Today’s post was contributed by Aeden Smith-Ahearn, who once was a heroin addict for almost 7 years. After trying many different traditional methods to get off drugs, he decided to take a chance on Ibogaine treatment for his addiction. Now, 5 years later, Aeden is the treatment coordinator for a major Ibogaine clinic and he has helped hundreds of individuals find a new life through Ibogaine treatment.
When a highly recognized US medical doctor—the one prescribing opiates to patients on a daily basis—walks through the door of an Ibogaine clinic in Mexico to get treatment for his prescription pill addiction, the massive nature of America’s opioid dependence becomes clear—it affects everyone.
It’s not just doctors but lawyers, teachers, students, parents, CEOs, and the list goes on. Everyone, no matter what walk of life, is a target for opiate addiction. It is physically binding, psychologically confining, and, in almost every instance, impossible to break on your own.
But treatment in the United States is readily available. Each clinic claims to have high treatment success rates and effective, new wave approaches. However, these claims don’t reflect our reality.
Addiction Treatment in the United States
This is not to say that drug rehab in the United States is ineffective. Many individuals find success through traditional rehab programs, even if it takes multiple attempts. However, the problem stems from the “one-size-fits-all” approach. Because the majority of rehab programs in the United States revolve around the Alcoholics Anonymous approach, many individuals go to multiple treatment facilities and end up getting the exact same curriculum over and over again.
So, if the AA model isn’t working for an addict they may have few other alternatives in the United States. This is the major reason many are turning to Mexico and other countries for non-traditional treatment like Ibogaine.
A Short History of Ibogaine
Ibogaine itself is just one of the alkaloids found in the Tabernanthe Iboga plant native to Western Central Africa. For centuries the Iboga plant has been used by the Bwiti religion in Africa as a key element in their spiritual rituals.
However, it wasn’t until the 1960s that the anti-addiction properties of Ibogaine were discovered.
While searching for new psychedelic drugs to experiment with, a young heroin addict named Howard Lotsof was given a dose of Ibogaine by a friend who was also a scientist.
About 48 hours after the intense Ibogaine experience, young Howard Lotsof realized he had no withdrawal symptoms or cravings from his heroin habit. Being skeptical, he decided to give Ibogaine to a few of his heroin-addicted friends. This yielded similar results. His friends were no longer addicted to heroin after taking a strong dose of Ibogaine.
Lotsof spent the rest of his life, up until 2010, researching and studying Ibogaine and its effects on addiction as the founding member of the Global Ibogaine Therapy Alliance.
So, How Does Ibogaine Treatment Work?
Ibogaine interacts with the brain on two main levels. The first is on a physical level—this is where Ibogaine treats withdrawal and dependence. The second is the psychological level—the induced psychedelic experience.
Many drug addicts (including those struggling with dependencies on alcohol, methamphetamine, crack or cocaine, etc.) have claimed to find success through treatment with Ibogaine. And, while some studies have shown Iboga to have an effect on these addictions, including methamphetamine, more research is needed to support this.
However, on the subject of opiate and heroin addiction, numerous Ibogaine studies have shown the success of this treatment for addiction. Many of these studies have been done by ICEERS, an education and research center based on the use of ethnobotanicals and, more specifically, psychedelic plant medicines.
The exact way Ibogaine works to treat heroin addiction is still somewhat of a mystery. Many hypothesize that the process “resets” the brain back to its pre-addicted state. Though this tends to be the dominant theory, there is still further scientific research needed.
Whatever the exact process, those with heroin and opiate addictions, after taking Ibogaine, find themselves recovering from the experience with no acute opioid withdrawals or physical cravings for the drug. And, as withdrawal is one of the most difficult stages for addicts to overcome, many find lasting success after Ibogaine treatment.
Not only does Ibogaine target the physical addiction, it is also a powerful psychedelic medicine. And, as with other psychedelic like Ayahuasca, Psilocybin, MDMA, and LSD, more studies are showing the efficacy of psychedelics in treating mental health issues, including addiction.
Often times, the addiction itself is just a band-aid—a solution to a more severe underlying issue. This is why renowned addiction scientists, like Dr. Gabor Maté, have been such strong proponents of psychedelic medicines for treating addiction. These medicines work to treat the underlying issues that cause the addiction itself.
Ibogaine works in the brain like other psychedelics. It has been called “the waking dream” and often helps the addict come to terms with their past pain. Underlying trauma is often the reason an addict uses a drug. Ibogaine puts the addict in a more accepting state of mind and many find they are able to face their past and come to terms with their trauma with positive and lasting results.
In this way, Ibogaine works differently than many modern medications used in current rehabilitation models. Ibogaine is non-addictive, has low potential for abuse, and can help an addict get completely off of drugs, not just replace one drug for another.
Ibogaine or Traditional Rehab: Which is Better?
The question often arises: what form of drug rehabilitation is better? The reality is that one treatment approach cannot support all addicts. Each individual has their own set of issues, they respond differently to different treatments, and will need to find the approach that works best for them.
Just like traditional rehab, some individuals do not respond, or are not ready to respond, to Ibogaine treatment. They may leave an Ibogaine treatment center without withdrawal symptoms, but that still may not be enough for them to have lasting change.
Everyone is different. However one thing is clear, the lack of options in the United States has made it increasingly difficult for many to find long-term sobriety. Ibogaine is just one option, and it is important that an addict does their own research to determine Ibogaine treatment is an option for them.
There is no “best” approach when it comes to addiction treatment. As we open our minds to new possibilities we can one day provide a range of treatment options that will help those struggling with addiction to create the life they want.