How Does Ibogaine Treat Opiate Addiction?
Holly started using heroin when she was 18 – at 26, she was at the end of the line. Her whole life revolved around getting high. In the past, she had tried 12-step programs, counseling, in-patient rehab, and even drug-assisted therapy…it seemed nothing could help.
Would she always be addicted to heroin? Was there anything she hadn’t tried?
During her most recent rehab stay, one of the other patients mentioned Ibogaine. Holly hadn’t heard of it before, and was intrigued by the amazing claims made about it. Feeling like she had no other options left, she decided to turn to Ibogaine in hopes for a cure. Since it’s classified as a Schedule I drug in the U.S., making it illegal, Holly traveled to a facility in Mexico to try Ibogaine treatment.
What is Ibogaine?
When she arrived at the facility, Holly learned more about Ibogaine. She already knew that it’s a psychoactive substance which comes from a West African plant. She knew it affects the brain in some way to help with heroin addiction. Holly discovered Ibogaine has been effective in treating other addictions too, including alcohol, Suboxone, Methadone, prescription painkillers, and stimulants. She learned that it works by interrupting the pattern of addiction in the brain.
Someone explained it to her like this: The heroin interacts with receptors in your brain. Your continued use of heroin has made those receptors hungry for more. Ibogaine takes the hunger away by taking receptors back to their pre-heroin state. Called an “addiction interrupter,” Ibogaine simply interrupts the chemical addiction, so it removes withdrawal and craving symptoms.
Holly thought this sounded like an answer to her prayers.
What is Treatment Like?
After receiving one dose of Ibogaine, she experienced a psychedelic state for about 30 hours. During that time, she gained insight into why she started using and reached a point of clarity she never had before.
Afterwards, she felt no cravings or withdrawal symptoms. She was happy to feel free and was ready to start living. A therapist recommended she continue counseling and attend support groups.
Why Doesn’t Everyone Get Treatment?
Reading about experiences like Holly’s might make anyone ask this question. The problem is the risk associated with Ibogaine use. (Which is why it is still illegal in the U.S.) Ibogaine can cause severe side effects, including:
- Ataxia (loss of control of body movements)
- Heart impairment
Solution or Unsafe Substance? The Debate Continues
Many sing its praises, but the medical community in the U.S. hasn’t given Ibogaine its seal of approval. Further research and future regulations will determine if this drug will provide a safe and effective alternative for opiate addiction treatment.
Additional Reading: Outlook on Opiate Abuse: There’s Good News and Bad News
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