The current opioid crisis is bringing up new issues on many facets of our society. One of those facets is the subject of treatment; what types are there, how effective they are and what are the risks or benefits to each type. As health officials and law enforcement scramble to get a handle on the situation, new options are constantly being presented and studied. The new question is with regard to ibogaine—is it a safe option for heroin treatment? We will examine that question as we look at other basic facts and numbers surrounding the opioid epidemic.
Heroin: Facts and Figures
Before we get into treatment options, let’s look at what heroin is and what the effects are of its use.
According to drugabuse.gov, heroin is an opioid made from morphine. (1) Heroin can be a white or brown powder, or a black sticky substance known as black tar heroin. Other common/street names for heroin include horse, hell dust, and smack.
There are several different ways to ingest heroin; those methods include injecting, sniffing, snorting, or smoking. A very common but very dangerous practice is to mix heroin with crack cocaine, which is known as speedballing.
Some of the effects of heroin on the body include binding to opioid receptors on cells located in many areas, especially those involved in feelings of pain and pleasure and in controlling heart rate, sleeping, and breathing. Short-term effects of use also include nausea and vomiting, nodding off–a back-and-forth state of being conscious and semiconscious–and insomnia. Some long-term effects include collapsed veins for people who inject it; infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, constipation, liver and kidney disease.
Typical Treatment of Heroin
If a heroin overdose occurs, naloxone is the most commonly used medicine, as long as it is administered right away. It works by rapidly binding to opioid receptors and blocking the effects of heroin and other opioid drugs. Sometimes more than one dose may be needed to help a person to get breathing again. That is why it’s important to get the person to the emergency room or a doctor for additional treatments. Naloxone is available in needle form, as an injectable solution, and as a nasal spray (NARCAN® Nasal Spray).
What is Ibogaine?
Ibogaine is a psychedelic drug and its use for treating opioid addictions is highly controversial.
Historically used in healing ceremonies and initiation rituals in the Bwiti religion in West Africa, Ibogaine is a psychedelic substance found in iboga, which is a Western African shrub. While some believe it is an effective treatment for opiate addiction, it has yet to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Ibogaine is classified as a Schedule I drug in the United States, which means it is a substance with a high potential for abuse.
Is Ibogaine A Safe Option For Heroin Treatment
Ibogaine acts as a mild stimulant in small doses. In large doses, it can put a person into a severe psychedelic state. Some people have found that large doses reduce opiate withdrawal symptoms and help with substance-related cravings.
People with substance use addictions have found that large doses of it can reduce withdrawal from opiates and help rid them of their substance-related cravings. In many cases, however, the effects are short-lived. The safety of this treatment is also in question. Most studies have been in animals.
Studies done on humans yielded serious side effects, including unexplained deaths that may be linked to the treatment.
According to healthline.com (2), a study done in Mexico to assess the effectiveness of Ibogaine use to treat opioid addictions yielded the following results:
- One-third of the participants relapsed within the first month
- 60 percent relapsed within the first two months
- 80 percent relapsed within the first six months
- 20 percent made it more than six months without any aftercare
Noting these results, researchers determined that while Ibogaine interrupts addition, it does not cure the addiction. The conclusion was also that while Ibogaine is not a cure for addiction, it is also quite risky to rely on. Some of the risks include seizures, gastrointestinal issues, heart complications, and death.
Getting Help for Heroin Addiction
There is still so much unknown about the use of ibogaine to treat heroin addiction that we cannot consider it a safe option for heroin treatment. However, the opioid epidemic continues to increase rapidly and we must continue to explore any and all options for treatment. However, the tried and true treatments are always offered at Ocean Hills Recovery.
If you or someone you know is battling a heroin addiction and would like some help, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We offer a variety of programs and will work for each individual’s needs. Simply give us a call for help today.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.