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Pinchbeck, Daniel - Ten years of therapy in one night – 03



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Pinchbeck, Daniel - Ten years of therapy in one night – 03 

[Guardian newspaper - Saturday 20 September 2003]

Recently, I tried ibogaine for a second time. I took it at the Ibogaine Association, a clinic in Rosarito, Mexico. I had been contacted by a heroin addict who had been inspired to take ibogaine after reading the book I wrote about my experiences: three months after his first treatment in Mexico, he was still clean - after a 12-year dependency. He told me, "Your book saved my life." He had given Dr Martin Polanco, the clinic's founder, a copy of my book, and he had offered me a free treatment. I was curious to see how the experience would differ away from its tribal context. My new friend wanted to take it again to reinforce the effect. We went down together.

Polanco estimates that his clinic has treated nearly 200 addicts in its first 18 months. About one third of those patients have managed to stay clean - either permanently or for a considerable period; many have returned for a second treatment. "Ibogaine needs to be much more widely available," Polanco says. "We still have a lot to learn about how to administer it, how to work with it." He does not think iboga is a cure for addiction, but is convinced it is a powerful tool for treatment - and, in some cases, it is a cure. He plans to set up several non-profit clinics. "This is something that should be non-profit," he says. "After all, it is a plant. It came up from the earth. It does give you some guidance. It shows you how you really are." He chuckles. "That can be scary."

The Ibogaine Therapy House in Vancouver, British Columbia, opened last November. "So far, we have treated 14 people quite well," says Marc Emery, the clinic's founder and head of the BC Marijuana Party. "They all say that their life has improved." Emery, nicknamed the "Prince of Pot", is funding the free clinic with proceeds from his successful hemp seed business. "Ibogaine stops the physical addiction without causing withdrawal," he says, "and it deals with the underlying psychological issues that lead to drug use."

Emery estimates that treatment for each patient at the clinic costs around $1,500 (£943), which includes two administrations of the drug. "When I found out about ibogaine, I felt that someone should be researching this, but the drug companies aren't interested because there is no commercial potential in this type of cure." Neither he nor Polanco is too concerned about ambiguous studies on ibogaine's toxicity. As the Jama article noted, "One reviewer wrote that the drug's toxicology profile was 'less than ideal', with bradycardia [an abnormally slow heartbeat] leading the list of worrisome adverse effects."

"From the masses of reports I have studied, a total of six people have died around the time they took ibogaine," says Emery. "Some were in poor health, some took other drugs at the time of their treatment. That doesn't scare me off. I have a lot of confidence in ibogaine."

At this stage, with little scientific study, the true toxicology of ibogaine is impossible to determine - the treatment is unlicensed in other countries and illegal in the US. The decision whether or not to take such a risk is entirely personal. Emery notes that his clinic screens for heart problems and other medical conditions that might contraindicate the treatment. It also gives patients small daily doses of iboga for two weeks after their initial treatment. "Iboga tends to make anything bad for you taste really crappy. If possible, we want our patients to quit cigarettes at the same time. We think that cigarettes can lead people back to other addictions."

Emery notes that nobody has so far criticised the project, and he is seeking support from local government. "Iboga tells you to change your ways or else - it goes over all of your health and personal issues. It is like the ghost of Christmas past."

The source of the experience

Pinchbeck, Daniel

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