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  • Dr. Martin Polanco

How ibogaine helps heal mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI).



Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is a concussion or head injury caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. The rapid movement of the brain inside the skull caused by an external force creates chemical changes, inflammation, improper cell function and cell death. A mild traumatic brain injury is any period of confusion, disorientation or impaired consciousness; dysfunction of memory and loss of consciousness that lasts less than 30 minutes.


Even though mTBI is not visible on medical imaging tests and it can go unnoticed initially, its symptoms develop and can last for months or years, causing mental and physical problems. Common symptoms for mTBI include cognitive impairment, attention deficits, difficulty concentrating, headaches, visual problems, anxiety, fatigue, depression, irritability, mood swings, frustration and sleep disturbances. Cognitive impairment includes the domains of attention, processing speed, executive function and memory. Even though this type of traumatic brain injury is called mild, the effect on the life of the injured person can be devastating.


In 2013, an estimated 2.5 million traumatic brain injury visits to the emergency department occurred in the United States, about 75-90% of these injuries were classified as mild. These percentages are underestimated since many patients with mild traumatic brain injuries do not go to the emergency department and do not seek medical care.


Mild traumatic brain injuries are very common among American military service members, a third of soldiers report having symptoms that last for more than 5 months after the initial injury. The Department of Defense estimates that 22% of all combat casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan are brain injuries, and 12% of Vietnam related combat casualties. Service members and veterans experience many blasts from combat and from training, with an accumulation of traumatic brain injury events throughout their career.


Between 2000 and 2018, there were about 315,897 cases of mTBI, many caused by a blast-related injury, across all branches of the US military. The events that cause the injuries may also cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which is a psychiatric disorder that can happen to people who experience or witness a traumatic event that is difficult to manage and to recover from. Many military veterans that experience multiple episodes of mTBI have a higher risk of developing PTSD.


The impact of mTBI in the psychological and physical health of service members and veterans can be a lifelong struggle to recover from the injury and the trauma experienced. For those who suffer the mTBI symptoms for several months, the typical treatment involves medication, cognitive, physical, speech and occupational therapy with a focus on helping them cope and to be able to continue to function in their life and family relationships.


The treatment for mTBI must be focused on helping the patient find a state of balance in his/her mind and body. A state that allows the person to recover the mental and physical strength to cope and overcome challenges. Multiple therapies are needed to cover all of the areas damaged by the traumatic brain injury. The recent use of psychedelic therapy for the treatment of anxiety, depression and PTSD is now extending to helping treat those suffering from mTBI.


Research shows that mTBI causes abnormal electrical activity in the brain producing long term changes in the signaling between cells in the nervous system. Mild traumatic brain injury affects the brain in various ways, it causes bleeding and tearing of nerve fibers and causes inflammation, metabolic changes and brain swelling. Recovery from mTBI means that the brain has had the opportunity to heal fully since the brain has a remarkable ability to adapt.


Psychedelics can help heal the brain. Researchers have discovered that psychedelics like LSD, MDMA and ibogaine have a positive effect on brain plasticity and neuronal connections. Studies on the use of ibogaine, a psychedelic alkaloid, for substance addiction show that it helps to repair the damaged brain. It promotes the growth of new dendrites, which are responsible for sending and receiving information to and from other brain cells. Ibogaine increases the levels of glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) which promotes brain plasticity.


The importance of the therapeutic use of ibogaine and other psychedelics is in how they improve the brain’s ability to repair itself after being damaged. These changes can help reverse the effects of different injuries and illnesses on the brain and nervous system. The results from psychedelic therapy research show that there are multiple ways to improve a person’s brain health and resilience. Alternative therapies like those that include the use of psychedelics are helping to heal the symptoms from mTBI and PTSD, improving the lives of those suffering from these afflictions.


Ibogaine resets the brain to a healthy state, where the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin are restored to balance. Dopamine and serotonin are the chemicals in the brain that make us feel good, motivated and active. The healing effects of ibogaine also include the psychedelic experience where there’s an experience of unity with spirit, and a witnessing of old trauma and habits, allowing for conflicts to be resolved and feelings to be experienced. Ibogaine also provides an awareness and clarity into how to change your life.


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