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  • Writer's pictureDr. Martin Polanco

How does ibogaine work in the brain?

Ibogaine is a potent psychedelic substance that has become widely known for its beneficial effects on drug addiction treatment. It has been shown to decrease the self-administration of stimulants, opiates and alcohol, it also reduces the withdrawal symptoms and decreases the cravings for opiates, cocaine and other drugs for an extended period of time after treatment.

Ibogaine has also been used in the treatment of psychological disorders like depression, PTSD, and anxiety, helping people find closure of unresolved emotional conflicts. More recently ibogaine therapy has been used to treat Parkinson’s disease and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

Studies show that ibogaine is neuro-protective and stimulates increased levels of glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) in the brain, stimulating the growth of new neurons and promoting plasticity in the brain. Neuroplasticity or brain plasticity is the ability of the brain to modify its connections or rewire itself. The brain has the ability to change throughout life and to recover from brain injury by reorganizing itself and forming new connections between brain cells (neurons). GDNF is a molecule involved in the formation of appropriate neuronal circuits, an essential part of the nervous system development, promoting the outgrowth and survival of different neuronal populations within the central and peripheral nervous systems.

Ibogaine’s anti-addictive effects is both on the physical body including the brain and nervous system, as well as in the psychological self providing healing effects to the personality and ego structure. Because of the psychedelic nature of ibogaine, many users claim to have gained an insight that has allowed them to pursue profound changes in their lives, allowing them to change their relationship to drugs and understand coping skills to trauma.

The abuse of drugs, brain diseases and psychiatric disorders affect the development and function of the brain and nervous system. Since ibogaine can promote the release of neurotrophic factors in some regions of the brain, it can repair and protect the damaged neural circuits affected by drug addiction and other diseases.

Drug addiction is considered a chronic condition due to the long-term effects it has on the reward system of the brain, ibogaine and noribogaine can interrupt this condition by restoring the brain to a healthy balanced state.Ibogaine is an addiction interruptor, easing withdrawals and preventing cravings, it has a detoxifying effect on the brain.Ibogaine beneficial effects stay in the body for weeks after its initial administration since it is converted into noribogaine by the liver and stored in the body.

Noribogaine longer-acting nature contributes to the therapeutic benefits of ibogaine treatment by rewiring the affected areas of the brain damaged by the abuse of drugs. Noribogaine stays in the body for weeks after the treatment acting as a highly effective antidepressant, alleviating cravings and helping to fight post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). During the weeks after an ibogaine treatment, it's considered to be a ‘window of opportunity’ where new habits are easier to become solid and the body feels more energized, so patients are encouraged to be mindful and establish new, healthy ways of living.

Ibogaine works with the psychological self, it helps to resolve trauma, aggression, fear and grief by experiencing insights into your problems through visions and facilitating introspection. Post traumatic stress disorder may happen after a traumatic life event, with symptoms like panic attacks, flashbacks, sleep disturbance, anxiety, anger, irritation and obsessive-compulsive behaviors. PTSD symptoms get triggered when the brain is not able to ‘deal’ with the traumatic experience and feelings, blocking it out partially or fully.

A high percentage of war veterans suffer from PTSD, a serious condition that impacts brain function and damages the nervous system. The brain is equipped with an alarm system related to survival, people who suffer from PTSD are overly sensitive and the system triggers easily. In PTSD patients the parts of the brain responsible for thinking and memory stop functioning properly. Ibogaine is used to help process the traumatic events and to restore the brain by rewiring the areas that have been blocked, restoring the balance in the brain.

Those who suffer from PTSD may be trying to rely on drugs or alcohol to find relief, an ibogaine treatment would help in healing both substance abuse and trauma. Therefore ibogaine therapy clients are able to resolve the substance dependency as well as the emotional issues that are the root of the addiction.

Martin Polanco M.D., has been working with Special Operations Veterans providing ibogaine treatment for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Depression and/or Addiction. He is the medical director of The Mission Within, a clinical program specializing in treatment-resistant and complex psychological conditions as a result of experiences of those serving in the military.

Dr. Polanco has extensive experience in the use of ibogaine for addiction treatment and for psychological disorders for more than 15 years, as he was the founder and medical director of Crossroads Treatment Center in Mexico. He provided treatment for hundreds of patients and investigated on the use of psychedelics like ibogaine and 5 MeO-DMT for mental health therapy.

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