PLEASE NOTE: The information in this article about the legality of different plant medicines is always changing. Do your research to find out whether the drug laws have changed in relevant countries before visiting these places with any of these substances.
DISCLAIMER: CONSULT WITH A DOCTOR BEFORE DECIDING ON A TREATMENT PLAN FOR DRUG ADDICTION OR ANY OTHER DISEASE.
It is always when I’m forced to go off the beaten path with research that I find the most interesting information that everyone should know. I’ve spent a lot of time learning about addiction from an academic point of view, but I’ve never struggled with addiction personally. My husband was addicted to cigarettes when we first met and he really struggled to overcome that addiction. My husband’s first wife was a meth and heroin addict. And my grandfather was an alcoholic, but I was very lucky to grow up in a home that wasn’t in any way afflicted with the challenges of addiction. So, until my daughter married a young man from Burma who quietly (secretively) nursed an insidious addiction to ya ma (ya ba in Thailand), I had no first-hand experience with the turmoil of addiction not just for the addict themselves but also for families.
Ya Ma (Meth and More)
Burma (also known as Myanmar) presents an interesting difficulty in terms of drug addiction. It is one of the major producers in the world of methamphetamines and opiates so the raw materials for drugs are readily available, but most of the “good stuff” goes to Europe or the U.S. Myanmar citizens themselves get the shitty drugs–the stuff that’s corrupted with other dangerous chemicals. Some people say that the people who get the shitty, second-hand drugs are in a better position to quit. They say that U.S. citizens get high-quality drugs that are harder to resist. But other people say that the chemicals that corrupt the drugs available to the citizenry in Myanmar are worse than the drugs themselves.
As I understand it, culturally it is shameful to be a drug addict in Myanmar, but a large percentage of the men there are addicted to a drug nonetheless. The shame keeps the problem going. The drugs are sold like Coca-Cola or 7-Up (both of which once contained hard drugs in the U.S.) and young men in particular, lure each other into fraternal groups of secrecy to maintain the habit, though recently, young women who attend university have become more likely to take the drugs too.
In Myanmar, it can be very difficult for addicts to get the help they need to quit taking drugs. Methadone clinics are available throughout the country, but methadone is an addictive drug too and definitely not the best option as far as curing addiction. Twelve-step programs are non-existent in Myanmar. And alternative treatment options other than methadone simply don’t exist in Myanmar. Indeed, when I started researching this problem, looking for some pin-light of hope for my son-in-law who refused to leave Myanmar because withdrawal from drugs left him feeling anxious, depressed, and sick, he wasn’t able to understand the idea of any treatment for drug addiction in Myanmar because it’s shameful to be addicted to ya ma or any other drug. He wasn’t open to discussing the problem, he wasn’t receptive to the idea that there are ways to quit drugs without the intense suffering and difficulty of going cold turkey (quitting suddenly without stepping down or receiving medication to lessen the symptoms of withdrawal).
This situation made me appreciate public service announcements that educate the public about problems like drug abuse. And I realized that, as antiquated as the Myanmar drug treatment system is, the United States system isn’t much better. How many addicts in the states know about things like Iboga, Ayahuasca, or Kratom for drug addiction treatment?
Iboga and Ibogaine for Addiction
I knew about Iboga and Ibogaine treatment for addiction that’s available in Mexico and Gabon, Africa, but though Iboga is legal in Myanmar, it is still illegal in many other countries. It’s not a substance that can easily be administered in a home setting by a newbie. An addict undergoing treatment with Iboga or Ibogaine needs a knowledgeable guide to administer the plant and watch over the person taking it. It wasn’t the kind of treatment that I would take with me in my backpack and then administer willy-nilly to a loved one. Iboga requires some finesse, so I crossed it off the short-list of possibilities for my son-in-law. But I want to mention it here because Iboga can rewire the brain quickly to help addicts move on into productive citizens. It’s a treatment option that should be more widely known and easier to access, in my opinion.
Kratom for Addiction (Mitragyna speciosa)
Next, I considered Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa), a plant that grows in Southeast Asia but that has unfortunately been mixed with cough syrup to produce a concoction that’s deadly. Kratom by itself is addictive too, but addicts in the U.S. have used it in its pure plant-form to step-down slowly from their addictions to methamphetamine, opioids like heroin, and more. It has a stimulant effect similar to meth or ya ma when taken in small doses and a sedative effect that’s similar to opioids when taken in larger doses. Kratom can be used like nicotine patches to help addicts step-down from their addiction slowly when its used properly.
With Kratom, the addict can switch addictions from opioids or ya ma (meth) to Kratom and if they don’t mix the kratom with anything else and they use it in its pure form, this is a much healthier option than staying addicted to heroin or ya ma. It is also a healthier option than taking methadone. To avoid becoming addicted to Kratom, people can use 3 to 5 different species of the plant (red vein, green vein, white vein) on alternating days. Each species has a slightly different effect on the body, but in all cases, the Kratom can help opioid or meth addicts stop taking drugs without suffering to the same extent through the withdrawal process. Some methamphetamine addicts report that after taking just one species of Kratom over time, they are able to quit taking Kratom without suffering the effects of addiction, but some people have to step-down from Kratom slowly by taking a different species of the plant in a rotation over the course of 3 to 5 days.
Because the Kratom leaves are often misused in Southeast Asia, it is now illegal in many countries except perhaps Cambodia and Laos (I wasn’t able to definitively establish that Kratom is illegal and if it’s illegal at the time of this writing, I can’t guarantee that this is still true). Kratom in its pure form holds promise as a cure for addiction in these countries, but once it has been mixed with other substances, it becomes as dangerous as other addictions. So those who use it have to use it with care and use it properly to get the desired effects.
I then looked into Shrooms (Psilocybin) because some people have used magic mushrooms to cure addiction. They’re legal in Cambodia (sort of), but I’m not sure if they offer the same kind of trip that helps people stop taking drugs in Mexico. Of course, Mexican shrooms are most famous for the ability to cure addiction, but because I was looking for shrooms in Southeast Asia, I ended up researching Cambodia. I’m not sure if the magic mushrooms there would help people cure addiction or not, but I noted it nonetheless.
Ayahuasca for Addiction
Ayahuasca can be packed and traveled with too, but I’m not a qualified administrator of something as heavy-duty as Ayahuasca in an addiction-situation. Ayahuasca is known as the Mother Plant and it can have powerful, transformative effects on people. Having done Ayahuasca myself, I can imagine how it could help a person reconfigure their view of drug addiction and make lasting changes, but it’s important to find someone who can confidently administer it. I know a trusted curandera in Mexico, but I have yet to meet an ayahuascero outside of Mexico who’s truly on the up-and-up. You have to do your research to make sure you’re actually taking Ayahuasca and not a cheaper alternative that’s been doctored with less expensive hallucinogenic plants.
Kambo for Addiction
Kambo is an animal medicine derived from an Amazonian frog. It is said to work on many levels (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual). I’m getting ready to go take my first dose of Kambo tomorrow morning to hopefully prevent the Coronavirus (because it also works as a general vaccine against all infectious things). But Kambo travels well. It doesn’t show up on the radar (at the time of this writing) and can be transported across the globe for the purposes of treating drug addiction. It isn’t a fun or recreational experience as I understand it, but rather like putting oneself into anaphylactic shock, but it is through this physiological process that the addict becomes less inclined to crave drugs or alcohol.
Akuamma for Addiction (Picralima nitida)
I kept looking for more possibilities and eventually, I stumbled upon Akuamma (Picralima nitida). Akuamma, also known as vincamajordine is a similar anti-addiction antidote as Kratom. Their anti-addiction effects are similar to Kratom, but they’re illegal all across the globe. They’re grown and used in Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Congo, and the Ivory Coast to treat addictions, malaria, fevers, inflammation, diabetes, and pain. When it is taken to treat addiction, Akuamma fruit or bark is chewed or made into a tea. Though Kratom’s effects are stronger and longer-lasting than those of Akuamma, Akuamma is legal in places where Kratom is not.
Akuamma is administered in dosages between 250 mg and 6 grams depending on the situation. A good starting dose is 250 mg to 500 mg (about ⅔ of a teaspoon or 1 to 2 seeds). One ounce of Akuamma powder typically lasts between 3 weeks and 1 month at this dose. But if this dose doesn’t do the trick, people can move up to 500 mg to 1 gram of Akuamma. If a higher dose is necessary, some people may take as much as 6 grams, but this is perhaps the maximum and it is always suggested that people work their way up from a lower to a higher dose. Above 2 grams, some people experience headaches and at 6 grams, some people experience respiratory depression or even coma, so exercise caution when using this plant medicine.
As an opioid agonist, Akuamma can cause respiratory depression, coma, or addiction problems if it isn’t used carefully. It should never be used with low-blood pressure medications, sedatives, or pain relievers. There is also evidence that Akuamma can have a contraceptive effect, so it shouldn’t be used if you’re on oral contraceptives or if you’re trying to conceive.
Amino Acid Therapy for Addiction
And, of course, beyond the plant medicines that I could potentially travel with to help my son-in-law cure addiction, there is amino acid therapy. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins so they’re components of food and therefore entirely legal. But drug rehabilitation facilities will often administer amino acids intravenously to patients for 6 to 8 hours per day for 5 to 10 days and this wasn’t the kind of thing I could accomplish easily if I were traveling to Myanmar. It also isn’t a home-based cure for addiction (though oral amino acids are available for purchase online and in health food stores in the U.S.). Amino acid therapy is said to greatly lessen the effects of drug detoxification, but Bumrungrad Hospital in Myanmar is said to only administer amino acid therapy to patients who cannot eat orally. And it could be a challenge to travel with intravenous amino acids. So, I crossed this off the list of possibilities, but still wanted to mention it here because most people who are reading this article aren’t thinking about curing addiction in Myanmar.
I’m not finished researching this topic and I feel like addiction is perhaps one of the most important topics of our time. Addiction affects not just the person who is addicted to the drug or alcohol, but also family members and friends. And addiction is a worldwide problem that causes people to live in hopeless destitution. It affects all of us. For people who are looking for 12 step program alternatives, it may seem at times like there’s nothing available, but this just simply isn’t the case. Once a person decides they want to cure addiction, there are many options available besides just drug rehab facilities. As with many other afflictions though, it may be an adventure finding the specific cure that works. There are affordable and accessible treatments that offer more hope and lower relapse rates than what most people in the U.S. believe is possible, but these treatments may require courage, travel to another country, and a very strong commitment to make lasting changes. Nonetheless, addiction cures are there.
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