With the alarming rates of overdose due to opiate addiction still rising, additional methods of treatment continue to surface. Ibogaine is one of the latest popularized alternatives to traditional treatments for heroin addiction, such as Suboxone or methadone. Though not a new alternative, it’s received increasing amounts of attention lately.
Does ibogaine help addicts seeking recovery or is it simply another fad alternative to traditional addiction treatment methods? Is it smart to turn to a heavy psychedelic, still illegal for use in the United States, to find sobriety? Or should you seek more accepted and reliable methods of finding sobriety? What if ibogaine treatment is the last chance you have?
Never Heard of Ibogaine? How Does it Help Treat Addiction?
Ibogaine is drawn from the roots of the iboga tree, native to Central Africa. When taken in small doses, ibogaine merely acts as a mild stimulant. However, when taken in large doses, ibogaine induces a significant dissociative psychedelic state in the user. During this psychedelic experience, ibogaine users claim to develop a new perspective on their path to take and place in the world.
Ibogaine has been touted as a way to treat withdrawal from heroin specifically. The heroin withdrawal process is undeniably a physical process, with incredible flu-like symptoms lasting up to 10 days. But a significant portion of the withdrawal process also takes place in the mind, a psychological process.
In addition to helping relieve physical withdrawal symptoms, the psychedelic state experienced during ibogaine treatment helps manage this psychological aspect of withdrawal as well. The treatment reportedly reduces opiate cravings for multiple weeks, allowing the addict to comfortably manage the withdrawal process.
Although it is not often used recreationally, ibogaine is still classified as a Schedule I drug in the United States (among other drugs such as LSD, marijuana, and heroin, the drug it intends to treat). Those seeking ibogaine treatment will find it in either Mexico or Canada, the closest locations available.
The History of Ibogaine Treatment and Ibogaine Studies
Ibogaine first received attention as an anti-addiction medication in the 1960s from Howard Lotsof. He used the hallucinogen to kick his own opiate addiction and shared the solution with a few of his friends. They noticed the essential lack of withdrawal symptoms encouraged by the ibogaine treatment.
The government has conducted multiple rounds of research since then to determine whether or not to use ibogaine as an anti-addiction treatment method. Ibogaine showed promising anti-addictive capabilities in animal studies. During the studies, rodents exposed to ibogaine showed relief from withdrawal symptoms and limited the self-administering of drugs like opioids, cocaine, nicotine, and alcohol.
Despite the promising anti-addiction findings in some studies, one female participant died during a human participant study conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1993. This led to the decision not to fund further studies on ibogaine for addiction treatment with human participants.
As a result, ibogaine received its branding as a stimulant and hallucinogen, with the potential for addiction. Thus the drug was classified as a Schedule I substance and has remained in that place ever since.
Benefits of Ibogaine for Addiction Treatment
According to reports from various addicts who sought treatment through the use of ibogaine, many experienced relief from withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Since you can hardly access the drug in the United States, ibogaine treatment must be sought after in locations outside of the country.
Whether the withdrawal reduction and craving removal a direct result of the ibogaine treatment, or it encourages already-held desires to stop using, is not clear. If an addict has a desire to stop getting loaded, they will likely find help from almost any avenue they seek.
Still, the experience of many addicts who sought treatment through ibogaine seems to be a positive one. If the hallucinogen can provide an alternative to the pharmaceutical options currently available, shouldn’t the appropriate departments conduct the necessary research?
Supposedly a single dose of ibogaine can alleviate withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings for weeks. These same results come from weeks of treatment with the currently available pharmaceutical offerings. It would be helpful to find out more about the potential benefits of ibogaine.
Further studies on the benefits and dangers of ibogaine use in addiction treatment would help determine whether it is helpful or detrimental to addicts. It’s been almost 25 years since the FDA conducted the study during which a participant died. Would it be beneficial to conduct an updated, more current study?
The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) conducted two studies on the long-term effects of ibogaine treatment. They submitted their research to the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction, which held their first meeting on June 16th, 2017. It will be helpful to learn more about MAPS’ findings during their study to see whether ibogaine is an effective treatment method.
Ibogaine and its Potentially Dangerous Impact
Despite newer studies, it is still difficult to determine whether or not ibogaine is a safe and reliable method of addiction treatment. Frank Vocci, a former member of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), described ibogaine treatment as a “vast, uncontrolled experiment.” With something as sensitive as drug addiction, placing your well-being and safety in the clutches of a drug lacking extensive research may not seem worth it.
In large doses, research has shown that ibogaine has a significant impact on the cardiovascular system. Heavy doses of ibogaine lower the user’s heart rate in six out of 39 patients involved in one study. One individual in the study experienced incredibly low blood pressure.
A study published in Molecules by Xaver Koenig and Karlheinz Hilber describes the lowered heart rate caused by ibogaine use as one of its most dangerous aspects. Ibogaine in high doses has resulted in several instances of cardiac arrhythmias, or abnormal heartbeat which leads to complications.
Only you can make the decision on ibogaine treatment: do the possible benefits outweigh the glaring complications? With so many other reliable methods of achieving sobriety available, why rely upon a method still heavily lacking in extensive research?
Other Options and Alternatives to Ibogaine for Addiction Treatment
It may seem ironic to simply treat addiction with another drug, but treatment centers are already doing just that. Suboxone and methadone are two of the most common medications used to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms in addicts during medication assisted detox and inpatient rehab.
The only difference between the use of each are the dozens of studies backing up the use of methadone and Suboxone. Ibogaine still lacks significant amounts of research due to the results of the 1993 FDA study. It is difficult to consider it a reliable treatment method due to the limited understanding still surrounding it.
Are you questioning whether you need to attend addiction treatment? Are you wondering which direction to head in, the best way to achieve sobriety once and for all? Where do you even start?
It is not necessary to gamble your chance at sobriety with an ibogaine treatment regimen. You can find help through detox, inpatient rehab, intensive outpatient programs, or long-term sober residential housing. Teams of trained doctors, nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, and addiction counselors work together to ensure you receive the best possible results from your treatment.
Still, there is no single “right way” to get sober, only a number of ways that worked for different people. Treatment is beneficial for many recovering addicts because it provides structure and balance, and helps integrate you back into society. You establish structure and discipline in your life. You discover the benefits of having a daily routine to fall back on when things go awry.
However, even addiction treatment isn’t the only way to get sober. Many find recovery through the help of 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. The community and change of purpose encouraged in and provided by 12-step programs has changed the lives of millions worldwide. One of the benefits of Anonymous programs is the lack of cost.
What is the Right Addiction Treatment Option For You?
Only you can decide what is best for you and your recovery. Is this your first time getting sober? Does it feel as though you’ve exhausted every other option available? What are your intentions for getting sober? What is your financial situation?
All of these are questions to consider when seeking addiction treatment or deciding on a path to take in order to get sober. You don’t have to answer all the alone, though. You can get in touch with someone who can help you through the process of making your decision.
When looking at an option like addiction treatment or rehab, the high cost often deters people. Insurance options are available at most every location and some even offer sliding-scale payment models. Don’t deny yourself the option for treatment before even starting to look around.
Just like only you can decide what is best for you and your recovery, you are the only one who can make the decision to get help. You may have pressure from your parents, your spouse, your partner, or your friends, but you must make the decision. Isn’t your life worth just one more try?
“The Anti-Addiction Drug Ibogaine and the Heart: A Delicate Relation” Molecules
“Ibogaine Therapy” Multidisciplinary Study for Psychedelic Studies
“A Psychedelic Can Cure Heroin Withdrawal” The Atlantic
“Ibogaine Therapy” Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies