Martin Polanco is the founder of Crossroads Treatment Center, an addiction treatment center in northern Mexico that specializes in psychedelic therapy using ibogaine. In this two-part interview, we speak with Dr. Polanco about his work helping people overcome life-threatening addiction to opioids like heroin, the importance of medical screening and aftercare in ibogaine therapy. Read Part One of the interview with Dr. Polanco to learn more about Crossroads and their work with ibogaine therapy.
We know that ibogaine and other psychedelic treatments can be extremely powerful, but we also know that proper integration and follow-up is critical to making the changes last. How does Crossroads encourage proper integration for people after they leave the clinic?
We are unique in that we have a pre-care and post-care integration program run by a separate company called Being True to You. They help people prepare for the experience and then help them integrate it afterward. We also have partner programs where people can spend weeks or months with them integrating and learning skills, just becoming more solvent in their recovery. We do recognize that the key to success is properly integrating these insights and experiences into everyday reality.
Is there a particular success story from your clinic that you’d like to share?
I wouldn’t single [out] a success story [because] there are hundreds of people who have had success. It’s always very difficult for us to perceive who is going to succeed and who is going to continue on their path of addiction. But it’s astounding to see the transformation that people go through, and how the sparkle comes back into their eyes, and the color comes back into their skin, their posture changes, and their demeanor and their orientation towards the future. So there’s no single story that I can share but, in general, that’s what we see, and it never gets old. Every time we see it we marvel at how powerful this medicine is. In Western medicine, there is nothing that in three days can take somebody from being in full-blown addiction to actually being free from addiction. Obviously they need to change their lifestyle, or it can take over again, but in that particular moment they have no withdrawal, no craving. They have absolutely no desire to use heroin even if you were to put it in front of them. That’s remarkable and there’s nothing like it.
What would you say to someone who is interested in psychedelic therapy and ibogaine treatment but might be scared to approach it?
It really depends on the reason they want to take ibogaine. If it is for an opiate addiction then it makes complete sense. It is the best way to detox off of opiates—the most painless, the most effective, and fastest way to get off drugs.
For somebody who is interested in ibogaine for psycho-spiritual purposes, I would invite them to explore other avenues first, like ayahuasca or even yoga or meditation. I don’t think everyone should take ibogaine. It entails a certain level of risk, which is acceptable when you are dealing with heroin addiction, as those people are already putting their life at risk. But it should be mostly limited to these kinds of cases.
What is your ultimate vision for the future of Crossroads? Are there any other projects that you have in the works?
The ultimate vision for Crossroads is to be an addiction treatment hospital that provides comprehensive and holistic care for addiction and looks at the whole person. We want to look at the underlying issues of why they are addicted. And to do that you need a fully equipped hospital that can take brain scans, and look at the thyroid, look at the teeth, look at x-rays. There are a lot of things that go into a comprehensive assessment of somebody who is addicted, and it is easy to miss things because they are not being looked for.
For example, when it comes to [the] dental examination and addressing issues with teeth, this is important. When you have cavities or abscesses or infections, then that causes inflammation in the whole body. And a frequent side effect of this inflammation is depression. If you just treat the depression, thinking it is the main symptom without realizing that [the underlying cause] is actually inflammation, then you are misdiagnosing and mistreating people. You give them antidepressants, when in fact what you need to do is disinflame and provide support so that the body can achieve homeostasis and regulation. This is just one example of why we need to address all these other conditions.
We are also refocusing the program so that we become a hospital for war veterans suffering from PTSD and addiction. We want to build out our veterans program and have our hospital be able to serve all of their needs.
Thank you so much for speaking with us, Dr. Polanco.