“From 2000 to 2014 nearly half a million persons in the United States have died from drug overdoses. In 2014, there were approximately one and a half times more drug overdose deaths in the United States than deaths from motor vehicle crashes. Opioids, primarily prescription pain relievers and heroin, are the main drugs associated with overdose deaths. In 2014, opioids were involved in 28,647 deaths, or 61% of all drug overdose deaths; the rate of opioid overdoses has tripled since 2000.”– January 1, 2016 Center for Disease Control, http://tinyurl.com/honbk3b
“No other state has gone as hard at the opioid deluge, beginning when Governor Peter Shumlin last year devoted his State of the State address to what he called a “full-blown heroin crisis.” Since then, Vermont has emerged as a national leader on the issue. But also since then, heroin use and its related deaths have continued to rise. And no one — not the governor, not health workers, and not recovering addicts — can say with certainty if the tide will turn for good.”—April 6, 2015, Brian MacQuarrie, Boston Globe, http://tinyurl.com/h364phb
The fatal drug overdose statistics are terrible. The numbers stand for overwhelming human pain and financial expenditure. The addiction often leads to criminal behaviors, inability to work, the need for disability and welfare for families as well as children lost to foster care when parents are unfit for parenting responsibilities. Here in Vermont, we are ardently searching for a remedy.
Early July, 2016: A bill just passed through Congress and is onto the US Senate to pave the way for more addiction treatment and prevention programs, but the bill has no budget and provides no money to put towards these initiatives. The bright spot? It is some movement in the right direction. It also would allow physician assistants and nurse practitioners to prescribe buprenorphine, an opioid that can help wean people off stronger drugs like heroin while greatly reducing the risk of overdoses.
“Many people who need treatment for addiction are going without because the health system does not have the capacity to respond to the epidemic. In addition, some people cannot afford to pay for treatment because their insurance policies do not cover it.” -New York Times, 7/12/16, Editorial Board, Congress Is Voting on an Inadequate Opioid Bill
There is no quick fix…but there is a new possibility for interrupting addictions that is proving to be extraordinarily helpful when used appropriately. The legislature in Vermont is considering doing a 3 year pilot program with this natural medicinal plant substance that has been used in West Africa for initiation rites for centuries: the Iboga plant. Research in the last 4 decades shows that using ibogaine for addiction can be extremely effective (http://tinyurl.com/heo7zmd).
So what is the ibogaine chemical structure? The alkaloid extracted from iboga’s root bark that makes it effective medicinally is called “ibogaine”. Those who have used it go on an inner journey replete with visions and return renewed, refreshed, and with no desire for their addictive substance and no withdrawal symptoms. They are ready to make new choices—free from addiction.
The “ibogaine trip” lasts 12-36 hours and the visions typically follow a format of “life review” similar to what is reported by near-death experiencers. Most importantly, there is a neuro-chemical drama going on in the physical brain that dissolves the neural pathways that represent and support addiction.
Do all people finish with their addictions in this brief period? No. Reportedly, ibogaine statistics show 60-70% successfully maintain a life after ibogaine in which they do not return to their previous life of addiction to alcohol, opioids, heroine, crack cocaine, or other substances. The other 30-40% find it too hard not to return to the lifestyle they know, structured around contact with other addicts who share a way of living that feels familiar, like home base. Some return fully to addiction; others more moderately. But, the success rate with ibogaine is at least 100% better than what is accomplished in other addiction treatment centers.
Ibogaine treatment also requires less time and is thus more economical. Those who transition out of addiction can return to the workforce more quickly. Fewer need to be on disability. More can become dependable and take on the responsibilities of family life. They do not have a dependency on ibogaine or want or need more.
The problem with using it is this: Ibogaine has been classified by the US Drug Enforcement Agency, DEA, as Schedule 1. They see it as having no medicinal value and potentially creating more abuse. Only 5 other countries outside the USA forbid the use of ibogaine-some European countries and Israel. All the rest allow it. Are we behind? Are we ignorant of the positive impact? Are we too hooked on pharmaceuticals to see value in natural substances that have been successfully used for centuries?
Just across our borders, in Central America, one can find places to take the extract in a set and setting that is constructed to stop addiction. These places assess each person uniquely from a medical standpoint, prepare each person physically and psychologically, compassionately supervise each one during the experience, and do aftercare to help with integration. Each of these steps is vitally important to success.
I am not an expert in this field; I am just learning about it. But, as a person who lost a father to addiction, I know the grief and pain associated with this scourge. As a psychotherapist, I have made every effort to assist families struggling to find a way out of the paralyzing maze that addictions bring to family life. As an educator, I am in touch with the poor prognoses that come out of addiction treatment centers—and the huge financial burdens some families take on for inadequate or unsuccessful treatments. Addiction treatment centers often charge $30,000 per month for treatment that take several months and may be only 30% successful. Some clients at these centers leave addicted to a new substance—an opioid pharmaceutical, like methadone or buprenorphine, that is expensive but less toxic than heroin. That is not a cure.
It’s time the DEA come up to speed and recognizes that ibogaine has been proven to have an immense therapeutic value and does not cause addiction. It’s time we explore using this natural medicine to not only bring us out of the epidemic we are suffering from, but create more humility, self-awareness and self-responsibility–and more freedom to choose a sustainable life. Can you name one pharmaceutical that does that?
——–Sign up for the IMHU newsletter to the right and receive an announcement for the brief course we will be offering on ibogaine treatment. You will be introduced via unique video interviews to Bill Smith, an ex-addict, who speaks about his personal experience, as well as Dan Engle, MD, a consulting psychiatrist at one of the world’s best ibogaine treatment centers in Mexico. Registration is available now: http://university.imhu.org/courses/73/about