The opiate crisis gripping North America is a complex issue that effects many social and socio-economic matters, such as homelessness, healthcare, crime, housing, unemployment and welfare. The current solutions, such as harm reduction and methadone, though better than nothing, are not fully effective or sustainable. Some people turn to extreme measures to try and circumvent the withdrawal opiates induce upon their cessation. Among many alternative options, a known drug called Ibogaine, is a growing trend.
Choosing ibogaine to treat addiction
Ibogaine derives from the West African shrub, Tabernanthe iboga, commonly known as iboga. In my 12 years of heavy opiate abuse, I went down many alleys looking for solutions, some darker than others. My desperation to avoid the excruciating, often month-long withdrawal led me to iboga. After much research, and a ten thousand dollar payment, I was committed.
Ibogaine is a psychoactive alkaloid, that in small doses acts as a stimulant, but in larger doses induces a profound psychedelic state that lasts for many hours. Culturally and historically, it has been used in West Africa by the Bwiti tribe for healing ceremonies and religious initiations. Anecdotal reports of its use in America began to surface in the early 1960’s. Addicts reported reduced withdrawal symptoms after having taken high doses of ibogaine.
Today, there are many independent clinics in Canada and Mexico that treat addictions, PTSD, and other trauma-based disorders using ibogaine. It is believed that ibogaine works in two distinct ways: firstly, by physically reducing the withdrawal itself, and secondarily – but most notably – by targeting the underlying psychological issues often associated with addiction. It is said that during your high, you face your inner demons, often the catalysts for your use. It works to heal the very same neurotransmitters effected by heroin and opiates, resetting the brain to a pre-addiction state. Western doctors do not endorse its use for addiction, but in my personal experience it did in fact reset my brain.
Mental and physical experience of ibogaine
I recall a very intense trip, wherein my body and mind were disconnected from one another and I was in a state of intense system overload. Physically, my body was very still for the initial 4-6 hours, then a violent withdrawal began, which is to be expected. I had zero control over my body; it was thrashing all over the floor, and I was sneezing over and over, probably over a hundred times. My body ached inside and out for days. I had to be put on a ventilator twice due to low blood pressure, which is also common. Although I underwent ECGs (Electrocardiograms) and all sorts of blood tests before being eligible to start my ibogaine journey, it is still incredibly dangerous taking high amounts of ibogaine, and must be done with a trained shaman and nurse. My shaman was highly experienced and I trusted her implicitly, though I was still very scared.
Mentally, it was an entirely different reality. I did not experience visions of my inner demons. All that I recall is hours of what I’ve come to call “carnival confusion.” My body felt like it was a vehicle, moving a hundred kilometres an hour up and down multi-coloured, vertical streets that were longer than the eye could see. I felt like my body had morphed into the driver’s seat of this vehicle, and the road passed below me with such speed and animosity that everything was blurred. Up and down, up and down, so fast, so eternal. The sounds were the most disturbing. I heard everything you hear at a carnival, times ten, and in fast forward. The weird music, the balloons having air popped out, the children screaming, the sound of the wind as a roller coaster whipped by, the crunching of candy apples and popcorn. All simultaneously, and without pause. It was overwhelming to say the least, and absolutely all-encompassing. I couldn’t have left that carnival if I’d wanted to, and I didn’t even have the will to want to. I was not there. Ibogaine had replaced my body and mind for the time being, and I was, for all intensive purposes, gone.
Upon my revival from this 12-hour trip, I was beat. I couldn’t even stand or sit up. It puts your body through a tremendous amount of pressure and pain, but the ends justify the means when you are desperately trying to heal your life. One of the craziest things, something I will never forget, was that my receptors really did reset. Food tasted brand new, like it was the first time eating anything. And when I eventually lit a cigarette, I had flashbacks to smoking my very first one, at 15 years old. It tasted exactly the same and gave me a huge head rush, as though it were the first intoxicant I had ever put into my body. It was mind blowing. Mentally, I could feel that something had shifted in my brain.
Physically, the pain was so intense that I could not decipher if it was from the aftermath I had just experienced, or if in fact my body was still in withdrawal. After a week of no sleep, tossing and turning, excruciating lower back pain, anxiety and depression, I relapsed. Two years later, I was able to get clean for good.
The need for more ibogaine studies in treating addiction
Though ibogaine was not the solution I was so desperately seeking, I still concede its benefits. I believe wholeheartedly that had I been in a better place going into this decision, and had I tapered my use beforehand, I would have succeeded. There are many people who have success stories using ibogaine, and more research is required in order to understand its full potential.
If they decriminalized its use (it is legal in Mexico, a Schedule I drug in the USA, and a grey area In Canada), then more studies could be conducted to understand the depth of its benefits. Classic solutions such as methadone or suboxone are a lifelong sentence, with 95% of people who are prescribed methadone staying on it for the rest of their lives. These toxic, highly addictive drugs also rot the body and mind from the inside out, costing patients their health and wellness, and society in terms of health care bills.
Harm reduction and addiction are everyone’s problem. If you can best judge a culture based on how they care for their down trodden and suffering, we in Canada are failing. Furthermore, people deserve access to safe, plant-based solutions that have much less risk and consequence associated with their use. These solutions are more sustainable, often less expensive over a lifetime, and more sensible overall. We need to put the needs of people above the pockets of big Pharma and business. There are millions of people suffering from opiate addiction in North America today.
Addiction is a human issue; a complex issue that requires society and science alike to blur the lines, and bend the rules in order to find answers.
By an anonymous contributor
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. We advise readers to always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.