The United States has been fighting an unprecedented growth in heroin use and overdose deaths, which has emerged as a public health crisis.
With more than 50,000 Americans succumbing to heroin overdose in 2015 alone, the epidemic seems far from control. While federal authorities have been making constant efforts to curb the rising trend of heroin abuse, scientists are also working their way out to develop new treatment strategies that can relieve from heroin addiction as painlessly as possible.
Ibogaine, a naturally occurring psychoactive substance found in plants of the Apocynaceae family, is an outcome of one such effort by the experts. It has appeared as a ray of hope for millions of people grappling with heroin addiction and overdose. Widely acclaimed for its use in the treatment of opioid addiction, Ibogaine has been found to be an effective way to deal with an addiction to opioids, which are often considered as the most difficult drugs to deal with. Ibogaine usually works by disrupting the pattern formed by the opioid addiction in the brain.
The substance has been found to create an intense psychedelic experience in the user, which usually lasts for 24-36 hours, or even more. The treatment with Ibogaine not only helps the patients to reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings, but also enables them to reverse their drug using behaviors.
How does Ibogaine work?
Besides opioid addiction, Ibogaine has been found to be effective in treating other dependences as well, including to alcohol, Suboxone, methadone and various stimulants. It works by disrupting the addiction pattern created by the opioid in the brain. As the user consumes an opioid, it binds with the receptors in brain. A regular use of such drugs makes the brain crave for it, due to which the user experiences an increased urge to use the drug every now and then. However, Ibogaine acts on the areas of the brain involved in drug cravings and then takes them back to the original state, thus eliminating withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
According to the users who have undergone the treatment, just one session is sufficient to combat severe opioid addiction. With a single dosage of Ibogaine, the user tends to experience psychedelic state for about 30 hours. Often, during this stage, users gain significant insights into their addictive behavior, which further helps control the devastating habit. Often the first session itself marks the end of addiction. However, the users are recommended to continue with counseling and to seek help from support groups to prevent a relapse.
Identifying risks associated with Ibogaine
Ibogaine has been classified as a Schedule I drug in the U.S., implying its use as illegal. Although the drug is currently not advocated for medical use in the country, scientists have demonstrated the benefits of Ibogaine in treating opioid addiction.
Treatment with Ibogaine is associated with several side effects. By far, the mortality rate of the drug is estimated to be one in 300, caused due to bradycardia (slowing of the heart), lethal combinations with other substances, liver problems, and other conditions. Besides, the drug can also cause risks such as ataxia (loss of control of body movements), hallucinations, tremors and heart impairments. Therefore, it should be used under medical supervision only after thoroughly weighing the pros and cons.
Recovery road map
Treating those who are addicted to prescription drugs, especially opioids, should be the primary aim of any recovery program. Although the recent data shows that the number of abusers has declined, the problem persists.