There is extraordinary news for people struggling to rid themselves of an addiction. It’s a naturally occurring plant medicine called Ibogaine that is a detox agent. Ibogaine offers an unusual experience for the person seeking recovery and is unlike any other addiction treatment.
First, Ibogaine helps overcome the physical withdrawal symptoms
with a relatively painless detox process. Second, Ibogaine induces a
“waking dream” where the addicted person is led on an intense spiritual and emotional journey. During that stage, many addicts face fears and traumatic experiences that were often the root cause of the addiction.
The changes brought about by Ibogaine detox have been so remarkable that many began to proclaim that it was an “addiction cure”. This is simply not true. However, success rates can be greatly increased with an aftercare program that both complements and expands upon the original Ibogaine experience. More about that later.
What is Ibogaine?
Ibogaine is an isolated active alkaloid from the root bark of the central West African shrub (usually Tabernanthe Iboga). It has been used by traditional communities for ritualistic and healing purposes for centuries.
How Does Ibogaine Work?
Ibogaine detoxes the body, and in most cases, eliminates cravings and withdrawal symptoms by latching on to neuroreceptors and interrupting the body’s craving for opioids and other drugs, and allows the body’s neurotransmitter levels to become balanced once again. This interruption lasts between 30-60 days following treatment.
Why haven’t I heard about Ibogaine?
Because of the hallucinogenic properties of Ibogaine, Ibogaine treatment is not allowed in the United States. However, it is allowed in neighboring countries – primarily Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica and some of the Caribbean islands.
Does Ibogaine work for all substance addictions?
The answer is yes. However, Ibogaine is most successful with opiates and heroin. Other addictions such as alcohol, methamphetamines, benzos, suboxone and synthetic drugs can also be interrupted – but the protocols for these addictions usually require a more intensive, and longer detox.
Is Ibogaine right for me or a loved one?
Most people and families considering Ibogaine treatment have been to multiple drug and alcohol treatment programs but are still struggling with addiction. Many have difficulty with a 12-Step Program – especially young adults.
“Probably the single most important question in ibogaine treatment is the question of aftercare” ~Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) 2003
The Ibogaine detoxification is the first step. The second step
is successful long-term recovery. While Ibogaine provides the necessary “addiction interrupter”, it’s not a magic pill for sustained recovery. Aftercare plays a crucial role in the healing process. And the aftercare program has to be specifically designed to complement the Ibogaine experience.
Ibogaine Aftercare is focused on getting the individual healthy from a mind, body and spirit perspective. This also means meeting the person where they are – and assisting them in their recovery, using an individualized approach. This often includes:
• Introduction to alternative recovery support services. While 12- Steps are the “go to” for conventional drug and alcohol treatment centers, there are many other support services. The two that stand out are SMART Recovery, which stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training. This is a science-based recovery program. And Refuge Recovery, which is an Eastern-approach to recovery using mindfulness and meditation techniques.
• Healthy living habits. This may seem like a no-brainer, but exercise, meditation and healthy nutrition is crucial in early recovery. As the brain heals from addiction, healthy living habits are taught, so the individual begins to make good choices in caring for themselves.
• Interpreting the Ibogaine experience. During the Ibogaine experience many aspects of the persons past are revealed. Often the person senses a new direction and new priorities.
Psychotherapy is also very important during aftercare to help the individual heal and progress. Useful talk therapies might involve:
• Dropping the label of “Addict” and feelings of guilt and shame for past behaviors. Labeling ourselves or others as “addicts” is derogatory and judgmental, it’s like wearing a sign that you have high blood pressure or diabetes.
• Understanding and healing childhood traumas. In a landmark study, researchers collected information on the childhood stress experiences (called Adverse Life Events). The researchers determined that childhood stress exposure significantly raises a person’s risk of lifelong behavioral, mental and physical health problems. They also found an incredibly strong correlation between adverse childhood events and addiction in adulthood, and the more adverse experiences you have, the greater your risk.
• Finding One’s Purpose and Meaning in Life. This is especially true for young adults whose parents were well-intentioned and provided everything that their son or daughter needed. It’s important that every individual find purpose and meaning in life -having goals, things they want to achieve…without the use of addictive substances. And this is the key to a joy-filled life.
• Relapse Prevention and Exposure Therapy. This approach helps the individual to understand their specific triggers and patterns. Exposure therapy is especially effective in the healing process. The recovering person is safely exposed to similar situations as when they used, but with therapeutic support. Eventually, their drug triggers are neutralized, and the person isn’t so vulnerable to the people, places and things associated with former drug use.
No recovery treatment or therapy undoes years of avoiding life’s responsibilities. Those skills need to be learned or re-learned depending on the severity of one’s addiction.
Reentering Life – Where the Rubber Meets the Road.
The third part of successful recovery is putting what has been learned into action – and usually begins about six to eight weeks after Ibogaine detox. The anti-craving effects of the Ibogaine detox have passed, the brain, body and emotions are continuing to heal.
In this phase of aftercare, learning to deal with life’s issues – such as the healing of relationships, legal matters, employment, or education are discussed. Reengagement starts with simple tasks of learning to shop for groceries, opening a bank account, or even getting a valid ID or driver’s license. Support and guidance is crucial at this time to avoid relapse.
While therapy is still important in this phase, peer-to-peer support is essential. The guidance and support of others who have successfully gone through an Ibogaine detox and are functioning in the world brings hope to the newly recovering individual. By talking about living life, instead of focusing on addiction – a process of self-actualization takes hold. Their lives enter the “launch phase”. The realization of becoming the person they always wanted to be is no longer a dream- it’s reality.
Dennis Hofmaier is the Executive Director of Higher Path Living. Spero Alexio is the Clinical Director at Higher Path Living. www.hpliving.com