Money, sex, power, work, food… take your pick, but as a fault, addiction, the human tendency to lose ourselves to compulsion, is perhaps one of our greatest because it blinds us to self-destruction and opens us to exploitation. Who’s to say which addiction to what is the most harmful, but, few things can bring about such total annihilation of the self than opiates and opioids, such as heroin and pharmaceutical pain killers.
Opiate addiction is a contemporary plague of sorts, wrecking and taking lives, laying waste to families and consuming communities. The war on drugs rages on, yet, pills and smack are easy and cheap to score, while rehab programs and methadone clinics are booming businesses. It’s tough to discern exactly which came first, the supply or the demand, but, without question opiate addiction has become a startling sign of the times.
Supply Side Economics – Connecting the Dots
Killing pain is big business, and addiction to FDA approved opiates and opioid pain killers has completely overturned the stereo-typical image of the dope fiend, who is now just as likely to be a soccer mom. Pharmaceutical opiates are available legally and illegally from friends, doctors, pill mills, online shops and street dealers, and have become such a game changer in the increase of opiate abusers that the U.S. attorney general recently declared that prescription pain meds are the new gateway to heroin use.
A recent report by US health care providers notes that in 2012 alone some 259 million legal prescriptions for opioid painkillers were issued by American doctors, enough to put a bottle of pills in the hands of every single adult in America and then some, and this number does not include black market sales of the same drugs.
Oxycodone, vicoden, codeine, percocet, morphine, fentanyl and more, take your pick, there are plenty of painkillers available today, and deaths resulting from opiate abuse are rising in many major cities. State and local governments are reacting to the crisis, and police departments across the nation are now equipping officers with the opiate anti-overdose drug, naloxone. The governor of Massachusetts recently declared a public health emergency over opiates, also granting emergency powers to block the prescribing and dispensing of the new pharmaceutical drug Zohydro, a super-potent painkiller now hitting the market.
Massachusetts is already being sued by Zogenix, the maker of Zohydro, so it appears that even an executive order can’t keep the pushers off the block.
“Heroin and opiate addictions are now claiming more lives in many U.S. neighborhoods than violent crime and car crashes.” [Press TV]
The pharmaceutical industry aggressively lobbies the government, and in 2013 alone, spent over a quarter of a billion dollars in the strategic effort to affect public policy. Substance abuse treatment is multi-billion dollar a year industry, and savvy investors like the infamous equity firm Bain Capital are betting on more growth in this sector of healthcare, buying up rehabilitation centers for their portfolios.
Connecting the dots on all of this reveals an unpleasant but unavoidable take on reality: drugs are and will continue to be widely available to the public, drug addiction has become a lucrative segment of our economy, and the problem is deeply entrenched within both business and government and is getting worse.
The Roots of Demand
It takes a junkie to know a junkie, but serious addiction is as riddling an aspect of human behavior as it gets.
Some feel that it’s a choice or weakness, others see it as a disease, maybe a genetic bad card or a misfire in brain chemistry. Some insist it’s a spiritual affliction, while others point to unresolved emotional trauma, and, some reports do, in fact, indicate that close to two-thirds of opiate addicts in treatment were physically or sexually abused as children.
An even more complex picture emerges when you consider that in addition to personal factors, the modern psyche is under the influence of innumerable societal pressures and cultural programsthat set examples and write scripts for behavior and belief.
To those who’ve experienced hard drug addiction, either first hand or as a witness, friend or relative of an addict, there is a bit of truth to be found in each of these assessments, but once committed to this trajectory, compounding circumstances ensnare the user until, like getting trapped in a fish net, it is impossible to see through the complexity of the entanglement to any clear way out. Consistently, though, addicts are not happy, fulfilled, or self-loving people, and they find a critical solace and companionship in the high, something that isn’t accessible to them in the day-to-day grind of sober life in the matrix.
When the progression of addiction is complete, though, the mind becomes reptilian, selfish, alone and helpless, and like having chains around the soul, the user becomes isolated from even themselves, totally robotic in the drive to self-destruct. Something about the name ‘painkillers’ should give us a clue as to why these drugs are so heavily abused. Arguably, happiness may be the purpose of life, and when it isn’t available, it’s in our nature to try and synthesize it.
Breaking the cycle of opiate addiction is a horrible affair. Withdrawals can set in within hours of missing a fix, and the decision to go clean is typically one of three choices: completely changing, going to prison, or dying an addict. Dope-sickness can be deadly, including days and days of uncontrollable diarrhea and vomiting, severe dehydration, fevers, flu-like symptoms, cold and hot spells, crawling skin, accelerated heart rate and high blood pressure, body aches, tremors and terrors. A wretched nightmare.
It is nearly impossible to kick opiates alone, and relapse rates for opiate abusers are extremely high. Typical rehab or detox may consist of a week to 30 days or more in an in-patient facility which provides monitoring, psychiatric care, counseling, support groups, and 12-step programs. To mitigate the physical withdrawals, most patients are given substitutes, switching from heroin and pills to the controlled pharmaceuticals methadone or suboxone, which can be shockingly more addictive and dangerous than heroin or painkillers.
“Methadone is a highly addictive synthetic opiate, more addictive than heroin and harder to withdraw from, but it survives the digestive system and so does not need to be injected… All of today’s addicts have been coming to the pharmacy for months, some for years. And that’s the problem.” [The Guardian]
Once detoxed, out of rehab, and hooked on trips to the pharmacy or the methadone clinic, then the real struggle begins, that of becoming a person who is not an addict, something most users are woefully under-prepared for.
Striking the Roots
Of all the interventions available to opiate addicts, one is entirely unique in how it helps people to survive and conquer this demon; a visionary shamanic medicine from the rainforest of West Central Africa, iboga.
Iboga is a psychoactive plant medicine derived from the root bark of a small African shrub, tabernanthe iboga, and has been used for perhaps thousands of years as a shamanic medicine and healing sacrament for tribal Africans of the Bwiti tradition and Pygmy peoples. The bark of the roots is removed, shredded, then ingested in raw form, or an extract of the primary psychoactive alkaloid, ibogaine, can be produced. Discovered as an anti-addictive medicine and potential cure for heroin addiction by Howard Lotsof in 1962, when properly administered as part of a comprehensive opiate detox program, it interrupts chemical dependence, remarkably stopping withdrawal symptoms almost immediately.
Most importantly, though, iboga reveals and can heal the root causes of addiction by triggering an intensely profound spiritual journey that can uproot and overcome the psychological basis of compulsive behavior.
Guided by an experienced shaman or trained healer, the first part of the recovery process is a physical and mental detox which cleanses the body of residual opiates, re-setting brain chemistry and neurotransmitter pathways, chemically stopping the addiction. Typically, when a patient arrives at a treatment center they are already dopesick, having prepared in advance to perfectly time a switch to iboga from opiates. A first dose quickly takes away the discomfort of withdrawals and the patient enters a deep meditative or trance-like state, lying down but not sleeping, while the body detoxes for as long as it needs to, anywhere from several hours to several days.
During this stage they may begin to experience some of the psychological purging and personal revelations that are key to the iboga experience, however, they are primarily first cleansing the body and mind in preparation for a deeper spiritual journey to come in later sessions with the medicine. When the patient finally emerges from the detox, no longer experiencing any withdrawal symptoms, the first part of treatment is complete, and the important physical aspects of the addiction are already in repair.
For 12-24 hours the patient lies still, with blindfolded eyes, in a bizarre dream-like state where the brain behaves as if in REM sleep, but, while the conscious mind remains awake, very alert and able to interact with and direct the content of the mental journey.
As the experience deepens, the barrier between the conscious and sub-conscious mind seems to dissolve, and the information in the sub-conscience becomes available for review and rejection by the reflective self. In this, a lifetime’s worth of learned mental processes, memories, emotional impressions, false judgments and psychological conditioning that combine to inform and instruct the self are presented to the patient in rapid fire fashion… a sort of high velocity behind-the-scenes tour of one’s personality. Amulti-dimensional impression of one’s character emerges, and they are given an incredible opportunity to re-assess or reject misunderstood feelings, traumatic events, implanted suggestions, negative self-images, and habitual behaviors.
“I could look at my own brain objectively like I was reading a CT scan with high sensitivity anatomical visualization with an additional emotional dimension…” [Source]
The role of the shaman or healer at this point is to assist the patient in finding the root causes of their behavioral problems, guiding them in locating and recalling the moments in their past when the patient abandoned their original dreams in favor of self-destruction.
In a fascinating and unexplainable experience, within their mind’s eye the patient can visit any moment in time, observing and reliving their past, in vivid emotional detail. They can become a witness to the moments in their life where things went wrong, and re-inform themselves of the value of these events, viewing them from the perspectives of others involved, thus enabling a kind of psychic reckoning between past and present, victim and aggressor.
Moments of abuse, neglect or poor judgment that have haunted the patient, perhaps unknowingly, are seen more truthfully, with unparalleled clarity and greater perspective, offering up a unique chance to make peace with the past. The patient can locate the sources of their pain and the results of holding onto this pain, and they are finally able to understand why they do the things they do, what things they need to change, and most profoundly, how to love and forgive themselves. Events that would have been taken to the grave are released and stripped of their power, giving the patient an unheard of chance to let go of pain, anger, depression, anxiety, disappointment, guilt, regret and blame. A genuine path to happiness is revealed.
“I learned that I love myself, and I’m such a great person and I have so much love to give.” Alicia, Recovering Addict
The results of iboga treatment can be nothing short of a miracle, and, for some, it is the only thing capable of dislodging the destructive psychological underpinnings of addictive behavior.
Not Exactly a Magic Bullet
Iboga is not a magic pill. Iboga is an amazing tool that can free you from the deepest depths of addiction. The spirit of Iboga will teach you everything you need to learn to stay clean, but one must follow these lessons to stay on the right path. Iboga does not change your free will, what Iboga does, is show you the truth. The truth you need to make peace in order to live a happy, drug free life.” – Jeff Cook
In the United States iboga is illegal, categorized as a schedule I drug by the Controlled Substances Act. However, many other nations around the world have embraced this natural medicine, and iboga treatment clinics and spiritual retreat centers are opening up in many places around the world. Research into the clinical value of this plant medicine is also gaining momentum, and scientists are looking at how iboga can assist in treating any type of chemical dependency, as well as other compulsive behaviors.
“The preclinical research conducted in the United States, The Netherlands, and Canada all suggest that iboga is effective in treating dependencies to cocaine, opiates, and alcohol in human subjects. Despite this research, iboga was included in the Schedule 1 drug category of the sweeping Scheduled Substances Act of 1970, making it nearly impossible to conduct research on U.S. soil. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is currently conducting clinical research in New Zealand and Mexico on the effectiveness of iboga-assisted therapy for opiate addiction.” – Reset.me
An unfortunate result of prohibition is the fact that many desperate and hopeless addicts are acquiring iboga from underground sources then self-administering this extremely potent medicine, which can result in tragedy because the patient lacks proper guidance and supervision. To prevent complications it is absolutely critical that the patient receive properly timed and measured doses until the detox is entirely complete. For this, the most important factors to consider when selecting a treatment program are the experience of the staff and the on-site presence of a qualified medical doctor.
In the End, a Plant Ally
No one fully understands how this simple plant compound can have such a dramatic effect on the human psyche, but people around the world are seeking out the healing experience of iboga because, quite simply, it works. The detox is effective beyond comparison, and the psychological journey is unbelievable, inspiring, life-renewing and paradigm shifting.
In a society that encourages self-destruction and openly trades in misery, it is a sign of the times to be hooked on something. Liberation from addiction is one of the greatest examples of self-mastery, and iboga is a powerful ally for some in this quest.
About the Authors
Jeff Cook is a detox specialist at Iboga Wellness Center in Costa Rica. He was able to recover from his addiction to cocaine and heroin in 2012 using Iboga. Since then he has had a strong calling to work with Iboga to help addicts. His life mission is to use his own experiences to help others escape from drugs. He enjoys being a father, motorcycles, and playing guitar. He may be contacted at email@example.com
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