Isolated as a psychoactive alkaloid that originates from the bark of a West African shrub called Tabernanthe iboga, ibogaine is a drug that’s been the center of controversy for decades.
With a rich history of use in ancient African spiritual rituals and the Bwiti rite of passage into adulthood—a tradition derived from the Pygmy people—this drug achieved fascinating infamy in modern history as well.
The drug was re-discovered in 1962 by Howard Lotsof and studied for several years as an effective treatment for heroin, cocaine and other opiate addictions. The drug is reported to alleviate the physical symptoms of withdrawal (detoxification) from opiates by resetting the opiate receptor sites in the brain. Ibogaine blocks the receptors that trigger cravings for these and other addictive drugs.
The rate of relapse from opiate addition treatments after one year is rather high—ranging from 70% to 90%, depending on the study. Reports indicate that ibogaine will effectively remove the addiction once and for all with just one or two treatments. Once the therapy process is complete, no further ibogaine treatment is necessary.
Ibogaine is non-addictive and there is no need to continue taking ibogaine after the treatment process of cleansing the body of the addictive drugs and resetting the brain’s neuro-chemistry to remove mind and body drug dependency for whatever drug the individual was addicted to.
Does this sound too good to be true? Maybe, but research studies throughout the 1960s and up into the 1990s showed the drug to be reasonably safe and effective. However, since 1967 the United States government has banned the use of ibogaine and labeled it as a Schedule 1 narcotic (a DEA category reserved for drugs illegal for use in the US because of their psychoactive qualities and their potential for abuse).
Ibogaine is a psychedelic agent with dissociative properties. But because of its dramatic benefits to shutting down one’s craving for harmful and addictive drugs, other countries around the world have approved ibogaine for use as an effective drug withdrawal option.
Most notably, drug withdrawal treatment clinics in Mexico abound. Additionally, such ibogaine treatment clinics are located in Canada, South Africa, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom as well as a handful of other countries.
In the United States, the issue of FDA approval for commercial use of this drug seems to center mainly on research funding obstacles. Most drug funding involves money from Big Pharma and, since ibogaine is a one- or two-dose therapy regimen, continuing therapy is not necessary and therefore the return on investment is not there.
Congressional lobbying efforts have not been effective to date, quite possibly because the US Congress does not respond well to pleas from heroin (and other addictive drug) addicts for government funding of drug research.
It’s important to note that Ibogaine drug treatments are not without risks. These include seizures associated with abrupt withdrawal of certain addictive drugs. Additionally, since ibogaine appears to inhibit cardiac ion transport in the usual dosage concentrations, administering this drug can initiate cardiac arrhythmias.
And, of course, the recovered addict must adjust his/her lifestyle away from the source of the addiction to prevent treatment failure.
As a mystery writer, this drug intrigues me, not only for use as a possible murder weapon, but also as part of an intricate “when-it-all-goes-wrong” plot that involves drug manipulation with an international flair.
I might just have to pull out my storyboard and start plotting out scenes!
Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!
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