Pinchbeck, Daniel - Ten years of therapy in one night - 01
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Pinchbeck, Daniel - Ten years of therapy in one night – 01
[Guardian newspaper - Saturday 20 September 2003]
In 1962, Howard Lotsof, a 19-year-old heroin addict in New York, ordered from a chemist iboga, a plant used in West African rituals, and tried it for extra kicks. After consuming the bitter rootbark powder, he experienced a visionary tour of his early memories. Thirty hours later, when the effects had subsided, he found that he had lost all craving for heroin, without withdrawal symptoms of any kind. He said he then gave iboga to seven other addicts and five stopped taking drugs immediately afterwards.
In 1985, Lotsof patented the ibogaine molecule for the purposes of addiction treatment, but could not get his treatment approved. In the interim years, ibogaine had been declared, along with LSD and several other psychedelic molecules, an illegal "schedule one" substance, with potential for abuse and no medical value. Although it found dedicated support among a ragtag group of countercultural activists and left-over Yippies, in 1995 the National Institutes of Health discontinued research into the substance, and pharmaceutical companies have since ignored it, perhaps due to low profit potential.
But now, interest in ibogaine is growing rapidly, passing a "tipping point" through a combination of anecdotal evidence, underground activism, journalism and scientific research. Articles have appeared in US publications ranging from the authoritative Journal Of The American Medical Association (Jama) to the populist Star. The Jama piece, Addiction Treatment Strives For Legitimacy, described the drug's stalled and tortured path through the regulatory agencies, noting that the treatment's frustrated supporters in the US have set up an "underground railroad" to give addicts access to the drug:
"While unknowable scores of addicts continue ingesting ibogaine hydrochloride purified powder - or iboga whole-plant extract containing a dozen or more active alkaloids - few trained researchers witness the events."
The Star took a more colourful approach: "Rare Root Has Celebs Buzzing" it said, trumpeting the treatment as the hot ticket for "the numerous celebs who look for relief from their tough lives in the bottom of a bottle of Jack Daniel's, a needle or prescription medicine". The article insinuates that "some of our favourite A-listers" not only get cured but enjoy the hallucinations as an illicit "fringe benefit". Outside the US, new clinics have opened in Mexico, Canada and Europe, offering reasonably priced, medically supervised opportunities to try ibogaine as a method of overcoming addiction. In fact, at one new clinic in Vancouver, the treatment is free.