Iboga (Tabernanthe iboga) is one of a variety of visionary plants that are catalyzing a revolution in psychotherapy and addiction treatment. It’s a perennial rainforest shrub native to western Central Africa and is revered in the spiritual traditions of the indigenous Bwiti discipline.
Containing the active alkaloid known as ibogaine, the plant is showing promise as an alternative treatment for a range of mental and emotional ailments. It is also proving successful as an addiction interruptor, especially for those with opiate and other such drug dependencies.
Increasingly, anecdotal accounts reporting intense psycho-spiritual transformations are surfacing on the Internet from people who were previously depressed, anxious or ferociously addicted to drugs, that have emerged from iboga treatment with a fresh perception and renewed will.
Below is the courageous and transformational story of Christian Forbes. Exhibiting extreme addiction and dependence upon a colossal selection of test chemicals and stimulants that started to manifest disorders such as advanced depression, OCD behavior, sexual dysfunction, delusions, and paranoia, Forbes departed from his native country on a voyage of hope and desperation.
Reset: What was the state of your physical and mental health before receiving iboga treatment?
Forbes: Before my iboga (ibogaine HCL) treatment I had anger that was displaced and sometimes projected heavily on myself. Some inward fears were being shown outwardly. I feared being betrayed, abandoned and disliked so much that I often found myself in my safe place, in other levels of consciousness where no one could hurt me. Mentally disassociated, my room was my cell, and when paranoia would blow through the hinges of the door, I rolled myself into the research chemical laboratory (a.k.a. my bathroom) to experiment with stimulant psychosis and synthetic out of body traveling. I had schizophrenia. I didn’t like schizophrenia. My wonderful brother has schizophrenia and my amazing daughter has symptoms of schizophrenia. Whatever the hell schizophrenia even is.
The tricky thing about it is trying to remember when it began. For me, it seemed to just have always been. I remember seeing things that no one else could see as far back as I can remember. But during the summer of 2010, while in Costa Rica, things got really hard for me and fast.
My younger brother by two years had fallen ill with this illness about four years before me. So I checked myself into a hospital before it could attack me in ways I had not known yet, like bizarre delusions and total alienation. I was aware of the disorder having a negative stigma in society, but I was not aware of just how horrible that stigma was and still is. After that trip to the hospital, I bounced around from doctor to doctor. Basically it was a matter of who I could afford and [whether] I could be sent home with the free trial meds until the disability checks kicked in, because with no job or capability to hold a job down I couldn’t afford the help I needed. It took nearly two years before I received the first disability check. A very hard couple of years.
I had tried over ten different antipsychotics and hated the ‘possible side effects’ which seemed to be an endless list that had its way with me over and over. Risperidone initially had the least amount of side effects. Besides developing what I called ‘phantom breasts syndrome,’ the Risperidone didn’t seem so bad. Until it completely and utterly destroyed my libido. It felt dehumanizing. And when one’s manhood is taken like that it makes plenty of room for other unpleasant thoughts and psychological disconnects to invite themselves in… Antidepressants were not my cup of tea either. Not my cup of anything. While on them, if I were to miss a day, I would never have wanted to die so much in my life. Surely, a placebo would’ve been more effective.
I began remembering my life just a few years before. Cocaine and hard liquor, fast money and faster girls. Then, I could afford being an idiot and didn’t mind doing the time as long as it didn’t interfere with my work or social life. But now, I was fairly certain my newly acquired schizo-‘selective’ manic sense of being and occasional hallucinatory grand episode of rapturous torment probably wouldn’t fly in there. Plus, I didn’t want to visit with naked tattooed boys in the shower, share in toilet time, or spend countless hours pretending anyone makes any sense to me in there. So I put my geek side to work and discovered a world of online anonymity and research chemicals with highs and rushes quicker, longer and a hell of a lot cheaper than the ever so popular levamisole cut drugs found on the streets. Plus, these chemicals didn’t show up in drug tests. Lucky me, right?
Fast forward roughly four years. Complex trauma (PTSD x 3), drug-induced Parkinsonism, dry eye disease (yes, that disease 80-year olds get), high blood pressure, hypoglycemia from eating disorders, insomnia and hypersomnia together, fibromyalgia, chronic pain — the physical and mental damage of a 40-year daily cocaine habit (I am only 35).
My mother is the strongest person I have ever met. I had come to her for advice on ending my substance abuse and accepting my mental illness. I wouldn’t lie to her, steal from her or get stupid with her. Sure, we had our moments, but they didn’t last long. Apologizing doesn’t come hard for us because we have always respected and loved each other. I had been so ashamed of myself and it sickened me knowing I was hurting the one person that loved me unconditionally. Her life meant more to me than my own, yet I still kept her up at night worrying about where’d I’d be sleeping and if her phone would ring with bad news.
She had helped me kick cocaine and booze before, but this was a different kind of monster now. I had lost the ability to help around the house, babysit, run errands, play and write music, have two-way conversations. I was becoming apathetic and we both knew it. One of the things my mom and I love most about each other is our shared undying empathy and mine was fading away. I wasn’t an unpleasant person, but I had become unpleasant to be around. My substance abuse and the mental toll it was taking on me had become an unstoppable force, quickly approaching the immovable object that is death itself. A little more than three months ago, it was believed I had maybe a year left to live.
Reset: Can you describe the specific addictions you had before treatment and how they were effecting your daily life?
Forbes: I had a dependency on synthetic cannabinoids, opiates, dissociatives, tryptamines, benzos, stimulants, psycho-stimulants, nicotine, and prescription antipsychotics. But at least I stopped drinking, right?
I had gone from a brain that shot rapid fire dopamine with strong glutamate to one that produced virtually none. The same could be said about my serotonin, GABA, epinephrine, norepinephrine, endorphins, oxytocin, and God knows what else. But I will focus on dopamine, because for me, in my addiction, it is all about dopamine.
O-2482; Naphthylpyrovalerone; B-Naphyrone is more than ten times more potent weight for weight than cocaine. Its effects could be felt at as little as 7mg, for me, making it incredibly difficult to dose without a milligram sensitive scale. On a few occasions, I was thrown into a stimulant psychosis after just three or four lines. The naphyrone world was unlike anything I had experienced in my life. Scarier than my previous sober schizophrenic episodes, yet strangely alluring. An addiction in itself.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s came on swiftly and wouldn’t end for weeks or months after putting the naphyrone down. It had taken my life once before, and even knowing the life threatening negative consequences of abusing it, I couldn’t beat the cravings. In the beginning this little white crystalline powder helped me to make friends, be in public, stay focused, and even be able to help people with little things here and there. The difference between 5-8mg and 10-20mg intranasal provides an outcome of re-admittance into society or amplification of pre-existing mental illnesses and a grand introduction to others. After a year and a half of daily naphyrone use, I asked for help.
The last time I took naphyrone was almost 2 years ago. Nothing had made me suffer like real B-Naphyrone had. I had to lower the doses to avoid brain damage, a vegetable state or death. Lowering the doses for a daily user of this drug is highly improbable. A unique-to-naphyrone post acute withdrawal would jump up on me every few weeks for almost a year. What would never go away were psychological cravings that kept me up all night, sweating, shaking, sometimes screaming. It felt as if my bones were being tied into knots. My hallucinations and delusions persisted. If I were able to fall asleep during this time, I would all too often wake up in a stimulant psychosis that could last anywhere from two to ten hours. I remember being terrified in thinking that perhaps I was now finally dead and this was where I would be for eternity. I had never experienced all of this with any single substance ever.
3,4-Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) in its original tanned color is what is known as a unicorn. A myth. A legendary one at that. We can’t be sure that the tanned powder I was using was MDPV or something else altogether. Perhaps a difference in starting materials or simply an unknown impurity created the mysterious tan MDPV. I dare not describe its effects. After the tan ran dry, the gray powder came in. When the gray had gone away, all that was left was text book white or crystal MDPV. The text book MDPV in circulation now is a different monster, but an unlikely one to get off of if abused regularly. It has been coined ‘the drug that never lets go.’ I was able to stay off of it for nearly a year in 2013, but not a day went by I wasn’t dreaming about it. I had hoped that other research chemicals like α-PVP or PV-8 would curb my appetite for MDPV, but none of them could. In fact, methamphetamine and cocaine had close to no effect on me by this point.
4-Methylmethcathinone (4-MMC) is a substituted cathinone, which produced similar effects to MDMA, amphetamines and cocaine. I would throw it in the mix. Its effects weren’t supposed to hit for 15-20 minutes (if I remember correctly), but when combined with MDPV it would somehow hit before the MDPV would. It also flooded the brain with dopamine in greater amounts and longer duration than what could be imagined. The first time I consumed the 4-MMC/MDPV combination I knew right away that it was over for me. I would not return to my default mode.
Producing virtually no natural dopamine and diminishing levels of other neurotransmitters I went from hallucinations, delusions, paranoia and mania to loss of concentration, low energy (could not move at all for hours), the most advanced stages of depression, insidious cravings, Parkinson’s symptoms, autistic symptoms, sexual dysfunction, obsessive-compulsive behavior, impulse control problems, panic, lack of REM sleep (I only slept 1-2 nights a week for 3 years), alienation, amnesia, decreased muscle tone, inability to manage pain, a hyperactive amygdala, and uncanny physical and mental withdrawals. The list could go on and on.
For anyone who has seen the exorcist, in the scene where the little girl is flipping around the bed uncontrollably bellowing with inhuman range… well, minus the 360 head spin and green puke, that was me in kick mode. Relentlessly spazzing-out for weeks to months. It never let up. It only got worse. I was in uncharted territory and I knew it. It felt as if a lightning storm in my head was rattling a body full of razors. Even my eye lashes felt like razor wire. 100 years ago I would have been labeled possessed and/or thrown in a psych ward with a straight jacket. I would have swallowed my tongue to end the pain.
It was in the last six months of my ‘drug career’ that I read about NMDAs, like PCP and ketamine, and how they tricked the brain into allowing more false dopamine to pass through the blood brain barrier. Whether I had read correctly or not, I still procured methoxetamine, which I was already familiar with, and some new to the scene NMDA dissociatives like 2-MeO-Diphenidine and diphenidine. Sure enough, combined with MDPV, α-PVP (flakka), PV-8, MDPPP or α-PHP I was able to move again and the pain was absent. More so than with the butyrfentanyl and acetylfentanyl (analogs of China white) I had lying around. By the end of my career in being a test pilot for research chemicals, prescription drugs, and illicit street drugs, I had consumed over 200 psychoactive compounds. My obsession with my brain, time and the absence of time, levels of consciousness, and in search of the questions we haven’t begun to ask yet took me into what felt like alternate yet connected realities I wasn’t qualified to be visiting. They often times devastated me physically, mentally and spiritually.
I had been rendered a one eyed, walking dead, Pee-wee Herman bobble head.
Reset: How did you come across the idea of using iboga to treat your disorders and addictions?
Forbes: I can’t remember exactly when it was, but three to four years ago I swore I would find a way for my daughter, my brother and myself to be rid of schizophrenia. I read as many publications as I could on the treatment of schizophrenia from around the world. I don’t listen much to statistics, but there was one that jumped out at me. The amount of mentally disabled persons being cured in some African countries. The concept of mental disorder is determined by a lot of factors. I began to read about their perceptions on mental illness and the roles the mentally challenged are given in society to bring them back. It made perfect sense to me that so many would come back, seeing how they weren’t put away in homes and weren’t treated like babies, subhumans or criminals. I also read a lot on medicinal plants from Africa. While reading the information about many psychotropic plants listed on Erowid I came across Tabernanthe iboga. I read about how ibogaine resets the dopamine pathways in the brain. So I thought what anyone else in my shoes would think. Bullshit.
For the next six months I danced around a typical assumption. If this medicine really existed, we would be using it on everyone. But something kept bringing me back to it. I had made a friend whom I would stay up all night with, him doing his drugs and me doing mine, reading and watching anything we could find on iboga and the entheogenic use of magic plants.
I had talked to my mom about iboga and told her I was going to get the Ibogaine HCL and I needed her expertise as a registered nurse just in case something began to go wrong. She then offered me something much greater, safer and legal. She had ran into a little money and offered to send me out of the country to a clinic with qualified professionals whom had years of experience. And there it was. I was going to be a test pilot one last time.
Reset: What were your thoughts going into the treatment? Were you hesitant and fearful? Was it a last resort or simply one of many options?
Forbes: On several occasions I had either consumed recreational doses of the iboga root bark, San Pedro cacti, Vinho da Jeruma, pure mescaline, N,N-DMT, changa, heavy MAOIs in combination with the Amanita muscaria or Psilocybe cubensis, 5-MeO-x, 4-AcO-x, 4-HO-x, or many other substituted tryptamines and substituted phenethylamines. After watching some Bwiti style ceremonies and reading what people whom have gone through the flood dose had to say, I most certainly did have fear.
My previous psychedelic trips weren’t always about walking on sunshine. To learn that the ibogaine trip could last up to 72 hours, my thoughts were hard to keep in line. I kept telling myself it couldn’t be any worse than the times I had overdosed on 5-MeO-MiPT, EAM-2201, etizolam, Scopolamine, DOC, China white or the stimulants I had nearly finished myself off with. If I were to visit hell, as if I weren’t already there, to come out of it with my thoughts back in order and a chance to get off drugs, then I would do it a million times over. I was fearful for sure.
There was no hesitation, at this point, in doing an ibogaine treatment. There was obstacles. I am not allowed in Canada. Most clinics were unsure if they could help my case. There were quite a lot of shady opportunists running their own clinics. Ibogaine treatment is not cheap. If we were to pick the wrong place and get ripped off, it would have grave consequences.
A friend of my parents lived a few blocks away and they often spent time together in a fitness club up the street. Their friend works in Mexico three months out of the year at a clinic and medispa. One of those nights while hanging out in the jacuzzi, my mom and her friend were talking about holistic medicine. My mom asked if she had ever heard of something called ibogaine. Her friend turned to my mom and replied, “That is what we do in Mexico.”
A major weight was instantly lifted from my mom’s shoulders, and when she had told me my shoulders felt the same. The clinic does not only offer Ibogaine HCL, but also a plethora of amazing treatments I had not heard of in programs: Chelation, rectal and intravenous ozone, PAPIMI, coffee enemas, colonics, acupuncture, vitamin drips, stem cells and more. The daily therapies and life coaching, I wrongfully assumed would be nothing more than review, were also new to me.
There were a few other options. Electro shock therapy or continue the self-destructive curriculum I had put together for myself. Those options didn’t sit well with me.
Reset: What did you experience during your journey under the influence of the medicine?
Forbes: When I first arrived in Mexico I was well into withdrawals. Mind you, when I did sleep, I still would wake up two to three times in a night to take my stimulants, opiates, synthetic noids or benzos, depending on how severe the discomfort was. How deep was I in it? Imagine waking up in the middle of the night sweating bullets, shaking and barely able to breathe, and the only thing that could calm you down was snorting super coke. It made no sense to anyone, but it was my reality. I came off the plane like that. I was picked up at the airport by the owner of the clinic. I was given food, drink, and something to calm my nerves. We drove to the clinic where I was then given a small dose of Ibogaine HCL in a capsule.
I got in the pool and pretty quickly I felt something. I put my head under water, looked down and witnessed the birthing of a bright and swirly angelic being with beautiful multi-layered wings float up and into my body. I pulled my head out of the water laughing and said, “Woah, I just saw something. I think it’s time for me to lay down.” The clinicians joined in on the laughing and I was walked up some stairs to my room.
In the room I lay on a dark blue bed facing a window covered by a dark blue curtain. Through the curtain I could see four little kids standing on a bridge waving at me. They were laughing and telling me to “wave back, wave back.” So I slowly got out of the bed and walked toward the window and waved. They began to laugh uncontrollably. I then moved the curtain to find nothing but jungle. No kids. No bridge. Just coconut trees and bamboo. So I crawled back into bed and drifted off to sleep.
When I awoke the next day I didn’t find myself in panic or looking to fix. Sure, there was some residual withdrawal, but it was nothing compared to what I had been going through. I didn’t have an urgency to make sure I’d not be without my drugs in the weeks to come. In fact, I noticed something amazing: I could keep my thoughts in order for long periods of time.
For the next five days they gave me little bumps of ibogaine. They got me to a much healthier stage with other treatments that are provided at the clinic, before the big flood dose of ibogaine. I didn’t complain if something hurt. I didn’t complain if something was uncomfortable. I knew I was in the hands of those whom would bring me back and I was now processing a concept I had unlearned many years ago called ‘faith’ — faith in both mankind to do the right thing and God to oversee it.
Ozone/oxygen therapy and Chelation helped to get the benzos out of my system. The vitamin drips were amazing for relaxation and even more amazing for bringing back regulation of vitamins to my brain. Acupuncture blew me away in how fast it could alleviate pain and discomfort. Coffee enemas and juicing had me feeling as light as a feather instantly. There was a lot of work done on me that I can barely remember in the beginning, but as the program continued so did strengthening my mind, body, soul and spirit.
The night of the flood dose is something I don’t personally feel right talking too much about. Not for any other reason, but this medicine is very suggestive. I would not want to take away from someone’s personal trip. What I do feel is okay to talk about, and an important thing to know for anyone who is ready to take the leap, is if you don’t like what you are seeing, you can change the channel by opening and closing your eyes. There will come a moment where you may feel paralyzed. This should not be seen as scary. It wasn’t for me. I stayed up for as long as I could, fascinated with the answers I was getting and, of course, the new questions that came to follow and be answered. A few times I accidentally opened my eyes and lost a fun channel, but every channel was tremendously important. Even the ones that were laughable, I see now, were teachings.
When I fell asleep the medicine continued to do its work. There was nothing scary about my trip. I had gotten myself all worked up for no reason. It was all beautiful. Anything that would’ve been unbearable to face before had become doable. A new perspective on life and its terms had been gained and still persists.
The next afternoon I woke up and surprisingly jumped out of bed. In fact, I was able to walk down the stairs to the pool and do a backwards dive. I hadn’t done one of those for more than 15 years. I felt like a kid again. The visuals continued. It felt like I was peeking into another world for close to two weeks. I could communicate with the entities that before would scare the hell out of me, but now were asking for simple little things. Example, I walked through a colorful graveyard and was given the message that the deceased did not like the spray used to kill the bugs. Other entities simply didn’t like being talked about negatively or being disrespected by creating a mess in the entities living area. Has it always been mindfulness that these beings were after my whole life? Is any of it real? That doesn’t matter so much to me anymore. Everyone has their own idea of what’s real and what’s not anyway.
Reset: Was the iboga healing more psychological or physiological for you? Which of these factors do you think made the experience the most powerful?
Forbes: This is difficult for me to answer. As schizophrenia and substance abuse had fused into one, sometimes differentiating other things like physiology and psychology can be difficult in similar fashion. I can say, to the best of my knowledge, when prejudice or tribalism appeared in my thoughts, I was lacking oxytocin. When I had became obsessive-compulsive I was lacking serotonin. When my endorphin’s were too much, I would be numb; but when they were too little, I couldn’t manage the pain.
The best way I know how to answer this, three months into my new life, is one can’t exist without the other, and if I were to pick one to be more powerful than the other, it would really depend on what I am doing at the moment. Being able to sit down here and answer questions in a linear way, I can thank the psychological side of the treatment [for that]. When I am finished and I can jump in the pool, I can thank the physiological side of the treatment. I love it all.
Reset: How quickly after the treatment did you start to experience positive outcomes? What was your experience during the week following treatment?
Forbes: I actually felt positive outcomes during the treatment, but after the treatment the real fun began. I called my father, whom I had not been on good terms with for many years. We talked and he told me he was proud of me and loved me. That was the first time I had heard those words come out of his mouth. When I called my mother and stepfather, I was put on speaker phone. As soon as I opened my mouth I could hear them crying. My mom had not heard me capable of articulating very much for at least five years and my stepfather had not really ever heard me speak with unshaken confidence. They could hardly believe what they were hearing.
As the week went by, I noticed my eye was doing a lot better. My pain receptors were back to normal. Everything felt so new — a dip in the ocean, a walk through the jungle, a kiss on the cheek. It was as if I had never experienced these things before. I savored every bite and sip of good healthy food and drink. Girls smiled at me passing by. My fear of dying soon was gone. I had been given the insight needed to know who to stay away from and who to make part of my new tribe.
The day I flew back to the states to see my family was the quintessential moment of truth. My mom and step father were there to pick me up. When their eyes saw me they could barely pull them off of me to stop and look both ways before crossing a street. There was nothing bigger I could do for the ones that love me than to get completely off everything. And there was nothing bigger the ones that love me could do than to be there for me. It paid off so much bigger than any of us expected. For the first time in five years I was without torture. In fact, for the first time in my life, I was without sadness. Anxiety is the last duck to put down and I am working on that everyday.
Reset: How has iboga integrated into your day to day life now? Would you describe it more as a short term healing or did you take away lasting benefits from the experience?
Forbes: While catching up on sleep and exercise that I had neglected for so many years, I have begun assimilating my new wisdom into my everyday life. Since it has been only three months, I can’t say for certain whether it will be a short term healing or not. But having it as an option now, I know I will never fall into that world of schizophrenia for long, and as long as I continue to live by a high set of standards there will be no reason to fall back into substance abuse.
One day at a time. Being in the moment. Mindfulness. There is no doubt that I fast-tracked to this point this quickly because of ibogaine and the other alternative treatments I received. And I believe to have gotten these results it had a lot to do with my attitude coming into treatment and the willingness to do whatever it took during it. I hadn’t been able to walk straight for years and in three months I am playing soccer again. I have found it is important for myself to continue education in many different areas to strengthen myself in aftercare. I also need to feed my brain all day to avoid mentally slipping away.
It is up to me to make any of the benefits last. I have been given the tools to do so now and I know I will. I believe this can last as long as I can continue to meditate on it. I can find that place in my mind where it all took place in a matter of seconds and I can stay there for as long as I wish. Or, at least, until the roosters next door have something to say about it.
Reset: How has iboga changed the way you view yourself and reality as a whole?
Forbes: Iboga has helped a lot in giving me a whole new set of standards to live by. The bar has been raised. I find myself closing my eyes and traveling back to the teachings of iboga everyday. If I am having a hard time with someone, or if I start to kick myself for anything out of my control, I can take a few minutes to reflect on what I have been shown about life and the universe, what I felt in those egoless series of moments, how every single decision made by every single person on this planet is important for the growth of our species, that we never really die, and I come out of that short meditation as my authentic self again. I can view myself for who I really am. Being human is hard. I will always have a lot to work on and thank God for that.
I would like to someday say more, but I feel like there is a lot for me to consider before letting it out. My own experience could be worlds apart from the next person’s, so I don’t want to suggest my own lessons learned onto somebody else’s iboga school time.
Reset: What advice would you dispense to those suffering from addiction, schizophrenia, and other life-crippling disorders and diseases who are considering undergoing iboga treatment?
Forbes: The thought of life after drugs scared me. It was fear of the forgotten and unknown that would creep in on me. Also, if this sacred medicine were to take away my schizophrenia, what would that be like? How would I adapt? Who would hire someone whom hasn’t worked for so long? Someone whom now had a criminal record. Would I tell people I had once been a blithering idiot? Would I become boring like those people I just told I was once a blithering idiot? What about my spirit visitors that I had become close with over the years? Would they stop coming to see me? What about the dark visitors that had tortured me since I was in grade school? Would they finally be gone?
This may sound ridiculous and crazy to people, but these thoughts were constantly attacking me, often times preemptively. I didn’t ask for any of those exhausting endless questions to be screamed by twenty voices from every direction all day and night. I needed care and guidance, but before that, I needed to admit I couldn’t go at it alone.
Build your team. Build it smart and clean. Family, friends, case manager, doctor, choose a program or two. They will grow on you the more you participate. Don’t be shy about finding a sponsor. Give yourself accountability. Stop self-victimization. Relapse often times comes to those who have committed to their recovery when they are alone. Keep in mind, alone means in bad company.
Also, for the drug addicted, it is important to know whether you are seriously ready to stop or not. It is dangerous to undergo an ibogaine treatment just to head back to old stomping grounds and try keeping up with the big boys.
Talk to different clinics to get a feel for what you are looking for and to weed out the opportunists and scammers. When you have done the homework and have chosen your clinic of interest, then commit to it. Commit fully to their program. But also commit to yourself for the long haul. Jump on the ibogaine train because this is a chance to be reset.