Despite the known dangers and the horror stories about heroin addition, like a moth to the flame, people continue to use the drug. It appears that heroin is here to stay. All the high-profile deaths and former user testimonials depicting a living hell have done little to significantly deter people from trying or continuing to use the dangerous drug. While popular treatments to beat heroin addiction have worked for some, many other people are still searching for a successful way off of the heroin train. Surprisingly, a treatment using a hallucinogenic may be helping some kick the heroin habit.
Ibogaine comes from the Tabernanthe iboga plant of Central West Africa and is an alkaloid that occurs naturally. Though it is a powerful hallucinogen, it has also been found to be a useful interrupter of chemical dependency. Research done in the 1980’s, in the United States, Netherlands and Canada, all found a high level of efficacy when Ibogaine was administered as a treatment for cocaine, alcohol and heroin dependency. The drug reduced the ill-effects of withdrawal and cravings. Because of its reputation as a hallucinogen, Ibogaine is not a legal treatment for heroin addiction in the United States. However, one former heroin user who traveled to Mexico to obtain treatment has stated that it felt like the Ibogaine reset his brain.
For four years, Ibogaine University, a treatment facility in Mexico, has been treating addiction to alcohol, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, tobacco and prescription drugs. Many of those on the staff are formerly chemically dependent. According to those staff members, Ibogaine worked so well to treat their addictions that they have decided to help others obtain the same treatment in order to get a handle on their addictions.
After a pre-screening, candidates take a test dose of Ibogaine. If successful, a full dose is administered. Some of the initial side effects include: ataxia (an inability to control muscle movements), dry mouth, nausea and vomiting. In the four years the clinic has been operating, they have had over 600 patients with no fatalities. This is a remarkable statistic since research has shown that one in 300 users could die from heart failure caused by Ibogaine.
Traditionally, the Iboga plant is used medically and in coming-of-age ceremonies in Africa. It may sound shocking when a doctor says that Ibogaine is a toxic substance. However, this should not be all that surprising as all hallucinogens are toxic – it is this very toxicity that causes the hallucinations. The stated results from the Ibogaine University seem to indicate that when administered carefully and correctly however, the hallucinogen Ibogaine, can be used to serve as a treatment for chemical addiction.
The ability the drug has to eradicate chemical dependency to drugs like heroin, has been substantiated by the Ibogaine University. Although the same level of substantiation does not exist in the United States, research on Ibogaine has been ongoing since as early as 1901. In fact, in the 1950’s, the Central Intelligence Agency studied the drug’s effects. Currently, Ibogaine is unregulated in Canada, Mexico, Germany and Norway.
Heroin is a powerful and powerfully addicting drug. Addict’s lives are often completely transformed by their drug use. With that in mind, it seems a “fighting fire with fire” approach could be a very effective treatment method and, based on the results in Mexico the use of Ibogaine as a treatment for drug dependency merits further testing. However, until the U.S. approves treatment with Ibogaine as an option for addicts, it may only be available for those who can afford the $7,500 to get the controversial treatment in Mexico. However, if a known hallucinogen from Africa can be used to successfully treat heroin addiction, then perhaps it is worth jumping into that fire.
Opinion by Stacy Lamy