Why are so many opioid addicts turning towards ibogaine treatment? (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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Why Are So Many Opioid Addicts Turning to Ibogaine Clinics?

Drug overdoses in the U.S. have increased by 13.3 percent from August 2016 to August 2017.

Drug overdoses now kill more people than gun homicides and car crashes combined in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, overdoses in the country have increased by 13.3 percent from August 2016 to August 2017. New York Post writes that many opioid addicts are turning to ibogaine, an alkaloid derived from the African Tabernanthe iboga plant. Ibogaine is illegal in the U.S., but is unregulated in many other countries, including Mexico.

Last week, banking heir Matthew Mellon died on his way to an ibogaine clinic in Cancun. According to NY Post, he died before he checked into the center, but he had been treated there before. A month’s stay at an ibogaine clinic cost $12,500 and includes ibogaine and a rigid class schedule that is meant to teach people how to deal with a life without drugs. Everyone goes to therapy and AA sessions. Researchers are not sure how ibogaine, which is a hallucinogen, works, but it lasts for about six hours. Some theories say that it suppresses an enzyme that causes the flu-like symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal and others say regenerates cells damaged by drug use. But it is risky. NY Post writes that there are no hard numbers, but University of California-San Diego researcher Thomas Kingsley Brown estimates that about 30 people have died from taking the medication for opioid addiction since the 1960s when it was found to treat heroin addiction.

“The majority of ibogaine-related deaths are cardiac-related, generally involving preexisting cardiovascular disease or problems with electrolyte levels often caused by poor nutrition, which drug users often have,” said Kenneth Alper, a psychopharmacologist at NYU who studies ibogaine. “Meaning, many of these risk factors are to a great extent preventable.”

Read the full story at New York Post