African Psychedelic Plant Offers Hope for Drug Addiction

Originally appearing here. Psychedelic drugs and plants have a proud history of helping troubled people overcome alcohol and drug addictions. Some of the first LSD studies demonstrated that the powerful psychedelic drug had enormous efficacy in treating alcoholism, when administered in the proper environment. In fact, Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, even suggested an LSD journey as the 13th step in his well-known 12-Step program for alcoholism recovery. Addictive drug and alcohol use has also been shown to be diminished by ayahuasca and peyote ceremonies among indigenous peoples in the Amazon and Central America. In light of this understanding, it’s such a sad irony that psychedelic drugs and plants have been legally classified with dangerously addictive drugs, and unjustly grouped together with them in many people’s minds–when, in fact, psychedelics generally help to discourage drug addiction. The late ethnobotanist Terence McKenna once said “The pro-psychedelic plant position is clearly an anti-drug position. Drug dependencies are the result of habitual, unexamined and obsessive behavior; these are precisely the tendencies that the psychedelics mitigate.” Some psychedelics almost seem to be tailor-made to treat addiction problems. The best example of this is a little-known African rain forest shrub known as “Tabernanthe Iboga” (or just “iboga”)–and its psychoactive component “ibogaine”–appears to contain unusually potent medicinal properties that have helped many people to end deeply-engrained patterns of drug addiction, especially with opiates. Many people consider it a miracle. Iboga accomplishes this healing magic in two remarkable–albeit not well-understood–ways. First, ibogaine interrupts physical dependency on opiates, as well as numerous other physically-addicting drugs, and completely stops the horrible physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms that come with the addiction. Next–according to hundreds of consistent, well-documented reports–it takes the person on an intense, 36 hour psychedelic journey where the “plant spirit” shows the person why they became addicted to the drug in the first place, and then teaches them how to avoid it from happening again. Unfortunately, both Iboga and Ibogaine are illegal in the United States, and elsewhere, simply because they have psychedelic properties. When iboga was declared illegal, along with mescaline, DMT, and other psychedelics in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, there hadn’t been a single scientific study done on the plant, or its psychoactive component. Meanwhile in Western Africa, where it has been long used in shamanic ceremonies by the Bwiti people, on June 6, 2000, the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Gabon declared Iboga to be a national treasure. Low doses of iboga are sometimes used by the Bwiti people to combat fatigue, and higher, more psychedelic doses are traditionally used in their initiation ceremonies and rites of passage. Ibogaine has been used as an underground treatment for heroin addiction, originally passed from user to user, since the 1960s, and many people have also used it on spiritual quests. I’ve also heard from several sources that low doses of ibogaine can have powerful sexually-enhancing properties. There are currently numerous drug-treatment clinics that use ibogaine in Mexico, Canada, New Zealand, and Holland, where the drug is legal, and people can have an ibogaine session under medical supervision. The success rate is extremely high, although taking the drug does require medical supervision. Although it’s not clear that ibogaine has ever been the direct cause of any fatalities, several people have died under its influence–so further research is desperately needed. The Santa Cruz Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is currently conducting an observational study with Ibogaine at clinics in Mexico, and will be starting a new study soon at a clinic New Zealand. The U.S.-based study of independent ibogaine clinics in Mexico is being lead by Thomas Kingsley Brown, Ph.D., and Geoff Noller, Ph.D. will be leading the New Zealand study. The new study in New Zealand will take place at an independent ibogaine clinic. The researchers there will examine the safety and long-term effectiveness of ibogaine treatment for addiction severity, and quality of life, in 20 to 30 patients. Since this new study will only be observational, rather than clinical, the protocol does not need to pass through a lengthy review process. This means that the researchers can start enrolling subjects once the study clears the Ethics Committee. Data from this study, and their ongoing study of Mexican ibogaine treatment centers, is being gathered to make a case for a possible future clinical study with ibogaine. David Jay Brown shares information about using the psychedelic drug, ibogaine, for curing addiction. He explains the way that the drug works to block withdrawal symptoms as well as the physical dependency of drugs like opiates. MAPS is currently funding ibogaine research in Mexico, with plans to begin a new study in New Zealand.