Kicking The Drug Habit Using Ibogaine

Born and bred in Riverside, one of Nairobi’s most exclusive suburbs, John seemed to have everything going for him – until he was introduced to cocaine while partying in a neighbour’s house. He got hooked almost instantly, and turned to theft to finance his habit. His family got to know after he was arrested while trying to sell a laptop he had stolen from one of his friends. He tried to stay off drugs after this, but the habit proved to be too strong. Salvation came in the form of a family friend who told them about a wonder drug named ibogaine which was being used to treat cravings and blunt the edge off withdrawal symptoms. John was shipped off to a rehab in South Africa. After a month, he flew back to Kenya a totally new person, and has been clean ever since.

This wonder drug is made from a plant called iboga, a shrub native to the rainforests of Central Africa. The plant has been used for a long time by members of the Bwiti tribe in their rituals. The plant’s rehabilitative value was discovered by accident.

In 1962, Howard Lots of, a heroin addict, took some to get high while on a visit to the region. After the effects wore off, he discovered that he had no desire to take heroin. Lots of was convinced that he had discovered the cure to addiction.

Scientists are still trying to figure out how the medicine works, but they speculate that it operates on those parts of the brain involved in causing cravings, a process that also eliminates withdrawal symptoms. The substance actually restores an addict’s former state in a very short time, a process that normally takes months in a normal detoxification process.

Scientists also speculate that the remedy breaks addiction by inducing a dream like feeling that causes subjects to be very introspective. Several experts believe that is why the Bwiti value it in their rituals. In this state, addicts can explore any deep seated emotional and psychological issues that they may be suppressing by using drugs.

Considering the kind of difference this chemical would make in the fight against addiction, one would expect organizations involved in the fight against drugs to be beating a path to Central Africa. Surprisingly, this is not the case; several countries, including the United States, have put it in their list of prohibited substances, while it remains uncontrolled in the rest. Lots of had to start a clinic in Netherlands after American authorities stopped him from doing so in a country.

One would also expect pharmaceutical giants to take an interest in the drug, but that is not the case, and this is due to several reasons. One is the chemical’s limited potential for making money; unlike methadone, an addict needs to use it once. Also, the drug is almost impossible to patent because it is naturally occurring, further limiting its profit potential.

A number of researchers are working to investigate the workings of ibogaine, and to develop a version of the drug that can be approved by governments. Researchers warn that the drug cannot work alone; it needs to be part of a wider rehabilitation program. Recovering addicts will need to follow the advice of specialists; they should avoid bars or any place where drug abuse is rampant, steer clear of potentially addictive medication, and keep away from the wrong company. This chemical may be effective, but it is no magic bullet.

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