Ibogaine article in Vancouver's Georgia Straight, this is the ARTICLE

MARC marc420emery at shaw.ca
Fri Jan 3 17:45:03 EST 2003


This is the article from the current Vancouver Georgia Straight, please
circulate it around:


http://www.straight.com/editorial/health.php

Ibogaine a One-Way Trip to Sobriety, Pot Head Says

By Gail Johnson
Mark "Atomos" Pilon Illustration

Marc Emery may not have made it to the mayor's chair,
but the head of the B.C. Marijuana Party has plenty of
other ventures to keep him busy. Besides running a
seed-distribution business, the peace and pot activist
has started a new project that he's especially
passionate about, one he says can cure cocaine and
heroin addiction at a low price.

He's the man behind the Iboga Therapy House, a place
he has rented on the Sunshine Coast that overlooks the
ocean and where drug addicts can go for ibogaine
treatment.

Ibogaine comes from Tabernanthe iboga, a flowering
African shrub that's related to the coffee plant. In
some parts of West Africa, it's a hallucinogen used in
male rites of passage. Iboga is said to induce wild
visualizations, be nonaddictive, and have
anti-addictive qualities.

Advocates allege that one or two doses is enough to
cure addiction, whether it's to crack cocaine, heroin,
alcohol, or nicotine. Unlike methadone, which is
itself addictive, ibogaine does not produce painful
withdrawal symptoms.

Emery, who started treating addicts from the Downtown
Eastside two months ago, covers the costs, which
amount to about $1,500 per person. He takes in up to
four addicts per week and has administered oral doses
of ibogaine himself to nearly a dozen people. It's the
first such program in North America.

"This could be a very effective way of treating people
at a very low cost," he told the Straight on the line
from the Sunshine Coast. "People who have been through
opiate withdrawal are amazed. They don't have a
dripping nose, there's no nausea..This has been a
revelatory experience. I'm hoping the government will
pick it up."

Though not approved by Health Canada, ibogaine is not
a prohibited product under the Controlled Drugs and
Substances Act, Emery noted. The substance is illegal
in the United States, but it's available through an
international black market, and there are private
clinics in the Caribbean and Panama City. "It's an
underground phenomenon all over the world," said
Emery, who orders ibogaine from Ontario, Slovenia, and
Holland.

One of the alleged benefits of ibogaine is that it
doesn't cause the horrible flulike side effects that
people withdrawing from heroin or cocaine typically
endure, such as diarrhea, cramps, anxiety, and muscle
twitches. However, some preclinical studies have
indicated that the substance could cause lasting
damage to the cerebellum, leading to loss of motor
coordination.

The use of ibogaine to treat addiction got its first
push from Howard Lotsof, an American who patented the
therapy. He's credited with recording initial
observations of the effects of ibogaine on heroin
addicts who took the substance to get high in the
mid-1960s. (Lotsof was one of them.)

Lotsof tried to go beyond anecdotal evidence by
conducting preclinical research. He approached
pharmaceutical companies to back his efforts, but none
responded-likely because of the lack of potential
profit, since the medicine is usually taken only once.
He pushed for the Food and Drug Administration's
approval of clinical trials, but that plan fell apart
in 1993, when a 24-year-old heroin user died about 20
hours after taking ibogaine. (Two other addicts have
also died following ibogaine treatment.) The therapy
has its critics, like American drug researcher Peter
Hoyle, who, according to a recent High Times article,
doesn't think there's enough evidence to warrant human
trials-especially since the mechanism of ibogaine's
action isn't understood.

Without any official stamp of approval, Lotsof
continues research and treatment (mainly in Holland).
He recently cowrote a revised Manual for Ibogaine
Therapy: Screening, Safety, Monitoring & Aftercare,
which cautions that "treatment providers and patients
are solely responsible for their actions."

"The extremely costly regulatory approval process and
the reluctance by major pharmaceutical firms to pursue
regulatory approval in the West has led to the
formation of non-medical ibogaine treatment," the
manual says. "This document is intended principally
for lay-healers who have little or no medical
experience, but who are nevertheless concerned with
patient safety and the outcome of Ibogaine
treatments."

Lotsof urges caregivers to insist that people have a
complete physical, including an electrocardiogram,
before treatment. Emery has studied that document as
well as others on the Ibogaine Dossier Web site
(www.ibogaine.org/), which has opinions and
information related to the treatment.

Emery said he-or another of the "facilitators" at the
Iboga Therapy House who are trained in first
aid-observes people for about 24 hours after the
administration of ibogaine and monitors their blood
pressure and pulse regularly. Emery added that the
hospital is a 10-minute drive away and that all
candidates have to sign a medical-release form.

Anyone is welcome, Emery said, as long as they stop
taking drugs for 24 hours before treatment. He said he
recommends two doses, about a week apart, to prevent a
relapse. "Typically the first dose cancels the
physical addiction," Emery said, "and the second
targets the psychological underpinnings of addiction."


Emery, who's never taken ibogaine himself, said the
substance can cause intense visualizations lasting
eight to 18 hours. He also said that because of the
lack of withdrawal symptoms, ibogaine can help addicts
address other issues. "Being an addict can be a great
excuse in a financial or emotional crisis," he noted.
"This gives them the strength and courage to face
their problems without giving in to their weaknesses.
They have an opportunity to reinvent themselves, so
they need to stay away from triggers or temptation."


The Iboga Therapy House has fitness equipment,
instruments, games like crib and chess, and a
meditation room-anything that "gives people pleasure
that doesn't involve drugs", Emery said-but no TV.
Emery, who doesn't accept money from addicts unless
they want to donate after they've been clean for at
least three months, said he'd like to see the
treatment made available to all Vancouver addicts, who
can contact him via the Vancouver Area Network of Drug
Users (604-683-8595).

He added that he hasn't encountered any opposition to
the ibogaine project yet. "I've never run into
critics," he said, "because there's nothing to
criticize."









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