The Opioid Epidemic is a crisis spawned from the underbelly of over-prescription, pharmaceutical greed, heroin, and fentanyl abuse. Every day it claims 128 American lives. In 2017, due to an insidious two-fold increase in deaths over the course of the decade, it was declared a public health emergency. Years later, millions are still balancing precariously on the same precipice of relapse and overdose.
Opioid addiction is an “equal opportunity” issue, claiming victims across all spectrums of society. From pregnant mothers to high school students, many lives revolve around getting the next fix. Addiction has amassed a vast collection of fellow sufferers, single-handedly worsening their physical, psychological, social, and financial health.
In this article, we will deconstruct the world of opioid addiction. We will then explore a highly-promising alternative treatment that is transforming the lives of those looking to liberate themselves from the shackles of opioids. The name of this treatment is ibogaine. If you’re someone seeking effective paths to recovery, we urge you to read this article in full.
Opioid is an umbrella term for many drugs that hold a common origin rooted in colorful Opium Poppy flowers. The Sumerians nicknamed these the ‘Joy Plant.’
Opioids fall into three categories:
Opioids are widely known as “painkillers.” The majority of people are introduced to opioids after a hospital visit. It is here, in these hospitals, that the epidemic took its first breath. The 90s saw a dramatic increase in physicians prescribing natural and semi-synthetic opioids, along with methadone — a phenomenon triggered by what may be the biggest mistake in modern medicine, using pain as the fifth vital sign. Thus, creating the first catalyst for opioid overdose deaths. The American Medical Association (AMA) tried to rectify this mistake in 2016 by proposing to remove pain as the fifth vital sign.
Another factor that contributed to the opioid epidemic was an organic increase in heroin use, starting in 2010. Increased use of synthetic opioids (sometimes used in combination with heroin and cocaine) began in 2013 and added further fuel to the fire.
Believe it or not, our body naturally makes its own opioids, known as “endogenous” opioids. These include endorphins, enkephalins, and dynorphins. They get released in lower amounts making them ineffective in alleviating chronic or severe pain. Hence, the need for prescription opioids.
It is common to prescribe opioids to patients recovering from surgery or those experiencing moderate to severe pain due to other ailments such as cancer, sports injuries, or back pain.
Along with mitigating pain, the adherence of opioids to the receptors also triggers a copious release of dopamine. This reaction results in a person feeling extremely calm, high, and happy. Again, rubber stamping why the opioid poppy is known as the Joy Plant. All of these effects are a strong motivator for repeated usage and a precursor to developing physical dependence.
Prescription opioids are safe to use for a short duration within the dosage period recommended by a doctor. But, taking them beyond that period increases the chances of developing an addiction.
Here, we explain the science behind your brain becoming addicted to opioids.
The central nervous system contains the brain and the spinal cord. The brain contains billions of nerve cells, also known as neurons, that communicate with one another using electrical and chemical signals.
The distance between neurons can be either long or short. They connect one area of the brain to the next through pathways to transmit and receive information.
Some pathways get activated when you receive rewards (positive reinforcement) for certain behaviors. Humans love rewards and tend to engage in rewarding behaviors repeatedly. For example, the reward for a child behaving well is praise from an adult, and the reward for completing a work project is recognition. Rewards can be intangible, such as praise or recognition, or physical, such as drugs.
The most significant reward pathway is the Mesolimbic dopamine system, which plays a significant role in motivation, reward, and addiction. This pathway starts in an area known as the Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA), the primary dopamine-producing area in your brain. The VTA is connected with Nucleus Accumbens located in the Ventral Striatum. This region has a strong association with motivation and reward.
The dopamine neurons in the VTA become activated when engaging in rewarding behavior. These neurons send a signal to the nucleus accumbens through the mesolimbic dopamine pathway. The result is an instant influx of the neurotransmitter, dopamine. Dopamine reinforces the behavior of taking drugs by making the user feel pleasure, and in the case of opioids, absolute bliss.
Opioid addiction, medically referred to as opioid use disorder, usually begins with a person using the drug as a painkiller. It takes as little as a couple of weeks for an addiction to develop, and it’s a habit that gets reinforced and cemented by dopamine.
As mentioned before, our brain is wired to increase the likelihood of repeating pleasurable activities. Dopamine is central to this since its mass release signals to the brain to remember and repeat the activity without much resistance. The amount of dopamine triggered by drug use is significantly higher than the natural rewards you experience from ordinary activities. It is for this reason that drug usage is so addictive. Without drugs, the user’s ability to feel pleasure from naturally rewarding activities becomes suppressed.
Prolonged use of opioids suppresses the brain’s natural ability to release the same amount of dopamine. Therefore, the chronic uses have to take larger or more frequent doses to achieve the same state of euphoric bliss.
As a result, for some, prescription opioids are a gateway to heroin as it’s less expensive and more potent. Often, heroin users who are looking for an even higher “high” progress to fentanyl — a drug that is 50x more potent than heroin and 100x more potent than morphine.
According to the DSM-5, symptoms of Opium Use Disorder include:
Opioids differ slightly from other drugs since they can induce dependency in just four weeks. Also, the severity of opioid withdrawal symptoms destroys the resilience of most users to overcome their addiction.
We want to reiterate that anyone can get addicted to opioids regardless of their background or personal circumstances. In the same vein, the path to recovery is also open to everyone, provided they are willing to give themselves a real chance.
The popular conventional treatment for opioid use disorder is medication-assisted. This treatment uses medications in conjunction with behavioral therapy. The medications commonly used to treat opioid addiction include methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. All three drugs alleviate withdrawal symptoms and mitigate cravings in their unique way. Yet, they fail to resolve the underlying psychological or emotional problems or trauma that led the person to continue taking prescription drugs in the first instance. Ibogaine fills this gap.
The conventional drugs also leave people with unfortunate side-effects. Suboxone, a popular replacement for methadone as a treatment for opioid addiction, causes Anhedonia — an inability to experience pleasure while doing things you once enjoyed. Plus, it also causes dependence, which is a very counterintuitive outcome since no one on the recovery path wants to trade one addiction with another.
Ibogaine is derived from the Tabernanthe iboga, a bushy shrub native to West Central Africa and in specific Gabon and Cameroon. It’s a naturally occurring psychoactive compound and has been an active participant in the fabric of society for centuries. The plant plays a prominent role in religious ceremonies and rites in the regions from where it hails. Tribes also use it to treat impotence, stomach ache, liver disorders, and other ailments.
According to the Chilean psychiatrist, Claudio Naranjo, in minute doses, ibogaine produces stimulative effects, such as low lethargy and increased energy. Taken in larger doses, though, it elicits oneirogenic effects, an immersive dreamlike state of consciousness while being awake. It also makes it easier to retrieve long-repressed memories. Naranjo was the first person to explore the psychotherapeutic effects of ibogaine scientifically. In his experiments, he found that this substance helped people view traumatic experiences through an objective lens. This objectivity then gave them a remarkable opportunity to tackle unresolved emotional conflicts that may have triggered opioid abuse and many other problems.
Although ibogaine hasn’t received much commercial notoriety, it has been quietly assisting thousands of opioid users in overcoming their addiction. It made its debut into the western world of substance addiction in the 60s when Howard Lotsof accidentally discovered the anti-addictive properties of ibogaine. The 19-year-old heroin addict took ibogaine in his Brooklyn apartment and tripped for around 33 hours. Astonishingly, he felt no withdrawal symptoms despite going without heroin for a day and a half. Once the trip came to an end, Lotsof says he came to the realization that his desire for heroin had vanished completely. Since then, he has become a prominent proponent of ibogaine as an effective addiction treatment.
While banned in the United States, ibogaine usage continues in drug treatment facilities in various countries. Here, it assists substance abuse addicts as they navigate the path to recovery without experiencing the difficult phase of withdrawal symptoms and dealing with unresolved trauma, which, together, reduces the risk of a relapse.
Now that we know more about the reward centers, addiction, and ibogaine, let’s delve into how this effective medication stands to treat opioid addiction.
As mentioned above, the VTA is full of dopamine-producing neurons. When something pleasurable happens, such as the introduction of an artificial opioid, the neurons covered in opioid receptors release a flood of dopamine. After repeated usage, our brain is unable to release natural dopamine, which then leads to users requiring more opioids if they are to experience the same effect. The user then spirals into a cycle of cravings, tolerance, and withdrawal.
Ibogaine is an “addiction interrupter.” It interacts with the brain as a neuromodulator and neurotransmitter. As an agonist, it binds to the serotonin receptor 5-HT2A, which is found throughout our central and peripheral nervous systems. This action modulates the release of several neurotransmitters like dopamine. Ibogaine also acts as an agonist to the k-opioid receptor, a protein that binds opiate-like compounds to the brain.
Moreover, it promotes the synthesis of Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF). This protein plays a vital role in brain plasticity, keeping the nervous system healthy, and repairing the brain. Ibogaine helps addicts as their brains’ ability to repair itself is diminished.
Ibogaine also treats the psychological component of addiction, but not everyone who takes ibogaine experiences the psychoactive properties of this drug. It is typical for those who do, though, to go through three phases. We refer to these as an acute phase, a reflective phase, and a residual stimulation phase.
The first two phases can bring about some unpleasant side effects. These can include a tinnitus-like sound, auditory hypersensitivity, ataxia (lack of muscle control, uncoordinated movements), nausea, vomiting, dissociation, and visual tracers.
Ibogaine restores the brain to its pre-addiction state. The beneficial effects of ibogaine can last for several weeks or months. Why? Because ibogaine gets converted into noribogaine in the liver, which lingers in the body for a long time.
In one study, 30 participants with opioid dependence (oxycodone and/or heroin) were administered a dose of Ibogaine HCL. Results showed that 15 participants reported no opioid use for 30 days. While, for some participants, the effects were sustained for three to 12 months. A key finding of this study revealed that Ibogaine might be an effective treatment where other treatments have been unsuccessful.
A study also looked at ibogaine’s longitudinal treatment effects over 12 months among 14 participants receiving legal ibogaine treatment for opioid dependence. The results showed that a single treatment diminished withdrawal symptoms. Users were either able to stop opioid-use completely or sustain reduced usage over 12 months.
Another study looked at the efficacy of ibogaine in helping cocaine and opioid addicts transition to sobriety. Results showed that when administered in a safe dosage, ibogaine suppresses opioid withdrawal symptoms and reduces cravings. Therefore, to conclude, a single dose of ibogaine can effectively treat opioid withdrawal during a medically supervised transition to abstinence.
Many other studies echo these findings. That said, there’s still room for, and an urgent need to explore ibogaines’ potential in remediating opioid addiction, especially in larger groups.
The common thread among most studies is that while ibogaine curbs withdrawals and cravings, consider it more of a detox than a magic bullet to cure opioid addiction. Even after seeking treatment, it’s recommended to seek psychotherapy or enter a rehabilitation service to prevent relapse and better position yourself for long-term recovery.
The Ibogaine treatment’s safety largely depends on the provider. During your research, you’ll likely come across studies discussing its side effects and risks — the worst being 30 some unfortunate fatalities that occurred due to the unscrupulous practices performed by shady and unskilled ibogaine providers, and people who decided to treat themselves at home after buying the compound off the internet.
Plus, there are risks like seizures, gastrointestinal issues, heart complications, and ataxia, but they can be mitigated through stringent testing, careful administration, and a strong aftercare program. Patients need to be vetted for certain pre-existing medical conditions (such as heart and kidney problems), which many Ibogaine treatment centers fail to take a thorough approach towards.
They also don’t perform the necessary pre-treatment and post-treatment protocols to ensure the person’s physical and psychological safety, nor use the precise dosage that the body needs to safely complete the treatment. Many centers administer Ibogaine to patients who entered the facility straight from home, after eating home-cooked meals. There is no preparation done before giving the treatment. This is dangerous as it slows the heart to extremely low levels, and the person ends up having a stroke or even dying.
At The Holistic Sanctuary, we never take safety for granted with any of our patients. We’ve had ZERO casualties at our center since we started, as our protocol has seen an 80% success rate in all our patients — that’s already higher than most other treatment centers offering Ibogaine. But, still, know that we are always finding ways to improve the percentage even higher.
We start with a full physical evaluation, EKG/ECG tests, liver tests, and blood work. Once we medically qualify your eligibility to receive the treatment, you will go through various other therapies, some before receiving Ibogaine and some after. All of this is aimed at preparing the body to attain the maximum efficacy from Ibogaine and also to cement your physiology’s safety once the compound enters the body. Our method heals at a cellular level — from inside out.
Some of the treatments that are part of our proprietary Pouyan Method Ibogaine Therapy Protocol include:
Other than the ones mentioned above, we have a whole suite of highly-effective treatments, including Total Liver detox protocol, Parasite cleanses, PRP Plasma therapy, Adipose stem cell therapy, raw organic juice cleanses, reiki, yoga, massages and more, which all our patients obtain before and after the Ibogaine treatment to help them achieve full recovery.
We have a panel of nurses and doctors 24X7 on our site to attend to any emergency if needed. When you leave our sanctuary, you will be a completely new person with a new zeal for life, and without any baggage of pills holding you back from confidently moving forward.
Ibogaine treats opioid addiction on both the hardware (brain) and the software (psychological) levels. Not only will it reset your brain, but it will also give you the unique opportunity to take an objective look at past trauma and heal its effects on your life. The experience that ibogaine bestows on you is transformational. The drug has the potential to elevate all facets of your life. It will allow you complete control of your decisions once again instead of leading you towards feelings of cravings and relapse.
Regardless of whether ibogaine is or isn’t the ultimate solution for you, it could be a part of your journey to recovery. It is a solution that can work in conjunction with other resources to guide you along the rough road you must travel.
Know that this drug, like every other drug, holds risks. Consult a medical professional to discuss the best way to welcome ibogaine into your specific recovery journey. The Opioid epidemic doesn’t need more victims, adding to its statistics. The world needs more survivors.
Call us today. Learn how you can take your first steps to recovery using Ibogaine with us.