Despite some of the claims made about psychedelics, they are not miracle cures for addiction – or any other condition, for that matter. However, if used properly, they can massively increase the chances of recovery by altering consciousness in a very particular way.
When it comes to addiction treatment, the most celebrated of all the visionary plants is ibogaine, mainly thanks to its ability to totally eliminate withdrawal symptoms. In this sense, it may well be the perfect detox tool, but this does not necessarily equate with recovery as it does not remove the underlying issues that created the addiction in the first place or protect against relapse. In other words, there’s a big difference between getting clean and staying clean.
However, like other psychedelics, ibogaine can be used to access and come to terms with the subconscious narratives that underlie addiction.
This is partly thanks to the way that psychedelics alter brain connectivity. In particular, by weakening the rigid patterns of neural communication that control our waking consciousness, these substances cause the sense of self to dissolve, leading to a phenomenon known as ego-death. This experience is characterised by a feeling of oneness with the universe, as opposed to seeing one’s self as a bounded entity.
Research has shown that people experiencing ego-dissolution in this way tend to develop traits that are commonly associated with mindfulness. Among these is an increase in something known as ‘decentering’, which refers to the ability to view one’s thoughts and feelings as if from a distance, thereby becoming more able to simply accept them and make peace with them.
Studies have revealed that drinking ayahuasca can have a profound effect on people’s ability to come to terms with negative thoughts, enabling them to accept and love themselves. This, in turn, allowed the study participants to start living a more fulfilling life and overcome trauma, grief and depression.
Similarly, those suffering from addiction need to find a way to not only get clean, but to connect to a way of living that fills them with a sense of meaning, identity and purpose. When this is achieved, life without drugs becomes worth living.
Psychedelics can open the door to this new way of living, but they do not create it all on their own. Instead, it is essential to take advantage of the opportunity that these substances provide, by working on one’s issues while one is able to view them more mindfully. Doing so can lead to profound insights and discoveries regarding how one’s lifestyle is shaped by one’s inner pain, and how certain changes need to be made in order to allow recovery to occur.