Identifying and Isolating the Substance
Ibogaine is a psychoactive compound that’s naturally found in some plants. All plants containing the substance belong to the Apocynaceae family. Tabernaemontana undulata, Tabernanthe iboga and Voacanga africana all contain measurable amounts of the substance. Medical professionals define it as a psychoactive with potentially hallucinogenic properties. While iboga treatment isn’t yet approved in the United States, scientists have been examining its anti-addictive properties since 1962. Several US government agencies closely examined the substance throughout the 20th century.
The substance comes in the form of an indole alkaloid that’s either synthesized to derived from plant matter. Researchers first synthesized artificial supplies of the chemical in 1956. X-ray crystallography is the most reliable method of producing large industrial supplies for laboratory use. Ibogaine treatment center operators generally use only organic supplies of the chemical.
Cultural and Traditional Considerations
French and Belgian explores encountered the plant long before modern ibogaine therapy was even thought of. The first reports came from anthropologists and cartographers who were invited to spiritual ceremonies in Sub-Saharan African countries in the 19th century. Iboga root bark is still an integral part of Bwiti religious ceremonies. Practitioners pulverize and consume large amounts of the root in order to produce an intense psychoactive effect.
Sometimes people living in Sub-Saharan African communities chew a small amount of the root bark in order to reduce a little bit of ibogaine. The substance acts as a stimulant in these doses. Laborers working on construction sites and in mines in the modern day sometimes use the root in order to give them a boost in order to get through the day. The long-term health effects of using it in this manner are not yet understood. More research is needed before any serious medical comments can be made in regards to traditional uses of the iboga plant.
Organic supplies of the chemical were marketed in France from 1930 to 1966 under a professional trade name. It was used recreationally, and athletes used it to enhance their performance. While these uses weren’t traditional, they were an excellent opportunity for researchers to collect more information about the long-term influence of the drug. Even though people became dependent on it, scientists were impressed with the fact that it could be used as a substitute for harmful addictive substances. Howard Lotsof wrote in 1962 that heroin addicts experienced reduce cravings when taking it. He also felt that it reduced the painful withdrawal symptoms that addicts had when they gave up heroin.
The story is particularly interesting because Lotsof actually participated in it. Research conducted by doctors is generally a hands-off sort of affair. They don’t usually participate in it directly. Lotsof and his friends, however, were actually addicted to heroin at the time. He personally noticed that he experienced reduced cravings when taking iboga plant supplements. While the scientific community at the time wasn’t impressed with his methodology and felt he wasn’t a professional researcher, they were extremely surprised at how efficient the dietary supplements had proven in treating his withdrawal symptoms. Lotsof became a minor celebrity in some circles. Heroin addicts reached out in hopes that they would have been able to replicate his success for themselves.
The Modern Iboga House
Iboga molecules can simulate the influence of molecules of other substances. Opiods, synthetic painkillers and alcohol all feature molecules that dependent patients require in order to assuage a physiological craving. While iboga isn’t a completely safe substance, metered doses of the chemical can take the place of far more harmful ones when a patient is transitioning away from using their drug of choice. Attenuation of opiate withdrawal is one use of the chemical in a modern ibogaine clinic, though it can be used to treat alcoholism patients in much the same way.
A patient addicted to opium, heroin or another drug first receives a dose of the organic chemical that’s about equal to what they were using when they were at the height of their addiction. The dose is reduced over a period of weeks. Ibogaine treatment can take six months to a year. At that point most patients have recovered from the physiological aspects of their addiction. Many will still require psychiatric support and counseling for some time afterwards.
One of the more interesting aspects of ibogaine is the low list of contraindications associated with its usage. Most patients can go on an ibogaine therapy regimen. Only those who are currently taking psychiatric medications are advised to avoid treatment. It’s easy to say that a majority of patients battling an addiction can make use of this therapy considering the fact that many patients who need this sort of treatment have to give up their medications anyway.
Some people have actually become addicted to psychiatric medications. These individuals might need to wait a brief period before entering an iboga house. They’ll need to first detoxify their system before they can experience the healing properties this root extract has to offer. Unfortunately this means that they might have to rely on allopathic treatments until it’s safe enough to administer them iboga.
The stimulant effects of ibogaine sometimes worsen cardiovascular problems, but the same could be said of nearly any substitute drug. Addiction patients often suffer from cardiovascular problems in the first place because they’re dealing with a history of drug abuse. Administering treatment in these cases might ultimately reduce their risk of heart attack or stroke. Iboga house staff should closely monitor them to make sure that they’re healthy enough to continue their treatment. They’ll also probably be started off at a lower dose until their cardiovascular system improves to the point that they can receive the same dose that other patients do.
An Alternative Medicine for Drug Addicts
Drug abuse experts act surprised at just how well the iboga treatment center model has worked thus far. Data illustrates that patients receiving as little as 11 mg/kg of the chemical per dose at an iboga house were able to eliminate their withdrawal symptoms within 72 hours. Higher doses of iboga are sometimes called for, but most patients won’t need much of it to receive the appropriate effect.
Unlike those who are given synthetic prescriptions, patients on ibogaine therapy don’t experience a drop in effectiveness after the first month of treatment. Many of them can even be discharged from the iboga treatment center after 30 days. They’re allowed to return home while they continue their therapy. This is a marked improvement over those using commercial prescriptions. Decreased cravings experienced within the first 72 hours of treatment generally continue in a majority of cases for the entire period of time that patients are administered the organic chemical substitutes.
Several prescription drugs are approved for treating opiate use disorder. Methadone is by far the most common. Buprenorphine and suboxone are also used in a similar capacity. Opiate replacement therapy focuses on giving patients a substitute drug instead of their drug of choice, which means that it works almost identically to the type of therapy they’d receive in an iboga house. However, this form of treatment might be rendered obsolete in light of how effective iboga actually is.
Heroin-assisted treatment is popular in some countries in Western Europe. This follows the same form as the other styles, but it actually allows the patient to continue to use real heroin throughout the treatment process. The subject is supposed to reduce the amount that they use over time. This can be an extremely dangerous procedure. Some patients start to get addicted all over again. Others actually experience fatal side effects from the heroin that they’re given.
Alternative medicine advocates are pressing to replace this sort of treatment with iboga root extract as soon as possible in these markets. This is a far safer alternative than using heroin. Few substances carry the risk of immediate cardiovascular failure that heroin does. Legislative authorities advocating for heroin-assisted treatment have largely overlooked this risk. It’s unfortunate considering how much safer iboga root extract is. Nevertheless, authorities seldom consider this as an option. Some members of the press that deals with alternative medicine have suggested that they may simply be unfamiliar with the compound.