Citation: D.M. Smith. "PTSD - The Quieted Rage: An Experience with Ibogaine (exp98976)". Erowid.org. Jan 21, 2013. erowid.org/exp/98976
PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a condition that has had limited progress in the creation of viable treatment options for people afflicted with this despair and rage inducing disorder. Conventional medicine has come up with no long-term answers to the problem, which not only has a range of dangers for the person who has PTSD but also for the society at large. Time magazine reported in the article WAR ON SUICIDE?, “While veterans account for about 10% of all U.S. adults, they account for 20% of U.S. suicides.” (Gibbs and Thompson) This is a startling percentage, 1 in 5 deaths caused by suicide are veterans of war. Another 1:5 ratio is important to note when discussing the burgeoning problem of PTSD, “Nearly 20 percent of military service members who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan — 300,000 in all — report symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder or major depression, yet only slightly more than half have sought treatment, according to a new RAND Corporation study.” (www.rand.org) This study was the first of its kind to look at this epidemic in all branches of the US military, and its implications are terrifying. This is a mental health crisis that neither traditional psychology/psychiatry nor the VA and military leaders have provided any real solutions as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan drag on. The situation is dire.
I went to the first War in Iraq in 1990-91 as an Army Combat Medic. It was given the catchy nicknames of first Desert Shield and then, when the US started the air assault, Desert Storm. After coming back stateside, I started to suffer from bouts of rage, severe depression, thoughts of suicide (one botched attempt with pills and a bottle of whiskey), and more and more self-medication with alcohol. When I was discharged in 1998, I was in college full time and had a supportive family and group of friends, but still my alcohol abuse and difficulty containing my bouts of rage and the aftermath of chronic depression was accelerating. I battled through and achieved some academic and personal success, earning two undergraduate degrees and one graduate degree, getting married to my longtime girlfriend, and finding my first adjunct teaching positions.
However, I was unable to contain the absolute anger I experienced at the most insignificant triggers. The crying of a baby, the smell of diesel fuel, the sound of a helicopter flying over, the dropping of a metal pan on the kitchen floor, a car following to close, or a dissatisfied boss (lost many a college teaching job due to my PTSD), and I would fly into uncontrollable screaming and yelling fits, at times turning this rage inward, falling to the ground in palsied sobbing and unintelligible babbling. By 2005, I quit drinking and felt this would solve the problem, save me from the growing fear I had of going outside, of my wife leaving me, of being out of control once again, and, most importantly, of taking my own life. It helped, but only temporarily. The rage, depression and suicidal ideation soon began again its assault on my daily life.
Flash forward to today, the end of 2012, and I feel free of this dominating anger and the violent outbursts, my triggers of the past have little effect on my behavior and mood, and for the first time since before my wartime traumas I feel positive and excited about my future. This stunning transformation came out of my experience at the end of this Summer with a substance called Ibogaine. Ibogaine is an alkaloid derived from the Tabernanthe Iboga shrub found in West equatorial Africa and has a long history of shamanic and medical use with tribes of that region. In recent years it has produced media attention due to reports of effectiveness in treating drug addiction and providing opiate addicts with significantly reduced, or at times completely alleviated, withdrawal symptoms during detox.
I had to travel abroad because of its illegality in the US (Schedule I, along with Heroin and Methamphetamines). They required an EKG and Liver Panel blood test before I was allowed to come to the treatment center, which they reviewed with the onsite doctor and medical staff to rule out counter indications for Ibogaine treatment. After my file was reviewed, I received the call that my treatment would be conducted on the 22nd of August and that I would be picked up at the airport.
After a 35 minute drive I was dropped off at the center. My intake was comfortable and laid back. They talked with me for a few hours, assuaged my fears about the experience significantly, shown my room where I would be staying for the duration of my experience, and I ate my last meal made up of a myriad of local, organically grown fruit before my treatment in the morning. When I woke up that morning I was instructed to drink water, as much as I liked, because during the experience I would be limited to only a few sips an hour to avoid nausea. I filled up a few glasses, downed them, then made my way outside for a walk before my treatment to clear my head. The air was crisp, as I walked up the hillside road my mind was all abuzz with what was about to happen.
So many thoughts permeated my brain, and as panic started to overtake me I found myself experiencing a low grade anxiety attack. It would be my last.
The treatment began with a test dose of the white powder that I was told was the purest Ibogaine HCL that money can buy. I wrote in my journal, “Just took a 3 mg/kg test dose.…Here we go!” For 31 hours after this I was laying on my back, investigating my inner workings and life like never before. I had taken other psychedelics, several times, but this was different from any of those experiences. This experience with Ibogaine introduced me at first to very familiar visual distortions, or “trails,” that I have experienced on other mind altering substances, but this is where the comparison ended. About 2 hours in, I noticed a very strange thing. I could close my eyes and see the room, not just imagine the room, but see every single detail. I kept opening my eyes, not sure if they were open already, to find every time I closed them again I would emerge out of the darkness with eyes closed into a clear picture of the room, details as fine as the buttons of the TV and DVD on the dresser, the folds of the curtain, my journal and tablet computer on the bedside table with a uncapped pen hanging precariously onto the far right corner.
It was only after I accepted this strange new ability, this closed-eye seeing, that the visions really started: swirling vortexes that would swallow me and spit me out into my past and future, movie screen images of both who I was at my soul’s center and who I wasn’t but through the sickness of experience had told myself I was. I was taught how to literally set fire to those images of the false me, the injured me, the manipulative me, the addicted me, and send the smoke and ashes into an ominous, dark black hole. Mr Iboga taught me how.
I called my ethereal guide Mr. Iboga, after many before me. I have also heard of him referred to as Dr. Iboga, as he offers awe inspiring healing to all that meet him. He was very real, palpable, and a being of obvious power and universal wisdom. He first appeared to me when my eyes were open or shut as an intricate wooden mask similar to the Thai mask I have over my front door at home but more detailed. Then he appeared to me as these eyes surrounded by white paint on pitch black skin.
The eyes were shocking at first, zooming in then out of my perception, wide open and intense. I had the feeling this was all in preparation for a direct face to face meeting with this plant spirit. I was right. Once I had acclimated to the onslaught of eyes, he appeared to me, a large presence with white striped face paint and an enormous feathered headdress. He would take me on a journey through the lattice work of my very soul, jump time and dimensions with me in a process reminiscent of Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. I was allowed to see with intense clarity scenes from my life, moments of triumph and kindness, but more importantly times when I was monstrous and unkind…times when my PTSD reared its ugly head and I felt psychotically obligated to show the rest of the world my pain. I was shown also possible futures, outcomes both apocalyptic and serene, and I knew in those moments Mr. Iboga was showing me not simply my pathways through time, my life path, but the choice for us all to live in the light or perish in the darkness.
I understood in that moment that my fear had put me off the path towards the light, that all engulfing fear that possessed me with thoughts of worthlessness and suicide had become my temporal vehicle into a dismal and deadly future that wasn’t going to stop until it tore me away from every bit of love and light I held in the core of my heart. Mr. Iboga showed me how to open the door of this vessel of doom, how to send it careening into the abyss without me, and at the end of my arduous journey, 31 hrs. in total, how to let go of my affliction.
As of the writing of this, I have had no PTSD attacks, triggers have become inert and without the power they once held over a fearful me, and I am by all accounts a brand new man. My wife is now pregnant with our second child, my outlook on the future is no longer desperate and despairing, and I am enjoying life outside of the constant threat of that all-encompassing rage that defined more than half of my life. The rage has quieted, the memories of trauma not frantic specters choking my present life with guilt, regret, and horror, and thanks to this powerful plant medicine, Mr. Iboga, and the wonderful providers and medical staff that worked with me. I am finally free of PTSD .
Gibbs, Nancy and Mark Thompson. 23 July 2012. WWW.TIME.COM.
www.rand.org. “http://www.rand.org/news/press/2008/04/17.html.” 2008. HTTP://WWW.RAND.ORG.
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