A few members of our Heroin Addiction & Recovery Facebook page and Heroin Addiction & Recovery Discussion Forum boldly stated that Ibogaine is a cure for heroin addiction. And while it is not legal in the United States, or at least it hasn’t been since the 1960s, these few individuals are convinced that Ibogaine is the guiding light out of the dark, cold caverns of heroin addiction. So what is Ibogaine and why isn’t it available in the United States?
Ibogaine: What is it and Where Does it Come From?
Ibogaine is a naturally occurring psychoactive substance found in the plants in the Apocynaceae family. The Apocynaceae family is a family of flowering plants found in trees, shrubs, herbs, stem succulents and vines that are found to be indigenous to African rain forests. It has been used as a psychedelic for ritual and medicinal purposes by African pygmy tribes.
Unlike Methadone, Suboxone, Naltrexone (Vivitrol and ReVia) and others, Ibogaine is not currently approved for use in the United States. While preliminary research has shown that Ibogaine can help treat heroin addiction, there is a lack of sufficient data showing its success rate in humans. Moreover, Ibogaine has been associated with some serious side effects, including death.
Currently, Ibogaine is sometimes prescribed and used as an alternative treatment option at select treatment clinics in both New Zealand and Brazil, though out of the two countries, it is only approved in Brazil. In the United States, Ibogaine is used as a “schedule” substance. This basically means that Ibogaine is accompanied by a high potential for abuse and possesses no currently accepted medical treatment use in the United States. Simply put, there is lack of what would be an acceptable level of safety under medical supervision.
How Does Ibogaine Work to Treat Heroin Addiction?
Ibogaine works by completely rewiring the brain. It actually affects the brain in a completely unheard of way by resetting the dopamine uptake pathways in the reward and pleasure centers of the brain. There is no other known substance that is actually able to accomplish this with such accuracy. Ibogaine is used as an interruption therapy. This means that Ibogaine induces dream-like visions while the person is still awake. It is reported that the patient experiences a replay of pivotal moments in their life that ultimately contributed to their addiction. They may also be confronted by their fears and negative emotions that are the driving force behind their drug use behavior. Just like other medication assisted treatment options, Ibogaine (where used legally) should also be used in conjunction with intensive counseling therapies, both immediate and ongoing, for a better success rate.
How is Ibogaine administered
For opioid addiction, typical dosage is between 500-800 mg. This is taken under the supervision and care of a medical professional that is supposed to have experience with prescribing and administering Ibogaine.
Ibogaine comes in capsule form, and it is administered once. It is not used as an ongoing medication assisted treatment option, which is another reason why it is imperative to combine this with intensive, ongoing therapy. This large, all at once dosage allegedly creates a massive reduction in the symptoms often associated with drug withdrawal, which allows for a much more painless detoxification experience. It also reduces desire and cravings use heroin or other opioids for a period of a few weeks to a few months of time after taking Ibogaine.
Lastly, the psychedelic nature allows more clarity, for a person to start to understand the reasons behind their lifestyle choices to use heroin and/or opiates and be able to work on the underlying issues comfortably.
Ibogaine Side Effects
There are several possible side effects that are associated with Ibogaine. This is due to its psychedelic and disassociative properties. One of the most prominent side effects is a loss of gross and fine motor skill coordination. This can make it difficult for someone using this treatment at a high dose to walk or even stand at times. It also causes nausea, vomiting, and dry mouth, for anywhere from 4 to 24 hours. This can be so severe that someone who is using this as a treatment method may need to take Ibogaine in suppository form as opposed to orally to prevent it from being expelled. Ibogaine is contraindicated with many psychotropic medications, which, for those that have a dual diagnosis of a mental or emotional disorder along with substance abuse, this will not be a viable option for them. Lastly, Ibogaine can agitate certain heart conditions and possesses potentially fatal interactions with certain foods, particularly citrus or foods containing bergamot oil (which is a type of orange).
Will Ibogaine Ever Be Available to Treat Heroin Addiction in the United States
In order for Ibogaine to be used as a medication assisted treatment option in the United States, there needs to be a sufficient amount of research and clinical trials completed indicating that this is more helpful than harmful.
Current research studies suggest that Ibogaine does have the potential to break destructive habits. If the ongoing research for ibogaine continues to indicate that this has a unique way of repairing the damage and changes that occur in the brain and in the behavior of someone that is an addict, then it is likely that this will be a recognized medicine treatment option that becomes available in the United States.
Any medication that’s said to completely “rewire the brain” sounds pretty dangerous. Moreover, my skeptisicm that the benefits outweigh the potential problems and side effects associated with Ibogaine is through the roof. Only time will tell if Ibogaine becomes a legally recognized medicine assisted treatment along with Methadone, Suboxone, Naltrexone (Vivitrol and ReVia) and others.
William – Publisher and Founder of Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™
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