Ibogaine – A True Story

iboga_plantHave you heard of Ibogaine? This is the story of an inspirational event that happened just days ago here in Canada to one of my own clients.  The story is written by that client and beautifully describes what happened, without any exageration or embellishment.  For privacy my client has chosen to remain anonymous – but if anyone is battling with these same issues and has questions, he has offered to answer them through me. He is committed to helping in any way he can with fighting addiction to prescription drugs.

This is an amazing story – I can find nothing else like it?   Julie

Ibogaine – A Cautionary Tale
Love Got Me Home…

“”It was almost two years ago when I went bouncing off to the gym for my regular work out.  Rubbing my shoulder as I jogged up the stairs to meet my trainer, I remember thinking I was lucky to be in such good shape at 40. Towards the end of that workout, a terrible crunching, tearing sound triggered a jolt of severe pain through my left arm and shoulder.  It was unimaginable pain – like nothing I had ever experienced before.

The pain was crippling – continuous and excruciating. To make matters worse I could not lie down, so what little sleep I got came by way of sitting in a chair with a blanket draped over me. I soon found myself in my doctors office begging for help.

Lucky man that I am, I have a doctor who is caring and compassionate.  He arranged for all of the appropriate tests, and gave me strong, narcotic (opiate) pain killers to manage the crisis.  It didn’t even enter my mind that this drug use was anything other than ‘completely fine’.  I was in safe medical hands…

rotatorcuffAfter a few tests it became clear that I had ruptured a disc in my neck and torn my rotator cuff. I also had bursitis of the shoulder.  I had WAY overdone it at the gym!

Over the passing months it became clear to doctors, specialists and physiotherapists that my ruptured disc would not resolve itself without surgery. So, about ten months after the injury, I headed off to a joint replacement clinic in Vancouver, where a skilled neurosurgeon removed the disc and replaced it with an artificial one, held in place by a plate and four screws.

Recovery from the surgery took me a bit by surprise in that it was a slow and painful process. I assumed it would be much quicker? This being said, mercifully my pain was still being effectively managed with narcotics…  Which I had now been taking for over a year.

As the post-surgery months passed, I became increasingly confused and frustrated with the fact that I still had severe pain? I had assumed that the whole reason for surgery was to end the pain?  I was also concerned that I was having to take an increasing amounts of drugs to get relief.

IbogaineopiatesI tapered down my use of the pills pretty effectively on several occasions – but without any real knowledge or experience with opiates. Time and again I reduced too drastically and ended up rebounding onto a higher – rather than lower – dose. I began to realize that the drugs which had offered me such comfort for the past year-and-a-half while I was injured had become a permanent fixture in my life. It also dawned on me slowly that they were a source of a real physical dependence.  I was in way over my head. With this realization I began to research Opiate addiction on the Internet.  And found some very troubling information.

There was good scientific evidence that the pain signals I was still receiving could well be a trick that the addicted body plays on the mind in order to get more of the drug it craves? I was horrified. And suddenly very scared.

Unbelievably, it turns out that your body can send false pain signals to your brain in certain situations. This made some sense to me: The pain was in the same place – but it felt different? Although I still favored my left side, I no longer had the same involuntary guarding reflex that I had pre-surgery. Instinctively I knew that the pain I was feeling was ‘false pain’. I couldn’t believe I had allowed myself to end up in this position and I realized that I had to take some sort of action myself.

I told my wife I feared that I was almost two years into Opiate addiction.  I confided in her that I seriously doubted that the pain I was still feeling would remain after detox.  I also told her that there were few options for effective detox – none of them easy and only a few effective.

IbogaineBrainI described the various options for detox programs that I had researched and told her that from what I could tell, the quickest way to ‘get the job done’ and get me back to her and our two little boys was to try a controversial treatment called Ibogaine therapy. This seemed quite an extreme and uncomfortable therapy – but also more successful than most. And a lot quicker.

Ibogaine is an extremely powerful hallucinogenic drug which is currently illegal in the United States, but unregulated and allowed in Canada and Mexico. It appears that Ibogaine possesses a unique quality in that if taken in sufficient quantity it can, over a period of about 7 days, reset the Opiate receptors in the brain of an addict.  This is a massive deal.

Compared to 30 – 45 days of traditional treatment for withdrawal, Ibogaine therapy clearly has appeal. Keep in mind too that any Opiate withdrawal for me at this point would feel like a life-or-death experience with weeks of incontinence, splitting pain in my bones, limbs jerking and kicking without warning, fits of rage, constant nervousness and incessant vomiting to name just a few of the symptoms I could expect.

So Ibogaine it was.  Doctors and specialists were not convinced that if I ‘dried out’ I would have no – or significantly less – pain.  I began to see that I had to do this alone and made a reservation at the ‘most likely’ clinic I could find. Stubbornly determined to reclaim my health, I headed off for a 7 day ‘rapid detox’.

I was resolved to face this problem head on and get rid of this ‘stupid’ addiction.  What I was blissfully unaware of was the fact that the process I was entering would be the most traumatic of my life. The ‘trip’ and suffering I would endure would completely dwarf the discomfort of my original ruptured disc and torn rotator cuff.  If I had imagined this at the time of my original injury I would almost surely have accepted the original pain and I would have chosen a different route.

ScoreCardsI was all set to ‘take my cure’ when at the last minute it was postponed for a few days. Mentally I had steeled myself for this ordeal and planned my absence and the delay was tough. The logical part of my brain, however, assumed that a patient’s wellbeing might be the cause of the delay and I was almost reassured that the clinic was so compassionate and well run that they would alter their schedule for a patient.  Anxious – and after another week – I arrived at the airport of the small town in the interior of Canada where my treatment was to take place.  The first thing I noticed was the freezing cold -2 degree temperature. The second thing I noticed was that, unlike our agreement, there was no one to meet me?  I waited for a whole hour and, totally confused, eventually checked in to a local hotel.

At 10:30 that night Abe, my contact at the clinic, called to apologize for not collecting me. He had “taken a nap and just now woken up”.  My heart sank. This was not a good omen. But, despite this, I was committed to freeing myself from addiction. Whatever the cost. The next morning Abe collected me from the Hotel.

On Abe’s instruction I had not eaten, drank, or taken any medication since the evening before.  We drove to a residential housing development, far away from anywhere.  Abe walked me through the door of a small, unbelievably cold, apartment and set my suitcase on a bed.  As I looked around, Sue, a bright faced and pretty girl came in and apologized for the state of my room.  She then proceeded to clear her clothes out of a couple of drawers for me and complain about the bitter cold in the apartment.

IbogaineBookIn the days that followed I was to learn that Sue was the survivor of a life of abuse and addiction. She was also Abe’s girlfriend.  I was also to discover that Abe’s partners in his clinic had left.  Abe had some good experience – and a good heart.  But he was dabbling in drugs again after being clean for a couple of years.  This, combined with the money he could get from giving Ibogaine treatments (although he was saving up so he could fix his teeth!) made him unreliable.

I sat down on the bed and began to layer myself in clothing to fight off the cold.  I was already heading into withdrawal, having disposed of all my medication 14 hours earlier. It was pretty obvious by now that what had been sold as a “clinic” was actually just this cold, unsterile room. And these people. But however crazy this was, I couldn’t bear the idea of not taking this chance at freedom. One way or another I was going to see this ordeal through and return to my family, able to live a normal life without a drug dependency.

A girl – who appeared to be in her late teens – entered the room and told me she would be monitoring my heart during the treatment.  She had me lift my shirts and sweaters so she could place three sticky monitors onto my chest.  She then ran the wires down my sleeve and plugged them into a small machine.  On the other side of my bed sat a defibrillator and a bottle of water for my comfort.  It also comforted me emotionally – to think that maybe there was an ounce of ‘normal’ and safe medical care in ‘all this’?

Abe reappeared with a capsule of Ibobaine.  He told me it was a test dose, and I swilled it down with some water from beside the bed.  As he turned to leave the room Abe said casually “when you start vomiting, you are going to feel as though you can’t stop… Just tell yourself you can stop and it’ll be OK”.

IbogaineGarbageBagsAt this point I noticed the two large plastic lined buckets at both sides of the bed on the floor. The girl at the heart monitor smiled as Abe left the room.  “It’ll take a bit of time” she said, watching me sitting with my fists tight and my jaw clenched, bundled up like a sherpa on an Everest expedition. “The capsule takes about twenty minutes to burst in your stomach – you’ll know it when it happens”.

And “know it” I certainly did.

As that first capsule burst in my stomach the Ibogaine took complete control of my mind, my sight, and my central nervous system. Unbelievable humming began to build up in both my ears, my skin appeared to be alive with bugs eating, moving, and swarming all over me. My darkest nightmares began to manifest themselves before me and inside me.  I could hear a lot of shouting and I could feel myself moving.  Then I saw, as though squinting far off into distant sunlight,  Abe’s eyes, bulging from his head and looking deep into mine.  As he held me up I heard him say “there you are”.  As though he had just seen some sign of life behind my eyes. He then popped another huge capsule of Ibogaine in my mouth. “Here’s the rest of your dose” he said calmly, handing me what was left of my water to wash it down.

When the big capsule burst in my stomach it took me to the farthest, darkest place I have ever been – or could imagine – in this lifetime.  So far, I feared I might never find my way back…  Find sanity.

The power and toxicity of Ibogaine is unbelievable.

I felt myself descend into madness as my mind was plucked from me as I passed through. My thoughts and faculties to think, eat, go to the bathroom – even sleep – were  wiped out.  My motor skills vanished and I couldn’t even control bringing my hand to my own face to wipe my tears. By the end of Day Two I heard someone say “you’re 48 hours in”.

I remember wondering if I had ever gone 48 hours without sleep or food & drink before? But I couldn’t find the answer in my jumbled brain.  As I moved into Day Three my skin crawled as though it had a life of its own – now sleep was impossible even though I wanted badly to rest.  My bones felt like shards of ice in my pathetic, convulsing body. As I tossed and turned, sleepless, hopeless and exhausted, I remember thinking that I must try to eat and drink if I was going to live through this. I’m not sure if I was able to complete that thought at the time and actually find my mouth?

Mercifully, Sue checked in on me later that day and brought me a toasted bagel and some more water.  I took a bite of bagel, only to find that it tasted and smelled strongly of Ibogaine.  I sat back down on the bed and concentrated on keeping it down.  A huge improvement must have taken place because I was actually able to move around, albeit very unsteadily.

By this point my eyes were so sensitive to light that I had to wear sunglasses to the bathroom.  My ears were so sensitive that every sound – even the static sound of silence through the long nights – cut through me like a razor.  On Day Three, for just a short while I thought I felt better.  I decided to go to the bathroom. It took me several hours to prepare myself for this mammoth trip – just a few feet from my bed.  When I crawled back into my bed, I was elated to have made it. I also felt like I’d used the last drop of my energy and life force.  I felt the last shreds of my soul being torn from my body and I lay on the bed, limp.

IbogaineBookOn Day Four, after sitting on the bed though the longest night of my life, I felt I was slowly dying. I began to question what was killing me?  I knew the opiates and the Ibogaine had poisoned me. But I never expected the madness and the solitude? Sitting in a cold dark room on my own through this experience wasnot what I signed up for when I took my first painkiller. But this was reality.

What pulled me though was the thought that there were two little boys waiting at home for me.  They expected a healthy Daddy to return soon with smiles and cuddles and presents from his ‘trip’.  My deepest fear was that I wouldnever really recover from this nightmare. I was terrified that their innocent expectations would be dashed. That my wife – whose smile and kind eyes I love so much – would be effectively widowed. And it was these feelings which acted as a flint, to once again spark my life force. These were the precious thoughts which gave me energy for my soul to sheepishly return.

When Day Six arrived,  it was time to go to the airport.  Abe’s “7 day program” was actually just 6 days long…  I had been outside the day before for a few moments but I had soiled myself and it still took all I had just to stand. I was filled with worry and fear about how I would do this?  Once again it was Sue who helped me.  She packed my bags and took them to the car.

I questioned myself  “can I walk”?  Inside my brain, I smiled! More relief that I can ever express washed over me, as I heard my soul reply “Damn right. I can walk the hell out of here!”

Somehow I made it back to my family that day.  On the way home from the airport my wife took me to my doctor and my pharmacist so I could cancel all my remaining prescriptions for Opiates.

A few weeks of intensive rest at home is bringing me the rest of the way back to life. Slowly the wheels of my brain are starting to lurch forward again. The severe aching in my muscles and bones is responding to massage. Feeling is returning to my fingers and toes. Fortified with herbs, hyperbaric oxygen, good food, vitamins and love, my mind and body are starting to heal.

I’m a fortunate man.  I have a family like no other and I love them deeply.  I also have a stubborn streak that helped me survive through this.  I made a stupid mistake, getting hooked on Opiates. But it was a genuine mistake borne of lack of knowledge to cope with the difficult circumstances of pain management and my original injury.  When I realized what was going on inside my body,  I managed to stop it.  And I have no desire to ever see another Dilaudid tablet again.

I also realize that my experience with Ibogaine – however difficult – did indeed serve its intended purpose in getting me back to my family quicker than would otherwise be possible. I also realize now how dangerous such an experiment is. There is a real danger that the treatment itself could cause a heart attack and death. Ordinary people urgently need more options – and safety – available in a controlled effort to address addictions.  Addictions to both prescription drugs and street drugs.

beachballSo next time you’re in pain and you ask your doctor for “the good stuff” spare a thought for those six days I spent in Abe’s crash room. Remember; if you make a mistake, however innocent, it won’t be your doctor or your pharmacist going through withdrawal. It’ll be you.

boytruckAs for the presents for my little boys? I was grateful to ‘Daddy’ – who somehow in all this, visited a toy store and picked up a nice ball and a truck which I found in my hands as I stepped into the plane that took me home.  Don’t ask me how it happened. I don’t really know?  “Love got me home.”