Ibogaine is a drug derived from the root bark of the West African shrub known as iboga (Tabernanthe iboga). For hundreds of years, indigenous African peoples, such as those practicing the Bwiti tradition, have ingested large doses of ibogaine in its raw form for its spiritual and healing properties.
Ibogaine is a purified form of the raw root bark extract, rendered in a consistent concentration to enable accurately dosed medical administration. In comparison with other psychedelics, the risks associated with ibogaine usage are much higher, especially in relation to heart attacks and cardiovascular problems.
Today we have the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Felipe Malacara, MD, chief clinical director at Beond, which is an Ibogaine therapy center based in Cancun, Mexico.
The following information and answers were provided by Beond and Dr. Felipe Malacara:
What Can You Tell Us About Your Experience With Ibogaine?
I have been working with ibogaine for 17 years. I was trained by the team that worked at the world’s first medical ibogaine clinic under Dr. Deborah Mash on the island of St. Kitts in the 1990s.
For many years, I was the attending physician at another ibogaine clinic, where I supervised clinical operations and treated more than 1,200 patients with ibogaine, specifically for addiction and chemical dependency.
I am currently the chief clinical operations director at Beond, based in Cancun, Mexico.
We treat not only patients who suffer from addiction and substance dependency but also with trauma and other mood disorders like treatment-resistant depression and anxiety. Ibogaine is proving to be extremely effective for getting to the root of trauma and mood disorders, not only addiction.
What Sets Beond’s Ibogaine Treatment Apart From Others?
Beond does not ascribe to any particular belief system or to a one-size-fits-all model for recovery. Because each client is unique, so too is each treatment plan. A treatment plan will address any medical needs unique to a client as well as their biological, psychosocial, spiritual, and cultural needs.
While onsite at Beond, a psychologist is available at all times, and clients are encouraged to meet with them daily. Adjunct therapies like yoga, meditation, Qigong, art therapy, aquatic therapy, and massage are also offered daily, often poolside.
Can Ibogaine Be Beneficial for Conditions Other Than Addiction, According to Your Expert Opinion?
Beond administers ibogaine for the following reasons:
- It has been shown to be of value as an addiction interrupter across a broad spectrum of chemical and behavioral dependencies, such as opiates, alcohol, stimulants, eating disorders, and sex addiction.
- It has been shown to benefit certain clients with traumatic brain injury, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, generational trauma, and other psycho-spiritual and mental health conditions. It has also been shown to heal various chronic physical health conditions, attenuate pain and rid the body of unwanted infections such as gut dysbiosis, parasites, and viral loads.
- It has been shown to decrease the majority and depth of withdrawal symptoms associated with treating opiate dependence, as well as reduce or eliminate the longer-term cluster of symptoms known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).
Although ibogaine’s mechanism of action is not fully understood, we do know that it works to upregulate dopamine and increase serotonin in the body. Some people find dramatic improvements in conditions related to imbalances with these two neurotransmitters such as:
- Social anxiety
- Irritability and anger
- Inability to experience a sense of reward and joy in life
- Lack of motivation
- Low energy levels
- Parkinson's disease
- Chronic pain
Ibogaine produces an altered state of perception and often provides great insight into one’s life, behavior, and thought processes, but it is not a true hallucinogen in the commonly understood sense of the term.
The term “hallucinogen” might imply false and deluded perceptions; however, ibogaine does not completely withdraw you from reality. While a client is in an ibogaine treatment session wearing headphones, listening to music, and wearing a blindfold over their eyes, they do not lose total awareness of their identity or their surroundings. They can lift up the blindfold during treatment, regain a sense of presence, and know where they are.
There is also a misconception that ibogaine is a silver bullet or quick fix. Ibogaine is a tool that requires extensive preparation and integration therapy.
All programs at Beond include both at-home preparation and post-care integration coaching, as well as daily onsite therapy. One of the most important things for anyone interested in ibogaine to understand is that ibogaine treatment is a catalyst for inner healing and not a treatment in and of itself.
Ibogaine, with its ability to increase neuroplasticity, has the potential to radically repair the brain and body, as well as bring emotions to the surface so that one can process material that has been unaddressed. In that process, when facing difficult emotions (with your investment of time, commitment, and willingness), one is more able to climb out of various states of suffering.
If clients return home with their post-treatment care plan, crafted together with their Beond team, and choose not to use it or don’t change the aspects of their life that were contributing to their condition (like substance abuse, unhealthy relationships, poor sleep, chronic stress, jobs that they dislike, social isolation, poor diet, lack of exercise, excessive screen time, etc.) they will most likely return to a state of imbalance again.
The ibogaine experience can bring more conscious awareness to areas of one’s life, but the majority of the work takes place before and after treatment. Beond helps you to set the momentum, but it's you who must maintain it.
What Do You Do as Beond's Chief Clinical Operations Director?
My main responsibility as chief clinical operations director is to ensure our clients’ medical safety.
Ibogaine is Known to Be a Dangerous Substance, Even Among Psychonauts. How Can You Guarantee the Safety of Your Patients?
Every client is prescreened prior to being accepted at Beond based on their general life history, pre-existing physical and cardiovascular conditions, chemical dependency issues, if applicable, and their mental health issues and goals.
Upon arrival at Beond, every client is immediately received by my medical team, which includes ACLS (Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support) certified nurses, and we commence a thorough physical and mental health assessment which includes lab work and EKGs.
After multiple onsite therapy sessions with our psychologists and medical stabilization, if needed, an ibogaine flood dose treatment takes place in our clinical environment, which is not dissimilar to a medical room in a hospital.
The client is placed in a comfortable bed in a quiet, darkened room with eye shields in place, listening to music via state-of-the-art headphones. They will have an IV in place to ensure that they are hydrated and that myself and our medical staff are able to easily administer supplementary medications for safety and comfort should they be necessary. Continuous cardiac monitoring takes place, during which I work with a team of critical care nurses trained in ibogaine administration who remain in the room with clients the entire time to constantly monitor vital signs, cardiac rhythm, and comfort level.
It is my responsibility to supervise all treatment sessions and be present throughout the full ibogaine flood dose treatment process.
Based on client consultations I have prior to each ibogaine treatment, I also establish an ibogaine dosage customized for each client based on their own symptoms and needs.
What Does the Ibogaine Treatment Look Like Once It's Over?
Although going through an ibogaine flood dose is hard work, and despite the changes immediately following treatment can be dramatic, the days that follow the ibogaine flood dose account for a large portion of the work that needs to be done if the client is hoping for a lasting result from the therapy.
After an ibogaine flood, the medicine stays in a person’s system in the form of noribogaine, a metabolite of ibogaine, and continues to assist them in resetting their brain and body over the following weeks and months. The ongoing assistance provided by noribogaine can be thought of as an inner chemical “support structure” that helps patients build strength on their new path in life.
This reset is a person’s second chance to develop new neural pathways in their brain and to learn new habits, patterns, and abilities with relative ease. This is neuroplasticity in action and is truly a gift for those wishing to radically change their thoughts, behaviors, or moods when it felt impossible to do so in the past.
We fully encourage each patient to take advantage of Beond’s program of built-in virtual ibogaine coaching, psychotherapy, preparation, and integration sessions and to continue doing the work of recovering from trauma and addiction long after they get home.
What Do You Think Ibogaine Treatments Will Look Like in Twenty Years?
Despite a growing wealth of research pointing to a more robust set of uses, ibogaine remains a Schedule I substance in the U.S. But drug overdose deaths are surging to new highs—nearly 108,000 people in the U.S. alone fatally overdosed last year in 2021, and about two-thirds of those involved opioids, according to the CDC.
So, in twenty years—but really, this needs to happen much sooner!
My prediction is that ibogaine will be available from medical practitioners in the U.S. under strict safety protocols and regularly recommended for people suffering from addiction, trauma, and mood disorders. By then, I expect that clinical trials using synthetic ibogaine will have been completed and that ibogaine therapy will be seen not as a last resort for people who are addicted to opioids but as a first-line treatment to give people a chance to reset their lives.
I think that Beond is leading the way in setting these standards, and I’m proud to be a part of it.
Dr. Felipe Malacara, thank you for your time.