Citation: npal. "The Road To Mexico: An Experience with Ibogaine for Heroin Addiction (exp104163)". Erowid.org. Jan 2, 2016. erowid.org/exp/104163
Addiction is something I have known for over twelve years and drugs had been in control well before I understood the severity of my use. High school was a mix of indulgence and a series of tests that constantly pushed my mental and physical self to the brink. At the time I was convinced that this excessive use of painkillers, heroin, cocaine, alcohol, Adderall, several over the counter medicines, and psychedelics were all being consumed in the name of experimentation. In actuality; however, I was numbing pain from early traumatic experiences in my life.
It wasn’t until college, when I was stealing full prescriptions of Dilaudid and selling drugs to support my 400+mgs/day of Oxycontin use that I realized something needed to change. Even still it took an ultimatum from my father, rehab or the streets, to get some help. I choose an outpatient program where I was put on Suboxone. At the time I knew one could abuse Suboxone—and I did. Further, I continued my Oxycontin use everyday. Despite this continual abuse, the program was enough to at least open my eyes to see that I indeed was a drug addict.
That was almost six years ago. Since that program, I struggled for months to get off Oxycontin. This included consistent lapses and what seemed to be never ending cycles of withdrawal. I failed an entire semester of college trying to get clean and eventually substituted the government-mandated dope for alcohol. Though I knew psychedelics well, and understood their significance in the mental health field, I strayed away from them in fear of bad trips. LSD and psilocybin would only force me to see myself for who I was. Instead, I wanted to remain hidden from myself. So of course, it wasn’t long before opiates and cocaine became part of my life again.
So I was back in the same places, getting high with the same people, selling the same drugs, feeling comfortable. It seemed I had an unlimited amount of money, thus an equally unlimited amount of dope. All was right with the world…ya know, except for my grades, my relationships, and my passion for music—that I wasn’t seriously pursuing (despite being in four musical groups).
After about three quarters of a year, I wanted to be done again…not getting high, just using dope. So I decided to get a doctor who would give me an Adderall prescription. Well, he did me one better, he gave me two Adderall prescriptions; an extended release and an instant release. What’s even more, my 21st birthday had arrived, and thus I could legally go out and substitute the dope away while pulling all nighters to pass my classes! What a wonderfully, mind-numbing system we have here in the states! Where dope and meth can simultaneously come from our doctors and it’s all okay because we can still enjoy the bars any night of the week that we please!
It was around this time in my life that I had tried Mescaline. In doing so, I was shown a glimpse of the trauma and personal issues I had been burying. Similarly, this trip was around my fortunate discovery of Ibogaine and its heroin curing potential. From the first article I read, I knew it to be the only way out; however, I remained pinned down by my addictions and I hadn’t wanted to stop yet. I still loved getting high—whether from dope, alcohol, coke or amphetamines. Also, there was still the comfort that when people couldn’t be there for me, drugs could. The fear of coping alone consistently kept me using.
Unfortunately, this was a time when people I knew started dying from painkillers, heroin, or suicide (seemingly from lack of hope that dope brought to their worlds). Each death was an eye opener, and lead me to the conclusion that to quit dope I needed to hate it, not only was that an essential mindset, but one that became easier with each death. Thus I went through an entire year without painkillers, though I continued substituting to feel normal.
I thought I was doing well, I brought my alcohol and cocaine consumption down significantly, though I was still taking Adderall everyday, I was painkiller free. I felt that a new life was right around the corner, I was even doing exceptionally well in school for once. That all changed the morning I woke up to a phone call explaining the death of my best friend from high school. He died around one a.m. while making the hour drive back to his college from a mutual friend’s apartment in my hometown. I found out that they were doing opiates for hours before he left. Though it was never brought to light, I feel safe in assuming that he had nodded out at the wheel, and that that was the reason he crashed into the back of a tractor trailer.
I personally felt responsible; it was me who—six years before—had given him his first ever painkiller. Even though I knew I hadn’t forced him to take it, nor did I make any decisions for him throughout our friendship, I still felt guilt maliciously piercing my consciousness. That’s when I gave up on recovery completely and started using by any means available, despite the contradiction of his death. Within two months I quit my job, dropped out of school, disconnected from my friends and musical endeavors, and started selling more, heavier, drugs as my full time job.
In the past, I sold small amounts of mushrooms and LSD to support my opiate addiction. Now I was operating at a new level; selling coke to do coke and making thousands of dollars from designer chemicals to put heroin up my nose. I did this for a year and a half. I had even saved an amazing amount of money in the process. Eventually the guy I had been supplying was set up by the DEA. This scared the shit out of me, so I paid for his lawyer (as a means of not being snitched on) and stopped selling drugs. I moved back home, and picked up some part time jobs teaching music and working for my family. I continued snorting heroin and stealing Fentanyl from my dad when I couldn’t get dope, further I probably wouldn’t have been functional without Adderall, so that was still an everyday thing.
Despite my small income I had an enormous savings from my time dealing larger quantities of drugs. However, within half a year the 45 grand I had was gone, mostly all of it up my nose. I was back to living pay check to pay check with no concrete educational background and a consistent heroin addiction. Instead of seeing this as a negative thing, I became convinced that I could live the rest of my life on heroin and be content.
In November 2013, I had a discussion with a close friend, in which I described the likelihood that I’d do heroin for the rest of my life and why I felt that was okay. He asked if I had given up on getting clean or trying out a program. I explained the opioid cycle of a rehab program; how getting clean meant going from street dope to government dope and probably back to street dope and how for most people that seems to last a life time. That or give into the twelve step program, which meant putting my life in the hands of a “higher power.” This has never suited me, as I believe more in the power of the self.
During our conversation, I told my buddy how the only other option seems to be Ibogaine, but that I would have to travel outside of the states to get the appropriate treatment (due to its status as a schedule I drug in America). Though he suggested I should, if that was what it would take. I was hesitant and refuted this idea; I knew I would have to commit to an entire life style change if I were to take this route. I would not only go for treatment, but also never come back. I used excuses like not wanting to leave my loved ones behind, or that I couldn’t leave the kids I taught music to. In actuality, the heroin was in charge of my decisions and I simply wanted to keep getting high.
By the time February 2014 rolled around, I was shooting heroin every day. After two months of this, I realized that I only hung out with three people—my drug dealer, another junkie, and my then girlfriend. I cared less and less about wanting to be a live. Every time I shot up and nodded out I felt more and more like I was reaching the brink of death.
Two instances saved my life. First, was when I got cotton fever: shooting up with a piece of the cotton still in the needle. This made me incredibly sick for hours. I did this to myself one morning after I had taken my Adderall on an empty stomach. Directly after that, I loaded up and injected the heroin into my arm. When I woke up, I was completely drenched in sweat and my heart was racing. My alarm was going off and I assumed that’s why I woke up, when I looked down I saw the needle lying bent on the ground. I thought I had overdosed and that my alarm had brought me back; however, when I went to turn it off I noticed it had been going for almost thirty minutes. That’s when I realized it must have been the Adderall kicking in that woke me up.
At the time, I had never felt anything so physically uncomfortable. I was nauseous but couldn’t vomit; however, I couldn’t eat either. I drank some water and immediately purged. All that came out was water, and a half metabolized Adderall pill. I was disgusted with myself. I still felt violently ill, but my heart rate had slightly slowed. When I picked up the needle to throw it away, I saw a thin piece of cotton coming out of the tip and cursed myself for being so oblivious. I lay in bed for several hours until I didn’t feel sick anymore, then I shot up again.
The second moment came only three days later. I was in my bedroom and had just shot up with the guitarist in the band I was a part of. He always went a little harder than I did, and thus was always nodding out every couple of seconds. I was in the middle of talking to him about something when I look over and see him sliding out of my chair. I called his name and told him to wake the fuck up. His lips had gone blue and his pale skin was almost translucent now. I told him he better not be ODing on me. No response. I panicked and started to shake him, attempting to wake him. Still nothing. His breathing became a series of loud, groggy moans and I panicked more. Didn’t know what to do necessarily, I certainly didn’t want to drive to the hospital or call an ambulance. So I picked him up by the arms and dragged him into my bathroom, all the while telling him that he better not die on me.
Once in the bathroom I began pounding on his chest, slapping him in the face and splashing him with water. His haunting, groggy breathing continued. His body was trembling and his blue lips, violently quivering. The pattern of slaps, splashes and chest pounding continued for five or ten minutes—I wasn’t so sure about time, I thought my friend was dying in my arms. Finally he came to and asked in a weak, distorted voice “what just happened, and why am I soaked?”
That did it for me. I’d known I was been dying, but it wasn’t until I was so gruesomely face to face with mortality that I wanted to stop dying and start living.
I was still unsure about how to get clean though, I did not want to admit the depth of my addiction to my family, I thought I could do it by myself. A couple of weeks had gone by where I struggled to get clean, constantly failing. I was deeply ashamed of who I was, that shame kept me trapped.
It wasn’t until my girlfriend told me she had to leave me for her own good that I knew for certain I needed to reach out for help and that I couldn’t do it alone. In that conversation she told me how tired and hurt she had become from watching me kill myself. She was tired of the cycle—of me, sick and hungover, swearing I was done, then inevitably, buying another gram the next day. She was tired of the toll it took on her. In that conversation she convinced me that I shouldn’t care about the shame, and that if my family truly loves me, they’ll help me as much as they can. Without her continual support I don’t know if I would have ever worked up the courage to tell my parents.
When I told my parents, I let them know I couldn’t go back to rehab. Rather, I needed to go to an Ibogaine clinic. My dad hadn’t known about Ibogaine, but having gotten through his own heroin addiction in the past with the use of LSD, was open to the idea. My mother had no idea what it was, and couldn’t understand why a regular program wouldn’t work—even after a detailed explanation of my reasoning. My older brother knew of Ibogaine and having known some people who had success with it, sided with me on the matter and the three of us were able to convince my mother to help get me to a clinic. We then made a plan to search for Ibogaine clinics. In the meantime I would see my doctor for recommendations.
When I made it to my doctors office, I hadn’t used heroin in four days, I was barely getting by on Methadone, Suboxone, and Adderall. My anxiety was high and I was afraid. I told him what was happening and he said I should stop taking Adderall and get into an in-patient program. He then prescribed me some benzos to get me through withdrawal. I knew this wasn’t a fix, but filled the script anyway. While waiting for my prescription to be filled, I felt the Adderall wearing off, then withdrawal hit me full force like a tsunami. This was something I had never fully experienced before. Suddenly I was violently trembling and my entire body was in immense pain, especially my lower back and legs. My anxiety level was through the roof, my nose was running, my eyes were watering, my head constantly pounding. My skin felt elastic and foreign, and I couldn’t bear being inside my own body. I can’t imagine what was going through the minds of the people at the pharmacy as I sat in my own sweat and waited.
Finally I got my prescription and my girlfriend drove me home and I cried the whole way from the pain. It was another two hours of hell before the medicine kicked in and I was able to sleep.
I was on this medicine for three days before my brother discovered an Ibogaine clinic. By the time he told me about it, he had already talked to the director on the phone. I checked out the website and applied. During and after this process I had been in contact with the director for about a week. I knew right away that he understood a lot of what I had been going through and I could hear in his voice that he was passionate about his role in helping people get clean and start new lives. I felt sure and ready to make the plunge into the Ibogaine experience.
During the application process it noted that any use of Benzodiazapams should be ceased and that the correct method for Ibogaine treatment would be to get on a lower class of opiates, the director also confirmed this. Knowing that, my dad put me on a monitored schedule of two 15mg tylanol-3s a day.
After I had my last benzo I went through withdrawal all over again until the painkiller kicked in—it took 75mgs initially to get to sleep and stop vomiting and convulsing. Even though I knew I never wanted to feel that pain again, and that I would be moderately okay on the tylonal-3s, I still snuck Fentynal patches into my mouth everyday to get high until I left for the clinic.
I knew I wanted to go to the clinic, I felt comfortable with the director, and honestly I enjoyed the idea of leaving the dead of winter to be on the beach in Mexico in order to get clean—that seemed quite ideal. Despite my approval, my dad felt it necessary to visit the clinic himself for a few days to make sure it was legitimate. (And while I don’t doubt that to be his primary reasoning, I think his double motive included a little vacation to Mexico himself.)
Once I received his approval, my family figured out how to put our money together to get me the $7,500 for the clinic. Then I packed a suitcase, purchased my plane ticket and I flew out to San Diego, California where I would meet my father and Randy for the first time. By the time the plane had landed, my Fentanyl had worn off and I had been started to withdrawal for about an hour or so. I was a little taken off guard when I meet the representative at first, I was expecting the director, and instead I got a tall dude with a fitted hat and baggy clothes. I was too sick to care though, plus he handed me a 30mg Roxycontin at baggage claim, so I definitely didn’t care who he was, he had just saved my night.
I had never been to San Diego, and my excitement was kicking in. The night was warm and there were palm trees lining every sidewalk and every street. The three of us got dinner before we headed south to make the quick trip over the US/Mexican boarder. As the Roxycontin kicked in, and we got closer to the boarder, I sensed the swelling of a new adventure manifesting. I knew in some way I was about to be reborn, and though I was nervous, I was thankful for the opportunity I was being given.
When I arrived at the clinic, I wasn’t surprised to find out it was not what one would call a traditional medical building with a traditional medical staff. Nor was I surprised, or put off by the fact that most of the staff spoke Spanish when they weren’t speaking to me. This was Mexico after all, so speaking the native language was only natural. Because Ibogaine isn’t regulated in the states, this place seemed destined to be far removed from my familiar surroundings. How could anything about it fit the mindset of what an American accepts as stereotypically modern medicine? To think this clinic would be a dull building with a bunch of English speaking natives would simply be naïve.
No, instead I arrived to a vibrant beach house, shimmering bright, with warm hues of orange and reds that glistened: a calming welcome in the middle of the night.
At the onset of my stay, my father and I departed for the evening and I met the director for the first time. Him, the representative and I went out on the upper deck and talked a little as the ocean, at high tide, thundered and fought the cliffs that dropped off at the property’s edge. The director wasn’t quite what I expected, but I still felt positive about what I was doing and sure of his commitment to my well-being and recovery. Besides, if everything were to always be what I expected, life would be much more boring.
After briefly getting acquainted with my new environment, I met one of the clinic’s nurses. He helped me fill out some paper work and searched my stuff for any drugs I may have smuggled in. Evidently I had forgotten to take my hash pipe out of the chess board I had brought; thankfully the TSA at the airports hadn’t noticed. Either way, I told him I didn’t need it and he could throw it away. He then proceeded with his job and took a blood sample that would be analyzed for the treatment on the following morning.
Since I had read through the clinic’s website, I was prepared when the nurse took my wallet, computer, and cell phone. I also understood the purpose, I had no need for them there, whom would I need to contact while experiencing a 24+hour trip? What could I purchase in that time, hooked up to a heart monitor?
On a more serious note, I understood that it was beneficial to not have anything so physically personal with me while I was undergoing such a mental and physical treatment. As I wrote earlier, I had already done my own research on Ibogaine. I knew I would be undergoing an intensely visual, psychological, and physical experience for the next several days. I understood the precautions stated on Ibogaine University’s website about not being in contact with family members or making personal decisions during the few days of treatment. It made sense, for the mind would be in a sensitive, emotional state, and not in a position to make major decisions. Instead, those days after the visuals would be for reflections.
Walking Through the Ibogaine Door:
The following morning came early, and after a rough sleep. The Roxycontin that they had given me the night before had certainly worn off and I was beginning to get a little irritable and anxious. The nurses drove me to get my EKG reading. There wasn’t much said between me and them. Driving around town was interesting. I wasn’t afraid of the differences between the USA and this Mexican town. At first glance I thought it was a rough looking area, though on my next outing I would begin to appreciate the beauty that Mexico offers.
The EKG reading was short and there were some language barriers that needed to be crossed, but that was all over quickly; then, we were on our way back to the clinic.
When I arrived back at the house, I met my new therapist. Though I was anxious to start treatment as soon as possible, we all (including myself) felt it better if I sat down for a little to talk with her. There was certainly a lot on my mind, and I’m always particularly emotional on the cusp of withdrawal. It was a pretty standard first meet and great with a psychologist.
Then, at last, I went in for the treatment. The same nurses who drove me around early hooked me up to the heart monitor machine and I.V. drip that would only be used for an emergency. It is important to note here one lesson psychedelics imparted to me, for better or worse, over the years: accept and let go. So when the nurse told me not to fight the Ibogaine, that it was too strong, and I would lose that battle, I understood completely. When the test dose was given to me I was starting to withdrawal; however, I felt very little discomfort after about thirty minutes. Then, after maybe 45 more minutes, the nurse gave me the flood (or full) dose. My withdrawal had immediately ceased an hour and half into the experience, and I began to feel as though I was made of liquid. With this liquid feeling came some random pain throughout my back. I began to feel gnarled and twisted, as if I was the root of the Iboga shrub itself. This feeling subtly continued throughout the trip but was significantly better than any withdrawal experience.
Perhaps an hour later, I noticed a buzzing around my head, like two bees circling constantly in opposite directions. I noticed it came and went through out the experience but I enjoyed it, unlike some who experience the buzzing. This was when time started to become fuzzy. The whole concept had started dissipating from my perception, so it was perhaps three hours in that the visuals began. The very first thing I saw was a circle being formed, that circle then became occupied with squiggly lines and smaller circles. For a moment I wondered what I was seeing, it wasn't a few seconds later that I concluded it was an egg. Following this conclusion, a small tube probed the egg, and transferred liquid into the egg. I immediately knew I was watching a conception of some sort. Then the vision vanished. Immediately after, I perceived a larger tube, intruding into the side of my head. This tube quickly pulled out of my vision, and my body physically responded. I didn't know how to make sense of it, but I knew that my body remembered being born, on a tactile level anyway. The theme of rebirth had always seemed to be an important factor with Ibogaine, now I understood why.
Apart from that, my other visuals were a mix of familiar, soft faces that seemed ancient some how. They never said a word; instead they whirled into existence, smiled gracefully, as if to tell me everything was okay, and blurred away into the background of my perception. I have read that many meet their ancestors on Ibogaine, and that the Bwiti tribes of Africa use this plant as a coming of age ceremony with a strong emphasis on receiving knowledge from their family lineage. Either way, these soft faces, accompanied with smooth moving patterns that seemed Russian in decent, came and went seemingly at random for what could have been several hours.
It was after, or in-between some of these visuals that I wandered what trauma it was I experienced so long ago. I knew of some that I had experienced in Middle school, but had always wondered if there was anything before then. Instantly, as quickly as I asked myself that question, a memory came to me from early childhood—one I had never really forgotten, but certainly hadn’t thought of in a long time. I chuckled at the funny memory. Then came another vision, an earlier memory I had forgotten, or buried it, or both. Though I’m choosing to skip the context of this vision, for personal reasons, it should be recognized as an extremely strong moment in the overall experience. It had an enormous impact on the way I felt about and understood my life up to this point.
After the visuals had ended, I contemplated for hours. Mainly about how I had treated my ex-girlfriend while I was on heroin. I thought about it a lot and those thoughts brought me to see the effect I’ve had on others, and myself, and how negative my mindset was because of dope.
I then laid in a mix of emotions for hours. Sometimes it seemed I had been there too long and I would wonder if I could get out of that bed or if I would ever leave that room again. I would continuously tell myself that if I could just wait for the sun to rise, I would be all right.
Eventually time, as it is want to do, passed and the sun did rise. Soon enough I was mobile and able to walk. Though I choose to lay around my room for a little while, afraid to talk to the strangers who mingled around breakfast upstairs. Eventually, I began to feel energized and restless, so I gave in to my anxieties and left my room.
I arrived to the kitchen anew, and refreshed. I felt as though I had never touched a drug in my life. For 24 hours I had been immobile and hooked up to a heart monitor while undergoing the most life changing experience I have ever faced full on. I then walked out to the balcony of my room, looked over the Mexican ocean, felt the heat of the sun, and smiling, cried tears of bliss. I truly hadn't felt so good, sober, for about 14 years. It was amazing. I then had a smoothie and hung out with a girl who worked for the clinic, she took me to a place with a drum set and we jammed.
The rest of the week and a half I spent at the clinic I felt extremely comfortable and grew closer to the staff members. All of them were kind hearted and helpful. Their overall presence was enjoyable and beneficial for my recovery. Several times I went out with the Events Coordinator, Aeden. Part of the treatment payment includes these outings, such as (but not limited to) spa-days, beach walk-abouts, driving range access, hiking, and zip lining! Apart from that, the clinic offers full cable and Internet access, an Xbox system, several books, and good people willing to play chess.
Apart from the activities, it was the supportive atmosphere and engaging conversations with the staff had the greatest influence on my recovery there. Several conversations took place that helped me come to conclusions about how my life had been, and what to do next. Charles and the rest of the clinical team were very helpful in engaging with me about the issues I had been facing throughout my life. Further, a lot of those talks helped to shine some light on what I would do next in my life.
While I stayed at the clinic I saw three other patients come and go. All three reacted differently to the experience. The only similarity is that they all were a little worried about being in Mexico—something that I embraced. The most peculiar thing I found about these patients was that they had very little knowledge about Ibogaine and it’s effects. This made no sense to me…how could anyone spend so much money and travel to a different country for a medical procedure that they knew so little about?
As a result, two out of the three had a miserable time! One girl, who was around my age, simply was not done getting high, and her mother had sent her to the clinic against her will. She was incredibly difficult for the clinic to handle and she continuously reminded everyone that she was going to go back home and get high as soon as she could. They did everything they could to make her stay as comfortable as possible, however, she was persistent in her ways. Ultimately, it had come down to her mother whether she could leave or not. The mother insisted she stay at the clinic. The patient ended up running away from the clinic. A few days later it was time for me to go home, so I don’t know all the details of the rest of her experience, I know she eventually returned to the clinic, and her mom gave the okay to bring her home.
Throughout my stay in the facility (and during the five months since), I’ve often reminded myself the advice given to me by the psychologist I met with before treatment. “Once you walk through the Ibogaine door, just keep going and never look back.”
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