Is ibogaine the magic bullet for addiction? – David Graham Scott


Tuesday 26th March
6pm in Grimond lecture theatre 2, University of Kent Canterbury, UK

There are a growing number of desperate drug addicts seeking to end their addiction with a powerful psychedelic used for centuries by African witchdoctors. Just how effective is this treatment option and are there any dangers involved?

My name is David Graham Scott and I’m a documentary filmmaker. Many of the films I’ve made have been based around addiction issues and I’ve now started my own company, Microdot Films, specialising in this topic.
The film I get most feedback from is Detox or Die which was broadcast on BBC1 in 2004 and dealt with my desire to break a long-term addiction to opiates. I wanted to avoid as much of the hellish withdrawal as possible and my way of doing this was by using a somewhat bizarre and controversial method. I decided on a ‘quick fix’ detox using a psychedelic plant root called iboga, or ibogaine in its more refined form. This wasn’t an easy decision as there had been a few fatalities related to the use of this powerful hallucinogen. I weighed up the pros and cons and got the various health checks required and the results can be seen in the finished documentary which we shall discuss.

Tabernanthe iboga, to give it its Latin name, has been used for many centuries by the people of the Bwiti religion in Gabon, Cameroon and the Congo. It’s used within coming-of-age ceremonies where vast quantities of the raw rootbark are consumed by the young initiate via the tribal witchdoctor or Nganga. A man from New York, Howard Lotsoff, discovered that this same substance helped him quit his morphine addiction. After a two day trip of soul searching he found no desire to use morphine again. The withdrawal symptoms he expected were virtually non-existent too. Lotsoff became the guru of the ibogaine scene and up until his death a few years ago sought a patent for it from the US government.

There have been some clinical studies done with ibogaine, mainly by Dr Deborah Mash at the University of Miami and the results have been very favourable re the efficacy of this substance as an addiction interrupter. Nevertheless there are still reports coming out about fatal reactions to ibogaine and I will address this issue in my up-and-coming documentary, Iboga Nights (I have a 20 minute taster video we can view). ‘Most addicts seeking treatment have to go through one of the burgeoning collection of ibogaine providers dotted throughout the world. Some are truly caring and make an effort to guide the addict through the gruelling detox experience while others are charlatans purely in it for monetary gain.

So my points to discuss are:
How effective is ibogaine as an addiction-interrupter?
Is it fair to call it a ‘cure’ for addiction?
How do we deal with the growing number of fatal reactions and will these affect serious clinical research?
What is the ibogaine experience actually like?
What is the future for ibogaine? Will it be seriously researched like many of the other psychedelics currently are?

Comments are closed.