The pitfalls of legalizing (and commercializing) entheogens

Ayahuasca and other entheogenic substances have gained widespread interest in the Western world as potential therapeutic agents for healing a wide spectrum of biological, mental, and spiritual diseases. In the United States, psilocybin (the active psychoactive substance in “magic mushrooms”) and MDMA have been given FDA “breakthrough therapy” status for treatment-resistant depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, respectively, while ketamine infusion therapies are being used for treatment of PTSD and chronic pain. Meanwhile, many opiate addicts are seeking reprieve in ibogaine, whose effects include elimination of acute opiate withdrawal symptoms and abatement of post-acute withdrawal symptoms (1). The use of ayahuasca for spiritual growth and to address issues like depression and addiction also continues to rapidly grow.

The irony that these psychedelic substances -- which have been demonized by governments, public policy, and the medical system itself for the last 50 years as dangerous and of no medical utility -- would have the potential to be wonder treatments for conditions that until now have been largely characterized as untreatable or at best manageable, should remain at the forefront of anyone’s mind who chooses to use them.

The type of research being done to promote these tools in the biomedical community and to generate interest from pharmaceutical investment does not properly address how the “psychedelic experience” and high entropy brain states that follow are best leveraged through proper psychotherapeutic support and the sustained, individualized effort toward actualizing their healing potential.

In short, the push to place these adjunctive therapeutic tools into medical legitimacy seems to be largely funneled into pharmaceutical pre-marketing strategies versus a comprehensive picture of how healing with these substances occurs. Lastly, it seems that the government’s agenda of developing sleek, marketable drugs (FDA “breakthrough status” was given for the compound psilocybin, not the mushrooms that contain psilocybin) will limit their access to those who can afford the treatments versus those who are most in need or those most likely to make use of their benefits.  

As potential consumers of these substances, we need to avoid the temptation to identify these compounds as quick-fix medication and look at them as catalyzing agents toward understanding the provenance of our individual “dis-ease.”  For many of us, the origins of our individual disease process are directly related to our programmed worldview and prevailing level of self-awareness. The process of integrating, practicing, and utilizing the information gleaned from the entheogenic experience is where the work and the healing begins. Ayahuasca itself does not heal (parasitic illness are an exception); psilocybin itself does not heal.

These substances will generally reveal to us where our “illness” is rooted, show us the path to healing, and maybe kick us a little ways down the path. The rest of the healing process depends on our willingness and consistent effort to walk through the resolution of traumas, release stuck energies or emotions, and move toward disentanglement with our perceived illness. In other words, the ingested substance is at best 20% of the solution (I’m not discounting the therapeutic benefit of a profound mystical experience here); we are the remaining 80% of the solution.

As with many of our deepest challenges, adaptive change is only achieved through steady, sustained effort and proper support.  If we buy into the pharmaceutical industry marketing of expecting a quick fix or relief of symptoms with minimal to no effort on our part, we will most likely not experience the full capacity for the intrinsic self-healing power that these compounds want us to find.

References:

1) Alper, K., Brown, TK. (2018) Treatment of opioid use disorder with ibogaine: detoxification and drug   use outcomes. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Use: 44, 24-36

Ayahuasca and Substance Addiction Treatment

Ayahuasca is a mixture of mainly two Amazonian plants: the liana Mariri (Banisteriopsis caapi) and the shrub Chacruna (Psychotria viridis). Several studies have shown its effectiveness in the treatment of substance addiction and other mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Its main active ingredient is N, N-dimethyltryptamine or DMT, which boosts serotonin as effectively as some psychiatric medications such as antidepressants.

Originally used in the Amazon jungle in ritual and shamanic contexts, in recent decades ayahuasca has expanded throughout the world. Thousands of people affirm the importance it has had in their personal or spiritual development, in acquiring deeper knowledge of themselves or healing different physical or psychological problems.

Of particular note is the role that ayahuasca has played in the treatment of substance addiction. The transdisciplinary currents of the sciences (where anthropology, psychology, psychiatry, medicine and neurophysiology converge) have been evaluating for decades the therapeutic capacity of the contextualized use of ayahuasca, discovering its potential to interrupt and improve -- and in some cases dissolve -- pathological states such as depression, anxiety or addiction.

Taking ayahuasca not only helps to detoxify the body, reduce the desire for drug consumption and increase body awareness, it also takes the person beyond his or her usual defense mechanisms, facilitating the discovery of new psychological resources and the emergence of therapeutic insights that become essential in the recovery process. (LOIZAGA-VELDER, 2013)

Where other therapeutic strategies for the treatment of addictions have failed, ayahuasca has often succeeded by inducing deeper levels of self-awareness, allowing the individuals to address not only their addiction, but the problems that underlie it.

Joseph Mª Fericgla, anthropologist and ethnopsychiatrist, affirms that during an ayahuasca experience people get in touch with themselves from a different perspective, from which they observe themselves, re-experience the present and historic contents of their emotions, and open the possibility of framing them with a different meaning. In this way, ayahuasca-assisted therapy favors locating the individual in the present, thereby releasing emotional burdens of the past as well as fears and pressures of the future. It also encourages making contact with one's own emotions in a way that allows that person to recognize and understand them from a new perspective, reconfiguring one’s sense of meaning and purpose. Finally, it helps to integrate pieces of inner conflict that can trap a person in constricting thought patterns -- helping to go beyond narrow obsession and opening the door to interesting glimpses of the mystery of one's own existence, asking questions like who am I? and why am I here? (FERICGLA, 2018)

Accordingly, several studies make clear that, in appropriate contexts, ayahuasca has enormous therapeutic potential, confirming its value in the treatment of addictions since it can have profound and lasting effects. (LOIZAGA-VELDER, 2013)

It is necessary to point out the importance of therapeutic support in an adequate integration of the experience, which has a very important influence on the results of the treatment. The aftercare, contention and sense of community provided play a key role in the recovery (or interruption) of the addiction.

At Inscape Recovery we are a small therapeutic community. We receive a maximum of 7 patients at a time, and our staff consists of two doctors, two psychotherapists, a medicine man and medicine women, a nutritionist and a crew of yoga and chi kung instructors, art teachers and body-therapists.

Daily life in the community offers a space for self-observation through the daily tasks that accompany the therapeutic process: preparing breakfast, washing dishes, meeting in the group to integrate our experiences and learnings, sharing songs around the fire, etc.

Our intervention strategy is based on the combination of naturopathic and psychotherapeutic systems with the therapeutic-ceremonial use of ayahuasca. Our goal is not the simple relief of addiction symptoms; through a deep internal exploration, combined with changes to our lifestyle, we identify and break the patterns that have led to substance dependency, achieving a lasting sense of well-being and integrity.

REFERENCES

  • FERICGLA, J.M. (2018). Ayahuasca, La realidad detrás de la realidad. Barcelona: Kairós.

  • LOIZAGA-VELDER, ANJA (2013) A Psychotherapeutic View on the Therapeutic Effects of Ritual Ayahuasca Use in the Treatment of Addiction, MAPS Bulletin Special Edition.

www.maps.org/news-letters/v23n1/v23n1_p36-40.pdf


Inscape Ibogaine Aftercare Program

The Importance of Ibogaine Aftercare

Though iboga is something of a miraculous plant, this world is not one of panaceas — and iboga is no exception. Iboga is a time-honored medicine from Gabon, Africa, historically used in adulthood initiation rituals. In the United States the 1960’s, iboga was accidentally discovered to have a very peculiar quality: it reverses many of the symptoms of opiate withdrawal, and ultimately helps to revitalize the brain from damage exacted by drug use. In recent years, studies have shown Ibogaine (the medical term for the iboga-extract that is widely used in treatments) to be effective in treating conditions ranging from addiction, to depression, to Parkinson’s Disease.

Yet, while Ibogaine may produce a physically and psychologically profound experience, as a treatment for addiction especially, it is more of a catalyst than a cure. By helping to stave off withdrawals, reset the brain and produce deep levels of introspection, ibogaine may lay the groundwork for life changes seismic enough to break a drug dependency. But one must not underestimate the counterforce of the addiction — “cunning, baffling and powerful,” as they famously say in 12-step groups.

While Ibogaine may create a fresh opportunity to make changes in one’s life, going right back to your old environment after taking ibogaine entails simply re-imprinting your fresh outlook with the same old stuff. More often that not, this will lead the person to a relapse. And therein lies the importance of ibogaine aftercare, which can leverage the precious time of “neuroplasticity” after Ibogaine treatment to create new and healthy habits, to deepen the patient’s personal process, and to help him/her plan for their future in an environment that is safe, supportive and nurturing.

Our approach to Ibogaine Aftercare

Having worked with many Ibogaine patients, we understand that most everyone coming from ibogaine treatment arrives in a very sensitive state of mind and body. We also realize that every ibogaine experience is different, and thus work closely with each patient and their provider to better understand their individual circumstances. Some people take ibogaine and feel renewed almost right away, while others may have more pronounced ups and downs. In each case, we begin the post-ibogaine process with therapies that assist the process of physical detoxification and revitalization. These include sweat lodge, individually-tailored regimens of plant-based supplements, herbal tea, lots of water, healthy diet, physical exercise, various body therapies and, in some cases, Ibogaine boosters.

At the same time, we understand that the immediate post-ibogaine time period is optimal for introducing new habits. To this end, we steer participants away from common default habits like excessive use of technology (participants are asked not to use cell phones for two weeks, except when necessary), excessive smoking (we allow only loose organic tobacco) and processed or sugary foods. Meanwhile, participants are asked to engage in a rigorous program of various body therapies, occupational therapy, thought exercises, intensive psychotherapy, and, later in their stay, medicine work with sacred plants.

Finally, we do not overlook the importance of life planning — even for those who come to aftercare, the path is not over! Constructing a plan for transitioning back home, continuing self-care and pursuing new life opportunities is crucial. To that end, we work closely with each participant to be sure that they are transitioning to a safe environment with a strong sense of direction and purpose.

Holistic Rehab at Inscape Recovery

Traditional Western vs Holistic Rehab

Traditional addiction rehabs have long been based in the 12-step approaches of alcoholics and narcotics anonymous, yet such channels, while effective for some, are not a good fit for every person. For some people, the methods of 12-step do not resonate in any significant way, and may even feel off-putting; among those who are attracted to the 12-step method, many have trouble sticking with the process long enough to reach a place of stability.

Holistic Rehab at Inscape Recovery

At Inscape, we use an holistic model of addiction recovery not because we are convinced that any single alternative is “better” than an avenue like Alcoholics Anonymous — in fact, we fully support 12-step recovery for those who feel inclined to pursue it, as some of us have used that model and experienced its benefits. Rather, the principle reason we work with a holistic model is to address the matter of addiction more thoroughly, using a range of therapies and launching a broader exploration of life that encourages each individual to find their own path. As much as possible, we want participants to feel healthy, stimulated and inspired to do their own seeking, rather than being told that the answer is one thing or another and that’s that.

What Inscape offers…

When the average person shows up for treatment, he/she is hardwired by years of addiction to think, feel and act in certain ways that are deeply ingrained. It's the broader, energetic patterns of addiction that have to be interrupted, and that's where Inscape’s holistic model comes in. We want participants to avoid any obvious swapping of addictions; instead, everything is geared toward a general increase in well-being, no shortcuts. Addiction involves trying to find satisfaction in a single thing. The best remedy seems to be substituting not a different thing but, as much as possible, the "whole thing."

Part of unwinding one’s patterns involves targeting them directly through dietary changes, supplements, exercise and a range of activities designed to stimulate mind and body. To assist this process, we examine ourselves and the broader issue of making conscious choices through psychotherapy and our series on exploring addiction. Also, we offer ceremonies with sacred plants, by far one of the most effective ways to interrupt and redirect the tight mental patterns that feed addictions. Sacred plants take us to the deep and fascinating reaches of our own consciousness, showing us where we’re stuck, revealing new ways to live, and helping us connect with the magic of life.

Rehab for Depression

What is depression and why has it become so pervasive?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression is a condition marked by sadness and a loss of interest in activities that a person once enjoyed. Clinical depression tends to differ from normal sadness in that it is more permanent, and may linger independent of any specific trigger or event. People with depression may experience a general low mood or periods of lethargy, disinterest, low self-esteem, changes in sleeping, eating and lifestyle, and/or sadness that last days, weeks or months.

Inscape rehab for depression

It’s hard to say with certainty why depression seems to be so pervasive in modern society, but probably it is a combination of factors. One, quite simply, is the existence of the diagnosis, “depression,” and the tendency of psychological and medical professionals to apply diagnoses like depression to psychological/life issues, along with the widespread desire people have to reach for a pharmaceutical solution — the “quick fix,” as they say.

Widespread depression may also be a function of a society that emphasizes individual competition over family, community and spirituality. Rather than feeling part of some larger purpose, modern individuals increasingly feel alienated, aimless and negatively self-obsessed within a large and complicated world that lacks the more straightforward values, closeness and community support of traditional societies. To some people, modern life may feel like a maze in which they made too many wrong turns or seem perpetually stuck. Of course, while depression may be a societal problem, it is also very much an individual one, with unique and often complex causes within individual cases.

Why are current treatments falling short?

As western medicine races to treat the symptoms of depression, less is being done in the way of exploring its roots. Thus, while pharmaceutical approaches to depression may alleviate some symptoms, at least temporarily, they do very little — unto themselves — toward actually addressing the underlying problem. In the long run, pharmaceutical solutions may have little or no positive effect, and may even worsen depression by depleting certain neurotransmitters, causing dependency and producing side effects.

Our approach to depression

Our approach to depression is multi-pronged. One, we address it on the physical level through natural supplementation, a clean diet and physical exercise. Second, we change our habits — and thereby begin to change our minds. Instead of always reaching for the closest, easiest thing of comfort (but ultimately dissatisfaction) — a cigarette, a cell phone, constant napping, whatever — we encourage people to notice these impulses and, whenever possible, to override them. Simultaneously, we begin to introduce more challenging replacements to these impulses that help to stimulate change, growth and new interests. Beyond that, we initiate a process of self-exploration, using psychotherapy, various body therapies, and medicine plants aimed at deeper self-recognition and new psychic and spiritual openings that bring us to recognize and expand a little beyond the self-entrapment of depression. And all of this we do within the context of a close therapeutic community aimed at nurturing authenticity, social bonds, interpersonal respect and feelings of self-worth.

Could Addiction and Mental Illness have the Same Cause?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 20.2 million adults had a substance disorder in the United States in 2014, and of those almost 40% had co-occurring mental illness — a much higher rate of mental illness than that of the general population. This suggests that addiction often arises out of deeper or more complicated psychological factors.

I would argue, in fact, that all addictions arise out of a deeper psychological rift. And also that the reverse is true (and this is a somewhat more radical idea): that addiction is invariably part and parcel of a psychological illness, even when that illness doesn’t manifest as an obvious compulsion.

Rehab for Depression

What is the overlap? Common psychological problems -- such as depression, anxiety and obsession -- are conditions that, much like addiction, entail being trapped in mental feedback loops. We worry, we obsess, we bemoan past events or worry about future ones, and so remain stuck in agitation or malaise (and in the case of addiction, simultaneously obsessed with the next fix). We implode into these thought patterns and thus become disconnected from things and people, and cease to feel curious, engaged -- alive.

This is, admittedly, a somewhat “spiritual” interpretation of addiction and mental illness -- which is to say, looking at it as a deeper energetic problem, and not just a symptom of incorrect biochemistry.

At the same time, all mental illnesses (including addiction), both grow and (later) manifest in social, behavioral, psychological and physiological ways. And thus, treating any mental illness or personality problem has to consider the entire spectrum of the person. Which means restoring the physical brain and body through proper nutrition, supplementation and exercise, while also pushing to create psychic openings through new habits, psychotherapy and other forms of introspection, and various avenues of exploration.

This is the formula we use at Inscape not only as a treatment for addiction and ibogaine aftercare, but as a treatment for depression and anxiety, or for any mental illness or personality issue. Because, in the end, we are not treating any specific condition, but the person who is afflicted. This approach acknowledges the realness and seriousness of a given problem, but also its personal nature, as well as the individual’s (perhaps latent) power to boldly confront it, crumble its stranglehold and reach toward dimensions beyond.

Sources: www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/substance-use-and-mental-health/index.shtml

Master Plants and Community Therapy

 Less than 100 years ago, master plants were a resource reserved only for the cultures in which they were originally used, or for those who had the means and gall to visit remote places where such plants were potentially accessible.

 Iboga, botanically known as Tabernanthe Iboga, comes from the Bwiti culture in Gabon, Africa, where it has been used since time immemorial, in rituals where the whole community takes part.
                                                                                                                                               This is very different from the rituals of western psychotherapy, where the job involves meetings in an office between two people who do not know each other, where specific roles are established for each one, and where a therapeutic relationship is created in exchange for money.

In our culture, where many people are more isolated and have less community structure than is typically found in traditional human societies, modern psychotherapy may have significant merits. However, it is a rarity in human history as something that began in the industrialized west and has been used for scarcely more than 100 years. Before Sigmund Freud developed the “talking cure” in the late 19th century, the basic dynamics of modern psychotherapy had no documented history of use whatsoever.


In Gabon’s culture of Iboga, by contrast, both mental and soul problems are understood as problems of group mismatch, and the solution is obtainable only through work with the whole community.

Beginning in the mid-20th century, plant medicines like Iboga and Ayahuasca began to spread outside of their origins and into modern settings. In the 1960’s, American doctor Howard Lotsof accidentally discovered -- after recreationally ingesting the plant during his days as a heroin addict -- that iboga had the astonishing effect of abating or even eliminating opiate withdrawals. Later, the Chilean-American psychiatrist Claudio Naranjo began using Ibogaine and Ayahuasca in psychotherapy sessions, relating his experiences with these plants in several books including, Ayahuasca: The Creeper Of The Celestial River, and The Healing Journey: New Approaches to Consciousness.   

Ibogaine, the medically-used derivative of iboga, produces what is known as a oneirophrenic state, similar to that of a dream. Ibogaine is not a panacea, though it has the potential to significantly reduce the addictive cravings through physical changes and the deep journey of introspection it brings on.
                                                                                                                                               To think that the effectiveness of treatment must be complete abstinence is a naive way of understanding addiction. Increasingly, the standard used today relates to the broader quality of life. Though abstinence or level of use may of course be a factor that is considered, a person’s psychopathology usually depends more fundamentally on psychosocial circumstances than on the use of or abstinence from a specific substance. Therefore, a great and important phase of recovery lies not only in the work with the master plant, but in the personal work that follows. And a big part of that work is not only addressing the inner conflicts that lead to substance abuse, but also growing and nurturing social connections.

To be supported, contained and reinforced in the journey of recovery is decisive. Ibogaine rescues your soul intact, but only you can do the work that remains.  

The Importance of the Therapeutic Community in Ibogaine Aftercare Programs

“Illness is inevitable if we forget the sense of belonging and connection” -Jeanne Achterberg

Inscape Recovery is an integrative addiction treatment and ibogaine aftercare program. We suggest our participants commit to a six-week period during which we receive a small group (no more than 7 participants) with whom we work in a retreat setting.

The basis of our program is to offer a therapeutic community that provides a safe and nurturing environment for the restructuring process that participants undergo. We achieve this through group and individual therapy sessions, collective ceremonies of plant medicine, sweat lodge ceremonies, daily yoga, meditation, art and music classes, as well as hours of occupational therapy in which participants help in the different activities of the center.

In all of these practices, interaction with staff members as well as with other participants is constant. We work together, we take meals together, and we participate in group therapy and native ceremonies together. Our therapeutic process focuses on self-discovery, which means the recognition of the relationship between our emotions, beliefs and our behavior patterns: processes in which the therapeutic community is centrally important.

We know that ibogaine treatment is not a miraculous cure, but a highly effective aid in facilitating long periods of abstinence and, with adequate subsequent care, recovery from addiction. The neuronal connections of the person who takes ibogaine are in the process of reconfiguration and reconnection during the weeks and months that follow, and it is during this time when healthier and more harmonious patterns of behavior can be established, opening the possibility of building new skills and a new lifestyle. It is a period of opportunity. That is why most providers of this medicine emphasize the importance of an aftercare program in achieving successful results after ibogaine treatment -- a program that provides direct psychological support, as well as the structure and additional emotional support of a therapeutic community.

Modern psychiatric research is increasingly finding that the emotional and mental imbalances which lead to addiction are correlated with poor quality or absence of significant relationships -- situations which induce feelings of loneliness, isolation and non-belonging. This is shifting the understanding of addiction toward being a problem not simply confined to the inner life of the individual, but also relating deeply to rifts or voids of an interpersonal nature.

Tension, anger, fear, anxiety, shame, guilt, depression and nervous crises – which often accompany or lead to addictive behavior - are basic symptoms that appear when the communication system of an individual breaks down. With this in mind, our aftercare program understands the group itself as a crucial part of the therapeutic presence. The group becomes a dynamic in which the relational patterns of the individual can be recognized and reconfigured through daily practice and the support of a peer structure.

Recapitulating:

1) Interpersonal communication within a therapeutic group has a cathartic effect both as a platform for expression and one for listening and empathy, especially as participants often have shared feelings and experiences alongside those that are unique

2) The respectful atmosphere of the group is one of the few social spaces in which the individual can behave freely without having to maintain an image or status.

3) The presence of the members of the group generates a container and a supportive environment that allows the individual to express himself more freely without having his/her emotions become overwhelming.

4) Sharing with the therapeutic community the emotional processes that one goes through when recovering from addiction generates empathy, self-compassion and self-understanding.

5) Sharing our own experiences creates an empathic and harmonious atmosphere which helps to generate or reinforce interpersonal bonds.

6) The act of communicating our emotional experience and receiving feedback results in a better organization and clarification of the facts. The experience is perceived in new ways, and the feelings it produces become more objective, less diffuse and more manageable.

Psychiatrist Jurgen Ruesch emphasizes the importance of this communication at an emotional level with a community which the individual feels part of, describing it as the cornerstone of mental health. In a period of neuroplasticity such as the one that follows the intake of ibogaine, the immersion of the individual in an everyday social environment is absolutely not recommended because such environments do not offer the necessary containment for what is nearly always a very delicate process. On the opposite side, the presence of a therapeutic community generates a sense of security and trust which allows the participant to cultivate feelings of belonging, empathy, solidarity and clarity. This is how we understand the process of recovering from addiction through self-uncovering.

Bibliography

BATESON, G. (1984). Comunicación, la matriz social de la Psiquiatría. Barcelona:

Paidós.

DÍAZ PORTILLO, I. (2001). Bases para la Terapia de Grupo. México: Pax.

KENNEDY-MOORE, E. (1999). Expressing Emotion; Myths, Realities and Therapeutic

Strategies. New York: The Guilford Press.

RUESCH, J. (1980). Comunicación terapéutica. Buenos Aires: Paidós.

Mindfulness and Decision-Making

The intentional practice and application of mindfulness — or present awareness — has existed for millions of years, but was historically reserved for very few people. Nowadays mainstream culture is increasingly adopting this knowledge from religious traditions, along with an approach to life that integrates the practice of paying attention to all experience. That is to say, consciously observing our experiences -- what we perceive, what we think, the feelings that arise -- without judgement nor reaction, regardless of what surfaces.

In the words of the psychologist Victor Frankl: "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

The practice of mindfulness enlarges this space, nurturing our innate (though perhaps obstructed) ability to freely make decisions that align with our natural will, and without the interference of excessive second-guessing or self-consciousness.

To break the chains of uncertainty or unreflecting compulsion, we seek out the ways in which our mind may serve us, rather than owning us. Many of us are trapped in the indecision and relentless fragmentation of neurotic thinking: What should I say or do? Will I be able to or not? Is it worthwhile or not? Freedom from the dilemmas posed by the everyday mind resides in a deeper part of ourselves that may require effort to tap into.   

Remember that within your core resides a deeper and wiser consciousness -- the same that connects all life. And even the crazy sum total of all your conditioned thoughts can disrupt that consciousness only at its periphery, while its powerful center remains untouched within you.

The practice of observing yourself, and observing the world with acceptance and without judgement, can take you to touch life at its deepest place, so you can find your heart in each step.

The effects of Ibogaine and importance of aftercare

Ibogaine, an entheogenic alkaloid extracted from plants in the Apocynacea family or synthesized from the precursor compound voacangine, has shown promise as an effective interrupter of opiate dependency. Clinical studies have demonstrated Ibogaine’s ability to attenuate symptoms of acute opiate withdrawal, reduce drug cravings, and alleviate depression. Research studies show these effects to last longer than 30 days, and additionally that many people treated with Ibogaine maintain abstinence from opiates and other drugs for much longer periods. A small subset of individuals treated with ibogaine will fall back into opiate dependency within days or weeks following treatment and some will relapse after a few months following treatment. Looking at both clinical and anecdotal evidence, it appears that Ibogaine is not a “magic cure” for addiction, but highly effective at helping to facilitate long periods of abstinence and recovery.

One point that seems to be ubiquitous with discussions of ibogaine as an addiction treatment is the necessity of follow-up counseling and aftercare to support the ibogaine detoxification process.  There are several reasons that intensive therapy and aftercare are critical to a successful treatment outcome. Part of the effectiveness of Ibogaine is attributed to its entheogenic effect. Many users of Ibogaine report experiencing a waking dream state where life events relevant to their addictions and traumas are replayed and reprocessed, often in a meaningful way that allows resolution of core issues. Others have difficult experiences that trigger repressed issues to come to surface. Intensive psychotherapy is critical to helping patients frame these visionary experiences (positive or negative) in a constructive manner and to integrate them into a new world view.

Ibogaine and its metabolites are theorized to promote nueroplasticity (a state highly conducive to changes in brain connections and neurons) after detoxification. This period is thought to last 1-4 months following Ibogaine administration. It is during this time that newly constructive behavioral patterns, interests, ideas, and ways of thinking can be developed if the clients expose themselves to the correct environment. Many clients seeking Ibogaine treatment suffer from emotional instability and/or are coming from broken homes, abusive relationships, long-term patterns of criminal thinking, and replacement of fulfilling hobbies and activities with drug-seeking or drug-using behaviors.  A well-crafted and structured aftercare program can be integral in providing structure, introducing purposeful and rewarding self-care activities, positive reinforcement of new behaviors, and effective post-Ibogaine psychotherapy during this period of enhanced brain plasticity. For many, the life and self-care skills adapted and practiced in an Ibogaine aftercare program following detoxification become the foundation for a new way of living.

Much has been written about ibogaine as an effective treatment for opiate dependency and scientific studies have confirmed its efficacy as an addiction treatment.  To maximize the effectiveness of an Ibogaine detoxification, it is highly suggested that post-detox psychotherapy and/or an intensive aftercare program (ideally with a holistic approach that considers the multi-layered complexity of the individual) be sought after.  

(References: The American Journal on Addictions, “Treatment of Acute Opiate Withdrawal with Ibogaine,” The New York Academy of Sciences, “Ibogaine: Complex Pharmacokinetics, Concerns for Safety, and Preliminary Efficacy Measures”)