009.