The Possibility of Breaking the Addiction Cycle Using Plant-Based Treatments

“The addict substitutes a sick relationship to an event or a process for a healthy relationship with others. The addict’s relationship with a mood-altering experience becomes central to his life” – Patrick Carnes

It is interesting to note that opioid drug addictions such as heroin addictions are treated with an opioid that works via the same opioid receptors as the addictive drug. However, the legal and prescribed opioid is safer and is far less likely to produce the addictive, harmful behaviour.

Surely, treating an illegal opiate addiction with a legal opioid is akin to keeping the addict addicted to the opioid, just a legal form of it? Additionally, I believe that the question that begs is whether there are natural, plant-based treatments available to help the opioid addict come off all forms of the drug, both legal and illegal?

Plant-based remedies: A history

The simple answer to the question of whether there are natural treatments available to treat opioid addictions is “Yes”. In summary, there is an alkaloid known as Ibogaine which is extracted from the West African plant, Tabernanthe Iboga and is used to treat drug addictions. However, before we look at the specifics of treating drug addictions with Ibogaine, let’s examine its history.

Certain Central West African tribes such as the Babongo and Mitsogo people have used Ibogaine in spiritual celebrations, ceremonies, and healings for hundreds of years. It is also linked to the Bwiti religion which is practiced by between two and three million of its members scattered in groups throughout Gabon, Zaire, Cameroon (Central Africa).

About one hundred years ago, Western researchers started investigating the possibility that the alkaloids found in the root of the Tabernanthe Iboga plant can help addicts break the cycle of addiction to drugs such as heroin and cocaine. During the early stages of this research, it seemed as though the alkaloid, Ibogaine had a therapeutic benefit when used as a transitionary measure from drug-dependence to total abstinence.

Proof of concept studies providing evidence that Ibogaine is successful in stopping drug addicts from taking cocaine and heroin. However, researchers are still a long way away from gaining professional acceptance and regulatory approval for the use of Ibogaine as a mainstream approach to the rehabilitation of drug addicts.

Ibogaine as an alternative to mainstream drug addiction treatment

Ibogaine is an alkaloid which, in essence, is a chemical compound with a naturally occurring nitrogen base. “Well-known alkaloids include morphine, strychnine, quinine, ephedrine, and nicotine.” Furthermore, alkaloids are mainly found in plants and are very common in certain families of flowering plants like the poppy family.

Ibogaine is reputed to have anti-addictive properties, and it is known for its ability to prevent withdrawal symptoms and cravings for an extended period after taking a single dose.

Final words

Even though Ibogaine is still a long way away from being accepted by the mainstream medical fraternity, it is being successfully used in rehabilitation centres who advocate alternative therapies to addicts overcome their dependence on opioids. Furthermore, mainstream research projects are ongoing to prove that the alkaloids found in the Tabernanthe Iboga root are successful in treating drug addictions.