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Cornell Student Articles on Topical Affairs

Ibogaine – the solution to addiction? Yes, says Johnny Tabaie

Methadone. Buprenorphine. Naltrexone. Clonidine. Benzodiazepine. Antidepressants. Drugs and medications all used in varying degrees by drug addicts attempting to overcome addiction, as prescribed by medical professionals, psychologists and rehabilitation clinics. Each with their advantages – all with undeniably negative side effects. But there is one substance not getting the spotlight it deserves for its proven ability to cure opiate addiction and rid addicts of overpowering cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Its name is ibogaine. 

Ibogaine is a psychoactive substance found naturally in iboga root bark. Its powerful anti-addiction properties were discovered accidentally in 1962 by American scientific researcher and heroin addict Howard Lotsof who, together with five friends who were also addicts and experimenting with the substance, found that he had a notable reduction in heroin cravings and withdrawal symptoms while taking ibogaine. Used mostly by traditional communities and alternative medicine clinics, ibogaine has been hailed by users as a powerful facilitator of psychological introspection and spiritual exploration, allowing people to conquer their deepest fears and negative emotions while in an altered state of consciousness.

The Holistic Sanctuary founder Johnny Tabaie is one such advocate for ibogaine’s powerful anti-addiction properties. Having experienced the life-changing powers of the psychedelic substance himself – the result of a final attempt to overcome his own 20-year heroin addiction, depression, eating disorders and other negative behaviors – he went on to set up one of the world’s innovative drug rehabilitation sanctuaries, one that relies mostly on the use of natural medicines such as ibogaine and ayahuasca to help other addicts overcome addiction. Touted one of North America’s most luxury rehabilitation ‘sanctuaries’ – because the word ‘clinic’ would not do the beautiful Baja California beachfront property justice – The Holistic Sanctuary eschews the traditional recovery methods espoused by regular rehab centers and clinics, instead using holistic therapies together with carefully regulated, plant-based medicine use to help cure addiction, PTSD and depression in patients.

As part of the comprehensive program offered to patients, Johnny developed a cutting-edge method of treatment that targets and repairs the root causes of addiction, restoring and rejuvenating brain cells to their pre-addictive state. He calls it the ‘Pouyan Method’. Using no prescription medication whatsoever, the treatment works to take patients’ brains back to their pre-addictive states using only natural, organic substances – as opposed to the concoction of western prescription medicines used to treat addicts at most conventional rehab centers, and even other luxury treatment clinics.

“While conventional mainstream rehabs and therapists band-aid the symptoms and call it in an incurable disease, at The Holistic Sanctuary we help heal our patients without drugs or medications. We use only super plant medicines, holistic medicines, herbs and natural treatments,” Johnny said of The Holistic Sanctuary’s approach to treating addiction.

“In contrast, treatment centers and traditional rehab facilities indoctrinate patients – they masquerade propaganda as fact, telling patients addiction is an incurable disease – and compound the problem with untested and extremely dangerous combinations of prescription medications, which contain substantial or irreversible side effects such as: liver damage, renal failure (requiring dialysis or a transplant), high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, bone and joint decay, mania, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and even death!”

The Holistic Sanctuary uses ibogaine treatment and ayahuasca ceremonies to help clients reach altered states of consciousness, enabling them to overcome traumatic life experiences and negative habits by embarking on journeys of self-exploration that might otherwise take them decades of therapy, counselling and self-realization to get to. The experience of taking ibogaine is broken down into two phases: the first, which lasts four to six hours, is described as ‘oneirogenic’ or an experience than produces dream-like states of consciousness. The second phase, the ‘introspection phase’, is where the psychotherapeutic effects come into play.

Iboga has been used in healing rituals and spiritual ceremonies by the Bwiti people of Africa for hundreds of years, possibly more. Its use was first reported by French and Belgian explorers in the 19th century when they stumbled upon a tribe using the substance. Within the Bwiti community, iboga (the substance in its rawest form) was typically taken in large doses by those suffering trauma or health issues, allowing them to disassociate with reality for such a time that they were able to experience powerful revelations or even supposedly speak to religious or spiritual figures including Virgin Mary or God. Ibogaine users have reported seeing therapeutic shamanic visions that have enabled them to conquer fears which, until that moment, had been driving their negative behaviors and addictions.

It is important to administer ibogaine treatment in conjunction with holistic therapies and followed by intensive counselling, therapy and aftercare, Johnny says, in order to maximize potential outcomes for addicts. His rehabilitation retreat offers patients a comprehensive program of holistic therapies that can be broken into ‘soul and spirit’ or ‘body and biochemistry’. Therapies designed to support and heal the soul include transpersonal psychology, guided meditation, Reiki, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, pranic healing, hypnotherapy, Emotional Freedom Techniques and Neurofeedback, while ‘biochemistry’ therapies includes ozone therapy, ibogaine and ayahuasca treatments, ionic cleansing, raw diets, hyperbaric oxygen treatment and hydrotherapy. According to Johnny, the combination of addressing the body and the mind are key to enabling patients to overcome addiction and achieve spiritual awakening, allowing them to rid themselves of former negative mindsets and behaviors. Johnny also says that the Pouyan Method accelerates the detox process, eliminating cravings and withdrawal symptoms from drug addiction.

The use of ibogaine has had both positive and negative reaction since its anti-addiction properties were first discovered, with the medical use of it outlawed in many countries and with serious regulations in place for its legal use elsewhere. But its unrivalled benefits for those trying to overcome life-threatening addiction is something that merits its inclusion in medical discourse as a treatment drug capable of enabling monumental, transformational change within addicts. So why aren’t we talking about it more?

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