Psychedelics are in the limelight with research organizations such as MAPS, John Hopkins, and The Imperial College of London studying their efficacy for mental disorders and substance addiction. Psychedelics are known to alter the Default Mode Network (DMN), an interconnection of brain components linked to daydreaming, obsessive worrying, self-reflection, anxiety, and depression.
Commonly researched psychedelics include LSD, MDMA, and Psilocybin. MDMA is being researched as a treatment method for PTSD and has received breakthrough therapy status by the FDA – it may be legal in clinical settings as early as 2023.
Psilocybin may be available in clinical settings in 2024 to treat certain mental disorders, including anxiety and depression—psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy lowers anxiety and improves mood in patients who receive treatment.
While the scientific research continues, there is renewed interest in exploring other psychedelic options to treat a broader range of addictions. A lesser-known psychedelic is ibogaine. This psychedelic carries the potential to treat addictions with substances such as heroin, fentanyl, alcohol, opioids, methamphetamines, and more.
What Is Ibogaine?
Ibogaine is a plant-based, psychoactive drug found in Central Africa. It is prepared by isolating alkaloids extracted from the bark of the Tabernanthe iboga shrub. Ibogaine is traditionally used in African spiritual rituals by indigenous pygmy tribes. French explorers in Africa brought the root back to Europe toward the end of the 19th century and spread its use throughout the Western world.
In the 1960s, Howard Lotsof, a heroin addict, experimented with ibogaine and realized its ability to suppress the withdrawal effects of heroin. Unfortunately, the FDA banned scientific research with psychedelics after Nixon declared the "war on drugs" in 1971. After this, ibogaine disappeared before science and research could pursue its potential in fighting addiction could be pursued.
What Are Its Effects?
Ibogaine is a dissociative psychedelic, which affects perception through sight and sound, and causes a feeling of detachment. As with any psychedelic, the effect may be altered by set and setting and the amount of dosage and method of consumption. Ibogaine is different from iboga, which also will affect the outcome perceived by the user.
Consumers of ibogaine report similar experiences during their journey with the drug. A trip with ibogaine will often conjure extreme or acute experiences of past memories. People report that the experience is like flashcards rapidly moving past or like a waking dream. There is an intense visual component during the acute phase of the trip.
After the acute stage of the ibogaine journey, a reflective tone is often reported. Many people start to evaluate the experience from the acute phase, which is when integration therapy may begin with a trained psychotherapist.
What Are the Therapeutic Benefits?
Ibogaine treats a variety of addictions including addictions to alcohol, heroin, opioids, and more. In an ongoing randomized control clinical trial, ibogaine is being used in the detoxification process of methadone, an opiate with strong withdrawal symptoms.
This psychedelic is known to restore brain processes to pre-addiction states, eliminating withdrawal symptoms. As such, it has been used in the treatment of alcoholism and opiate abuse, among others.. In a Brazillian study. 75 poly-drug users (cannabis, cocaine, crack, alcohol) were treated, with a 61% abstinence rate without any adverse effects, complications or fatalities.
Ibogaine treatment is more effective when done in conjunction with integration psychotherapy. Therapy may start before ibogaine is ingested, continue through the process, and extend into the post-treatment integration period.
Is it Legal?
Ibogaine has been illegal in the US since 1967. The DEA categorizes it as a Scheduled 1 controlled substance. The drug is mostly unregulated in Mexico, Costa Rica, Australia, Brazil, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and select European countries.
Are There Any Drug Interactions?
Studies have shown that ibogaine is unsuitable for patients with existing heart conditions such as irregular heartbeats or congenital cardiac defects. The same study posits that there are contraindications with concurrent medication administration that are significantly affected by CYP2D6 metabolism, which involves kidney function.
According to the Ibogaine University, patients seeking treatment should avoid a list of other drugs during treatment. These include:
- QT-prolonging drugs
- Anti-fungal Medication
- Psychotic medication such as amitriptyline, Elavil, Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil
Where Can I Legally Seek Treatment?
There are many legal ibogaine treatment centers around the world, however it is vital well-trained healthcare professionals run the facilities with the proper medical training and support.
Unregulated Ibogaine treatments in underground facilities have led to fatalities due to a lack of medical knowledge. The Global Ibogaine Therapy Alliance offers a well-structured set of guidelines that simplifies the selection process.
Ibogaine treatment may seem straightforward on its own. However, the real challenge lies in providing prior health screening. Choosing a treatment facility depends somewhat on a host of personal decisions and preferences. Still, any treatment center you consider should, first and foremost, adhere to the guidelines set forth by The Global Ibogaine Therapy Alliance for clinical treatment with ibogaine.
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