Ibogaine – and to a lesser extent, ayahuasca – is often likened to a ‘mental defrag’, with anecdotal reports suggesting it resets and reprograms the brain, leaving long-time drug users with no cravings, no depression, and no trauma. And while there is a grain of truth to these stories, they don’t give an accurate account of the whole picture.
The truth, in a nutshell, is that ibogaine makes it possible for people to start reprogramming their own brain, provided they are willing to take responsibility for doing so. It does this by simply loosening some of the cognitive patterns that determine how the mind thinks, for a limited period of time. By taking advantage of this window of opportunity, it is possible to start reshaping these patterns, so that by the time the effects of ibogaine wear off, the whole landscape of the mind has been transformed.
It is important to recognise that the mind works in patterns. These are based on networks of neurons that habitually connect with one another, like highways criss-crossing the brain. The more a particular highway is activated, the more ingrained it becomes, which is why certain modes of thinking and cognizing end up becoming our habits. To truly reprogram the mind, therefore, it is necessary to re-route some of these highways.
Ibogaine, ayahuasca and certain other psychedelics interrupt these patterns of connectivity in the brain, so that the networks that control these habits become less rigid. Suddenly cognition becomes more flexible, providing greater control over one’s thoughts, moods and behaviours; cravings become less overpowering, depression is less all-consuming, and people tend to have more conscious control over what’s going on in their head.
This lasts for a period of time, and is often referred to as the after-glow effect. However, slowly but surely the old mode of thinking will creep back in, and the same old patterns will become re-established – unless the right kind of work is done during the after-glow period to permanently alter these neural highways while they are in a flexible state.
Acting more mindfully during this window is the key. This means paying attention to the thoughts that drive our decision-making. It is necessary to start examining the way the mind works, and questioning whether you really want to continue thinking and acting that way. Learn to recognise when you are failing to act with self-love, when your pain and fear are bullying you into doing something you’d rather not do, and when you are acting in accordance with a negative self-image that you have picked up through your condition.
Ultimately, it’s about unshackling yourself from the narratives in your head that tell you who you are, how you fit into the world around you, and how you must act. They keep you trapped in low self-esteem and force you to make unconscious choices that continue to sabotage your future happiness. In other words, it’s about relinquishing your inauthentic sense of self and connecting to your true identity.
You may need some guidance, tips and advice on how to do this, which is why it is always a good idea to speak to an experienced psychedelics counsellor who can help give you the tools to bring about your own recovery.