Ibogaine: Battling the Opioid Epidemic with a Psychedelics Healing
With so many choices and treatment options for those addicted to heroin or opiates, finding the right treatment can be difficult. And with the low success rates that come with traditional treatments, it can often seem hopeless from the start.
Some treatment options are relatively unknown. However, there are many alternative style approaches to addiction treatment. Let’s look at one alternative to addiction treatment that has shown promising results. It’s based on a psychoactive drug called Ibogaine, and it has proven itself a powerful addiction treatment for heroin and opiate addiction.
What is Ibogaine?
Ibogaine is an extracted alkaloid. Found naturally in the roots of a shrub called Tabernanthe Iboga, native to Africa. This Iboga plant has been an important part of the Bwiti religion for hundreds of years. They scrape off the root bark of the plant, brew it as a tea, and use the psychoactive properties for healings, rites of passage, and Shamanic rituals.
Ibogaine was being heavily studied as a treatment for addiction before the 1960s, when the DEA deemed it illegal, not only for recreational use, but also for scientific study as well. But by then, it was too late. Ibogaine had already proved itself extremely useful in helping people recover from their addictions permanently.
How was this treatment discovered?
Ibogaine was discovered to treat addiction by a man named Howard Lotsof. He was a 19-year-old heroin addict in the early 1960s. He went on a quest to find a new psychoactive drug that he could try, and a friend of Lotsof’s gave him Ibogaine. Lotsof experienced an intense psychedelic trip that left him exhausted.
With just this one dose, he began to notice something that would change his life forever. 72 hours after using Ibogaine, Lotsof realized he hadn’t used heroin, and he didn’t have any withdrawal symptoms from not using.
Ibogaine had a profound healing effect for Lotsof on a psychological level as well. While he was walking outside he suddenly came to a deep realization about his addiction. Looking at a large tree, and clouds that were in the sky, and it dawned on him that he had been frightened for his entire life—and he was using heroin to hide. But now, for the first time, he was not afraid. Ibogaine had helped Lotsof identify a mental root to his addiction and face it.
Of course, Lotsof was excited by the discovery of what Ibogaine could do, and he wanted to explore its capabilities further. He gave the drug to some of his friends who were also heroin addicts. The results for them were the same as they had been for Lotsof. They were released from their addictions without the harsh symptoms of heroin withdrawal.
Unfortunately, as mentioned before, strict laws were passed in the United States that made usage of Ibogaine illegal. However, Lotsof was already determined to devote his life to the study of Ibogaine and its medicinal uses. He wanted to share the healing powers of Ibogaine with others, so he opened clinics outside of the United States where addicts could come and break free from their addictions.
Those laws remain in effect today. And those who choose to try Ibogaine treatment today must still go outside of the United States to find it.
How does Ibogaine work on a physical level?
Ibogaine bonds to the opiate receptors in the brain. This resets the pleasure pathways (also known as the reward system) which have been dramatically altered by opiate usage. Opiates and heroin flood the brain with chemicals that change the brain itself, causing the addiction. Ibogaine acts as a reset button, returning the neurons to the healthy state they were in before drug use and addiction. This restores the natural systems of the brain and allows it to function properly again.
Serotonin and dopamine levels go back to normal as well. By resetting the brain this way, the addict can experience a sense of renewal within the first few hours of Ibogaine treatment. This reset button essentially eliminates harsh withdrawal symptoms.
Since Ibogaine has this clean-slate effect on the brain’s reward system, which plays such a prominent role in addiction, it can successfully be used to treat addictions other than opioids and heroin. The outcomes are somewhat less predictable, but Ibogaine can loosen the grip of alcoholism and addictions to methamphetamines, crack and cocaine, even tobacco. It has also shown positive results for some struggling with mental health issues; such as anxiety, depression, and even PTSD.
How does Ibogaine work on a psychological level?
As a psychedelic, Ibogaine can have a powerful effect psychologically as well as physically. Trauma and addiction go hand in hand, so if the addict’s past traumas are not dealt with in a meaningful way, the addiction’s underlying causes often remain after rehabilitation. These underlying issues drastically reduce the chances of successful treatment. In order to have a proper recovery, psychological factors of the addiction must be addressed.
By combining the conscious and subconscious mind, Ibogaine gives users the chance to confront negative life events and situations from a new perspective, even bringing up traumas they may not have recognized. This unique opportunity to face and process trauma gives the addict the tools needed to accept their past more fully, including their own mistakes and hurtful decisions. The peace that comes with this acceptance helps many addicts move forward, stepping into the future with a healthy, enlightened mindset.
Is Ibogaine a safe choice?
Dangerous outcomes and negative reactions have made it clear that Ibogaine is not safe for everyone. These negative reactions from Ibogaine are often caused by pre-existing health conditions—including heart or liver problems. Deadly results can also occur when Ibogaine is mixed with certain other substances. Because the side effects can be so serious, it should only be used with proper pre-screening and under medical supervision.
For any addiction treatment to have the proper effect, it must be paired with an addict’s efforts to make important changes to their own lives. They must cut ties with many negative influences in order to be successful. Ibogaine can help those struggling with addiction get a head start in recovery, but that is just one step of the process.
Before choosing Ibogaine, or any other treatment, further educate yourself on the options. Weigh the pros and cons so you can choose a treatment option that will work best for you.