In the face of widespread drug prohibition in most of the world, unregulated treatments in other countries, and traditional shamanic cultures that do not provide diplomas or licenses in the same way, how do you go about finding a qualified iboga or ibogaine provider?
You are going to want to conduct independent research, consult with the global psychedelic medicine community, inquire for personal referrals, ask the right questions, practice critical thinking, fact check, and listen to your intuition. Be empowered.
Finding the right provider is especially critical as iboga and ibogaine are among the most powerful and medically volatile of all visionary medicines. As the shaman Moughenda says, “taking iboga without a qualified guide is like driving a car while blindfolded.” For those who would like to consider the indigenous perspective: the Bwiti express that specific codes and elements of ceremony are required in order to unlock the full potential of the medicine. Both iboga and ibogaine require nuanced skill and extensive knowledge for safe and effective administration.
Iboga and ibogaine should never be mail ordered as the quality and purity is likely to be compromised. In laboratory analysis by ibogaine researchers, mail ordered medicine has often been found to be adulterated, old, weak, moldy, the wrong plant, or outright poisoned. It may not have been procured in an environmentally sustainable, culturally sensitive, or ethical manner. Good providers will have access to high quality, ethically sourced medicine.
Here are some steps to support your research process…
There are always various risks associated with psychoactive medicines. These points are for informational and harm reduction purposes only, and they are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
1. Understand How these Medicines Work
Learn about how iboga and ibogaine work, and how they differ from each other. Explore some of the scientific research and some of the cultural context around how these medicines were traditionally used. Attend or view videos of presentations from psychedelic medicine conferences, such as Psychedelic Science. Explore helpful organizations such as the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, Global Ibogaine Therapy Alliance, and the International Center for Ethnobotanical Research & Service. The deeper your understanding of how these medicines work, the greater your awareness of what questions to ask potential providers to support your healing on multiple levels.
2. Clarify What Kind of Experience You Want
Are you a healthy individual who is feeling called to have an authentic cultural experience with a living plant medicine tradition for spiritual purposes? Then perhaps a Bwiti initiation ceremony or psycho-spiritual retreat is the best experience for you. Or have you been struggling for many years with opioid addiction and need to have an effective, targeted detox treatment to eliminate cravings and withdrawal symptoms so you can finally be on the road to sobriety? Then finding an ibogaine clinic or a traditional provider with a successful track record of helping clients with addiction recovery may be your best bet.
Photo Art by Sean Davis
3. Know What Good Protocol Is
Once you have clarity on the kind of experience would best suit your needs, research what the best practices are for that service that would ensure the highest level of safety, comfort and successful outcome for participants.
Since iboga and ibogaine therapy are pioneering fields of addiction treatment, some treatment providers may not have the latest scientific information. If you, as a treatment seeker, are empowered with knowledge about the medicines and good medical protocol, it will be easier for you to determine whether the provider or center is following clinical best practices.
4. Research Providers and Treatment Centers Extensively Online
Chances are, you are going to start with Google research, but you will need to go further than picking whatever website shows up in the first page of search engine results because they have good SEO. Look for any reviews that might be appearing in search results, and read both the positive as well as negative feedback.
When reading about providers on the internet, bear in mind that all the reviews online may not be accurate or unbiased, and even the best providers may have encountered problematic incidents when seekers were dishonest during the screening process, brought in contraindicated substances, or did not fully participate in the treatment process. A good provider or center that has been in operation for a long time might have a few negative reviews mixed in with mostly positive feedback.
Explore online forums or social media groups related to iboga, ibogaine, or psychedelic medicine. Ask the community for information about the providers or centers you may be considering. Chances are one or more people in the community may have good feedback for you. Proceed with discernment and avoid solicitation by underground providers without a known track record. It may go without saying, but remain aware of the countries where iboga and ibogaine are legal/unregulated and illegal.
5. Contact the Provider or Treatment Center & Screen Them
Interview the provider on their knowledge of the medicine, their credentials, and their treatment process. If you are already aware of best practices and clinical guidelines, you will be able to recognize if an important process is being omitted.
For example, a responsible iboga or ibogaine provider offering flood or full ceremonial doses should request a psychiatric history and medical screening, including stress ECG or 24 hour Holter monitor, a blood test (CBC), and a liver enzyme test (AST/ALT). This comprehensive screening is essential for both psycho-spiritual journeys as well as drug detoxes. The provider will also need qualified medical support to interpret the ECG and other test results specifically for potential conflicts related to ibogaine. Adequate emergency medical support is required during treatment. At a minimum, someone should be present at all times during treatment who is certified to perform CPR and work with an automated external defibrillator (AED). In the case of ibogaine treatment, an IV and heart monitoring is often necessary. It is ideal for a hospital to be fairly close by. Though ceremonies and treatments are generally safe with experienced providers and good screening, this is regarded as best practice.
Avoid providers that may offer an alluring low price on journeys, but who have no qualified medical support involved or no emergency medical skills. Medical support contributes to treatment costs, and it is essential.
If you are looking for an authentic Bwiti trained & empowered provider, ask for clarification in regards to the lineage. Keep in mind that some iboga providers who appropriate Bwiti or traditional African imagery may not have been given the blessing to hold the medicine by any indigenous tradition.
Photo by Chor Boogie
6. Ask For References
This is a must. Adverse medical or psychiatric events or even death can result if these medicines are improperly used, so it is helpful to find out first hand about other clients’ experience working with that provider or treatment center. Former or current clients can provide valuable insight on whether they felt well taken care of, and give you tips on how to optimize your experience before, during, and after treatment. Ask providers if they have any former clients that would be willing to speak with you, or seek references at psychedelic medicine events or in online groups.
7. Use Your Intuition
After conducting independent research, contacting potential providers, and searching for personal references, you will also want to use your intuition to determine if a particular provider is right for you. Notice your biofeedback (the subtle responses of your body) and insights during your communications with providers. Be aware of the personal connection. Pay attention to their listening skills as well as their knowledge of the medicine and medical protocol. Spend some time in quiet contemplation before making a final decision.