Ibogaine Therapy For Addiction: Could The Opioid Crisis Be A Turning Point For Psychedelic Medicine?
A Modern Public Health Crisis Calls For Creative Solutions
For most of history, humans have had a complex relationship with mind altering plants, fungi, and in more recent times, chemicals. Early records suggest intentional cultivation and use of opium poppies as an analgesic dating back to 3400 BC. For just as long, people have been aware of the dark side of opium, suffering the consequences of abuse and addiction to its alkaloids. In the past century, pharmaceutical grade morphine and synthetic opioids have dramatically transformed medicine and provided relief to individuals recovering from surgery or living with chronic pain. But the dark side of opioids continues to haunt society. Between 1999 and 2017, opioid addiction turned into a full blown epidemiological crisis, resulting in an estimated 400,000 overdose deaths, over $1 trillion in financial costs, and human suffering far beyond the bounds of numbers.
Many interventions have been attempted, including tightening regulations on the synthetic opioid fentanyl, and limiting prescription privileges of doctors including to post-operative patients. While deaths have slowed in some areas, they continue unchecked in pockets of the United States, particularly rural and impoverished communities. The crisis has even hit highly educated and financially privileged health care professionals, a demographic not often seen as the face of addiction. It has also resulted in yet more suffering in a far less spoken of side of the crisis, as many individuals dealing with very real pain are being denied adequate relief by physicians.
In the face of such an unprecedented public health emergency, conversations have opened up around some other controversial substances that may hold therapeutic potential in treating addiction and substance abuse disorders.
Although still federally illegal, many states have made attempts to legalize medical or recreational cannabis; in some of these states and counties, rates of opioid-related deaths and medical costs appear to have declined.