Mind-altering drug could offer life free of heroin

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  1. Mind-altering drug could offer life free of heroin

    22 August 2013

    I HAVE been struggling with an addiction to opiates for the past three years. It started with prescription painkillers and progressed to full-blown heroin dependence.

    In an attempt to kick the habit I signed up for a traditional 30-step inpatient treatment that involved individual and group counselling, and which cost about $30,000. That was a year ago, and it didn't work. I felt unable to stay away from heroin.

    Now I am at a small clinic in Baja California, Mexico, where I am taking part in the first trial to investigate the effectiveness of treating heroin addiction with a single dose of ibogaine – a psychoactive substance derived from the rainforest shrub Tabernanthe iboga.

    "Ibogaine can take you many places, causing you to experience a range of emotions, memories and visions. If any of these images become too frightening, just open your eyes." I am reassured by the words of the director of the clinic, Jeff Israel, but the drug's history is not all rosy.

    Several clinical trials have shown that low doses of ibogaine taken over the course of a few weeks can greatly reduce cravings for heroin and other drugs. There was extensive research on it in the 1990s, with good evidence of safety in animals and a handful of studies in humans. The US National Institute on Drug Abuse invested over $1 million, but then abandoned the project in 1995. A study had shown that at high doses, ibogaine caused some brain cell degeneration in rats. Lower doses similar to those used in human addiction trials showed no such effect, however.

    Ibogaine's mind-altering effects mean that today, the US Drug Enforcement Agency defines it as having a high potential for abuse with no recognised medical use. It is classed as a schedule I drug, the most restrictive legal designation.

    But anecdotal accounts suggest that a single treatment is just as effective as multiple low doses. The dose is much higher, although still nowhere near the levels found to cause harm in rats. A single treatment is less expensive than standard addiction therapies, and the intensity of the experience is not a recreational high that users seem to want to repeat.

    So the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a US non-profit research organisation, decided to investigate whether there was any scientific validity to the reports. Legal restrictions in the US severely limit funding for clinical trials of this kind, so the volunteers recruited – this is where I come in – were those who had sought treatment independently in Mexico, where there are fewer restrictions on ibogaine use.

    "There have been claims by the government that there's a high potential for abuse and no medical use, and claims from ibogaine advocates that one dose is a miracle cure. We're trying to gather some scientific evidence to better evaluate it," says Rick Doblin, executive director of MAPS. A similar study is also being carried out in New Zealand.

    At the clinic, I and 29 other heroin addicts get our dose of ibogaine. The treatment costs between $2000 and $6500 depending on which clinic you go to. As it starts to take effect I feel an intense wave of energy emanating from the centre of my chest that permeates my entire body. This euphoric state also brings me instantaneous relief from the discomfort I was feeling after going without heroin for almost 24 hours.

    With my withdrawal symptoms completely gone, I am perplexed by the state of clarity I am in while seeing the most profound stream of visual phenomena. I am also filled with a sense of awe at the potential for a life free of heroin. Emotional memories force me to deal with some of the deep subconscious guilt I have repressed for years.

    This powerful state persisted for over 12 hours. After remaining at the clinic for a week I was allowed to return home and over the next six months felt almost no cravings whatsoever.

    Despite the earlier research, ibogaine's mechanism of action is still not clear. And the lack of controlled human trials has prevented anyone finding out more. What is known is that the drug affects multiple receptors in the brain. Its ability to lessen cravings may be the result of its blocking of NMDA receptors. Drug-induced craving is linked to increased activity of these receptors and blocking them can inhibit cravings in animals. The long-term relief from withdrawal symptoms probably comes from the fact that ibogaine is sequestered in fat tissue and slowly released into the bloodstream for up to six months.

    For the next year, principal investigator Thomas Brown of the University of California, San Diego, and his team kept track of all of us with telephone interviews and regular addiction severity tests, as well as quality-of-life assessments and drug tests. Brain scans were not taken since the dose was assumed safe based on prior human and animal studies.

    Brown has not yet completed his analysis, but he says the results appear to show compelling preliminary evidence of ibogaine's efficacy at a single dose. There has been a decrease in the severity of withdrawal symptoms in all 30 trial participants, he says.

    When asked to rate the importance of their treatment on quality of life, both the subjects themselves and their partners stated that it had helped to greatly change their lives. "The main statistically significant improvements are in a consistent reduction in the severity of drug and alcohol use," says Brown.

    People working with addicts are interested. Steven Scanlan, a physician at Palm Beach Outpatient Detox in Boca Raton, Florida, says there are limitations to existing methods of treating addiction. He uses suboxone, a daily medication for opiate detoxification. With this therapy, though, people can often replace one addiction with another. "Every day people are calling asking me to detox them off suboxone, but it's really the only weapon I have to detox people off opiates," he says. "I'd be really excited to have something else to be able to use."

    Of the 29 others who took part in the trial, none are now reported as having problematic drug use. Two years after that one dose of ibogaine, I abstain from all drugs. Given the chance of relief from the physical and psychological dependence, I am free to make conscious choices again. We don't yet know how effective this treatment would be in others, but the change in my life is startling.

    The writer of this article wishes to remain anonymous

    This article appeared in print under the headline "Can a mind-altering drug cure heroin addiction?"

    Article from the new scientist.
    Shouldn't the nhs be looking into this as it would save millions in the long run.


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  2. No the NHS shouldn't be looking at it as there is no evidence it works.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  3. There has been research it just needs to be followed through. Wouldnt this make treating your patients a whole lot easier if it works jarrod than seeing them coming back time and time again.

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  4. $6500 for a course?

    Locking them up, sliding their meals under the barred door and a daily rinse with a fire hose would suffice. Followed by councilling.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  5. Have there been any trials done?

    Or is it just too expensive?
     
  6. If this magic pill was 100% effective (as is suggested in the article) I think the NHS would be falling over themselves to give it out to addicts.

    $6500 is small small change in comparison to the ongoing care for an addict, when you add up prison, crime, mental health issues and direct medical costs.

    So I can only come to the conclusion that it's anonymous rubbish on the internet. Shame though - as it would be nice to end drug addiction with a magic bullet.
     
  7. My father offered a mind altering therapy to keep me off all illicit drugs, a big right hand that would have been administered to my head on regular prescription should my condition necessitate it. There were a few reported side effects of blurred vision, altered consciousness and a mild headache, which all stopped at cessation of the treatment, and i would not have had to rob anyones home or mug any old lady to experience this mind alteration, as it would have been given freely and there would never be a shortage of it, should the need have arisen of course.

    I never wanted to try heroin, i can't for the life of me think why:slow:
     
    • Like Like x 2
  8. Its pretty easy to end it with a normal bullet TBH.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  9. It's nothing new, been done with mescaline, Psilocybin and LSD years ago by the likes of Humphrey Osmond etc. Was very effective by all accounts until the suits shut it down. Better to swell the coffers of the criminals who suply and drug companies who produce the treatment drugs.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  10. The wife works in the pharmaceutical industry and there is too much money being made to even consider making this work she said. But could we use it for other addictions like alcohol and even nicotine, the savings would be huge if it did work and would more than half the NHS bill.

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  11. Prescribe heroin, it doesn't cause tissue damage no matter how long your on it, it costs peanuts and you can live long and productive life as long as you stay on the clean stuff.
     
    • Like Like x 4
  12. The current situation is unfathomable! Addicts receive a high amount of benefits which enables them to maintain heavy addictions, this they subsidize with theft and prostitution, the are supplied with strong prescription drugs for free which they then sell or abuse, pregabalin, zopiclone, subutex, tamgesic etc. Concurrently they are supplied with varying amounts of methadone which they are encourage to continue, most use other drugs whilst on methadone. Medical services are provided to patch up their failing bodies, leg ulcers, DVT's, infections etc. All this at the expense of the tax payer. And this money they spend goes where, to the ******* drug dealers.
     
  13. I looked at it maybe ten years ago, can't recall the problems with it but it's of no use.
    Any hint of usefulness and the parents of users would have been after it.


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  14. You probably don't see the people who work and do well on substitute drugs. People are often not given enough to stop drug use its a failing of the service. Initial research on methadone as a substitute proved higher doses have better results. If they aren't on enough and still crave, what will they do?
    You need to be giving them more opiates to ensure the dose lasts more than 24 hours or they'll wake up withdrawing and use.


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  15. [​IMG]

    'Cold Turkey booth'.

    Couple of weeks in here, with a giant hamster bottle for hydration, and a thrice daily bucket of kibble. Sorted. Councilling through a tv precence.