Ask most so-called experts within the field of addiction treatment if they have heard of iboga or ibogaine, and you are likely to be met with a blank, puzzled stare. Yet, venture underground and ask any of the thousands of individuals worldwide who have undergone Ibogaine treatments for relief from opiate, cocaine and other serious addictions, and you are likely to be met with a much more informed response. This potent derivative of root bark from a West African shrub has a growing fan base.
Ibogaine may be one of the most promising weapons yet in the battle for recovery. While testimonials enthusiastically touting its miraculous addiction-interruption properties of overflow on YouTube and elsewhere on social media, it should be no surprise that junkies and cocaine addicts are notorious for not relying on academia and the pharmaceutical industry for up-to-date and accurate information. Generally, when something like this is effective, like it or not, Big Pharma, the streets find out first.
Somehow, Ibogaine found its way into the hands of a New York heroin addict named Howard Lotsoff, in the late 1970’s who took it naievely and realized a couple of days later that his insatiable craving for opiates had almost entirely abated overnight. Amazed, Lotsoff began to share what he had learned and dedicated the rest of his life to helping other addicts and trying to stimulate interest in the medicine. Despite his efforts, Iboga was designated as a Schedule One drug on par with Heroin and LSD by a government bureaucracy shrouded in paranoia and weak on facts and has been illegal in the US ever since. Today, despite the FDA’s official opinion that it has no medical application, the streets are flooded with anecdotal accounts of the plant medicine having saved lives.
We may be at a point where even government agencies are taking note. Every month, an increasing number of qualitative case studies from accredited sources surface from around the globe. As recently as April of 2016, a proposed ibogaine initiative to treat opiate addicts in Vermont failed to make it out of legislative limbo and on to a more comprehensive drug bill. Similar actions may or may not fare better in other states in the coming months.
A small, but diligent, ibogaine lobby knows it is fighting an uphill battle. But the pressures are mounting. With communities all over the US being devastated by opiate dependency, and drug-related overdoses at an all-time high, necessity may soon be the mother of reconsideration.
While bankers and biotech executives in lab coats, and lobbied legislators in well-funded offices ponder the pros and cons of this ‘hallucinogen’, desperate people on the streets are suffering and dying. Given the mounting evidence, it is puzzling that Iboga has been so actively ignored by the ‘mainstream’ forces in America that rule the world of formal research. Perhaps with so much media attention on marijuana legalization, the progressive voices in support of ibogaine research are being drowned out. But addicts and their loved ones don’t have the luxury of waiting. Every year thousands of afflicted opiate, cocaine and methamphetamine users (like ‘Luke’ below) make the trek to Mexico, Costa Rica and other countries where Ibogaine treatment centers have sprung up to meet the demand of American and international clients for at least the past decade.
Given that the underworld of drugs and addictions is littered with shady characters and wild tales of rip-offs and crime, these addicts have to be careful. The world of iboga (and its sister drug, ayahuasca), has its fair share of people and places to avoid. However, over the last decade, many Mexico and Central American Ibogaine treatment centers have evolved from small local providers with questionable credentials to expensive spas complete with highly credentialed doctors, nurses, nutritionists and masseuses.
Some with names like like Ibogaquest, Root Passages and the Iboga Root Home (to name just a few) have chosen to remain small centers operating in more modest, intimate surroundings, but have still earned stellar reputations. Others, with names like Clear Sky Recovery Center, The Iboga Wellness Center, Crossroads and The Safe Haven (the list is constantly growing…) see thousands of addicts a year and have facilities on par with world-class resorts. Regardless of size, the best of these compete for the highest standards of care. There is even an international association, The Global Ibogaine Therapy Alliance (GITA), a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to supporting the sacramental and therapeutic uses of iboga. Recently, GITA hosted its fifth international conference, which was attended by leading scientific and medical researchers from around the globe. Prices for treatment vary widely, from as low as $3,000 US to as high as $15,000US for a full 5-6 day treatment. It is not a bad idea for those interested to check out GITA’s website and review their guidelines of ethical treatment etc. before contacting a specific provider.
Is it worth it? Does it work? ‘Luke’ (not his real name) a 10-20 bag-a-day heroin user for 15 of his 33 years, would argue that it does. Once homeless and literally at death’s door, he is proud to have remained drug-free since his Iboga session over 2 years ago in Tepotzlan, Mexico. “The treatment itself was not a walk in the park,” he states.”It was more like a forced march more into my own unconscious jungle where I had to face my worst demons.” he shrugs, “but it was so worth it. I didn’t go through a long withdrawal or have a ton of cravings afterward, and I am still clean two years later. But I would not want to give anyone the impression that it was fun.
Still, if you’re the kind of junkie I was, who lost control on life, I would recommend it in a heart-beat! I’d been down the Methadone road and the Seboxone route, but Iboga is in a class by itself. It gave me a leg up and gave me my power back for long enough to make the changes I needed to make. It was like a godsend. It gave me a chance and I have had to do the rest.”