150 Years into the opioid epidemic, many are resorting to Ibogaine treatment

People often think of opioid addiction as a 21st-century problem, but the issue has been around far longer than that.

Painkiller pills [Illustrative]. (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Painkiller pills [Illustrative].
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Every new government administration has its fair share of issues inherited from predecessors. In the US it is no different. The Trump administration inherited an opioid epidemic that is now 150 years old – and openly expressed concern that it may get worse. It has become a topic of much discussion in government circles. Beyond that, the president also expressed a strong determination to do something about the problem, without mincing his words. 
In recent years, the world witnessed increased awareness about this challenge. Previously, people thought of opioid addiction exclusively as something that resulted due to bad choices related to the consumption of recreational drugs (heroin, cocaine etc.). Nowadays, there is more knowledge about the fact that so many people went down the same path of addiction innocently after they became hooked on prescription medication given for chronic pain and other common illnesses. 
Unfortunately, regardless of how much empathy we have in the world these days, in many countries the solutions offered by national healthcare are not yet adequate to prevent excessive relapse rates which hovers at around 91%. It is not surprising that individuals and family members who are concerned have turned to medical tourism, luxury rehabs and an array of alternative options out of sheer desperation. 
Most of the time, these treatments are not covered by medical insurance and, as in the case of Ibogaine treatment, it is mainly carried out in Europe and South America, with Mexico being the top destination for US citizens. 
By now it is well known that the US does no longer participate in Ibogaine research and that much of the previous research was done in other countries. It is true that the current administration is looking into the opioid crisis and possible solutions and that they are very outspoken and concerned. Yet,despite a political will to move forward, we are yet to see an improvement in addiction statistics, relapse rates and related deaths.
One may argue that since the cost of alternative treatment is prohibitive, that only a select few fortunate patients are breaking free of addiction while many lives are lost during an extended waiting period. To understand more about the situation on the ground, I discussed this with someone familiar with the issue. Guess where? At a gated beachfront rehab facility minutes away from San Diego. 
According to Ibogaine treatment facilities, Americans are still streaming in:
Aeden Smith-Ahearn is well known to the media. As a treatment coordinator who personally stood by many people on their way to recovery from opioid addiction, he knows what is happening at the forefront of the war against addiction. In a recent interview with Healthynewage, he described the treatment protocol they follow under direct supervision of doctors at the Experience Ibogaine treatment facility in Mexico. According to Aeden, in recent months they have not seen any decline in US citizens who receive treatment in Mexico: on the contrary, their facility has been very busy administering Ibogaine treatment. 
When asked about how the situation is progressing, Aeden said “The majority of our patients come from the US. People know that their government is looking into the problem of opioid addiction, but that currently the system is still broken. Those who want to take their lives back are not prepared to wait any longer, which is understandable. I am grateful for the opportunity to see so many complete recoveries at our facility – to us, this is what matters most right now, while in the longer term, we hope governments will address the underlying causes of this epidemic.” 
A shift toward science-based addiction treatment:
The one thing that experienced therapists seem to agree on is this: It is somewhat naive to think you can go to group sessions and talk about addiction, people can pray for you and support you emotionally and the problem will be solved. This is precisely why relapse rates are so high. Any science-based approach, will consider ways of resetting the brain to its pre-addicted state, which is what most Ibogaine treatment facilities use as the cornerstone of their protocol. The challenge for the current and future governments, is to take the lead in research and establish the safest most effective protocols that are available to everyone regardless of their financial ability. 
Conclusion: What is the future of opioid addiction treatment?
Many feel that the US is about to make a comeback on the war against drugs. When the president calls for severe measures such as the death penalty for illegal drug dealers, one can understand why such sentiment may prevail. But let’s not forget that a large part of opioid addiction will depend on the policies we implement regarding addiction treatment as well as a review of prescription medication. Science-based treatment, powered by sound research and worldwide collaboration may be the best way forward.