[Ibogaine] Ibogaine fatality paper

Nick Sandberg nick227 at tiscali.co.uk
Thu Jun 1 07:33:17 EDT 2006

Dear Uwe and Suester,

Many thanks for taking the time to write such a comprehensive reply. I very
much appreciate what you are doing for iboga. I would like to stick a few
ideas/comments in along the way...

> -----Original Message-----
> From: umaas at scientific-african.org [mailto:umaas at scientific-african.org]
> Sent: 28 May 2006 08:03
> To: ibogaine at mindvox.com
> Subject: [Ibogaine] Ibogaine fatality paper
> Dear Nick, Luke, Sara, Rachel, Ekki, Edward, Howard and Alberto:
> Thanks so lot for sharing all these experiences and different
> viewpoints with
> us! Of course, we have no answers to all these remaining
> questions, but we will
> try to do the same:
> First, it's true that also in Africa occasionally patients die,
> but it seems to
> us that it doesn't happen really often compared to the frequency of
> initiations: We only learned to know one healer (among at least
> 20 we asked,
> some of them chairmen of a traditional healers organization) who
> told us that
> he really personally heard about two fatal cases that happened to his
> colleagues. Unfortunately, he was not able (or didn't want) to
> tell us more
> details. He stated that what they call a "complete confession" is
> the essential
> intervention to prevent this and that it might be important to find an
> individual dosage of Iboga to lead the patient well, but that
> "nobody ever died
> because of a high dose" - in contrary, that a low dose even might
> be the problem
> because deepgoing visions might be blocked.

If the cause of death is put down in Africa as the result of an incomplete
confession, then I'd say the implication is that the Bwiti believe that
there is a psychological root to it. If someone doesn't want to "own" or
admit his or her "errors" in life then I guess there would be an inner
struggle as the drug attempts to open the mind up. There will be some
"resistance," as they say in therapy. This makes sense to me, though it
would seem a fairly major thing to die from simple denial.

> We were told about another fatal case that happened at Port
> Gentil (a coastal
> town grown on oil production, a place with a lot of "bad
> spirits"), but nobody
> knew the healer involved in this case. The only information was that the
> patient, a young man, had a lot of troubles as well within his
> family as at
> work, that's why he went alone to this place far away from his
> home to get the
> treatment there.
> It's not easy to talk with the traditional healers about how to prevent
> fatalities. Most of them stated that they know herbal "antidots"
> that they are
> not allowed to tell to Europeans (the "secret" is something
> essential there as
> in most oral cultures and we are beginning to get an idea about
> what it really
> means), only one told us what the antidot is. But nobody stated that these
> antidots might be life-saving as a "herbal medicine" - it seems
> that they might
> be used to guide the treatment on one hand, to protect the
> patient from the
> attack of bad spirits on the other. Several healers were
> convinced that once a
> patient "starts to die", noone is really able to save him - this
> might reflect
> lethal arrhythmia in medical terms but remains our Western hypothesis, of
> course.

I seem to recall that atropine is sometimes regarded as an ibogaine
"antidote." Is this to what you refer?

> Just about five or six healers who already knew us well went
> deeper in their
> explanations. And they all stated more or less the same: Death may occur
> because the patient himself is experiencing something within his
> vision that is
> making it difficult for him or her to continue living (which
> means a "SPIRITUAL
> SUICIDE" and might correspond to what Nick calls a "fairly high
> level of death
> wish repressed within") or, on the other hand, the patient might
> "see" somthing
> that might be dangerous for others and that's why they "kill" him or her
> spiritually (which means a "SPIRITUAL MURDER"). Interstingly enough on the
> medical field, healers consider situations with a supposingly rising
> parasympathetic tone (urination, defecation, sleeping) as
> particulary dangerous
> - and they never leave anybody alone in these situations.
> So Nick: we think they have an "idea" on the basis of their traditional
> social/medical/religious system (which is rather sophisticated
> and to us seems
> to be at least as consistant as our Western concepts, not to
> speak about what
> we really think ourselves after what happened to us during these
> initiation
> ceremonies!) and their practice is build  on this idea - which, of course,
> doesn't mean that it "works". - Nevertheless, we agree that specially at
> Libreville (and that's what most Western travellers know) there
> are a lot of
> different "lodges" with more or less synchretistic concepts and a lot of
> conflicts between them, a situation which really makes it
> difficult to trust
> all these young, male, sunglasses-bearing "traditional
> healers"... but we think
> this reflects merely the social (and material) situation in a
> southern capital
> than Bwiti spirituality which after our own experience is able to
> integrate a
> lot of influences without really losing what is "essential" in a village
> context.
> Dear Howard: we really appreciate how open-minded and positively
> thinking you
> are, after all these years of struggle  and the vast experience
> you got! Trying
> to answer question about the "full body tremors": of course we're
> not sure what
> the healer you met really was speaking about, but we think this
> might have been
> what they call a "possession trance" (and seems indeed to be
> related to what you
> might find in Pentecostal ceremonies, for instance, and in many other
> trance-related rituals all over the world). This sort of "trance
> state" at the
> Mitsogho tribe is induced solely musically (by introducing a contradictory
> rhythm) and is used at every woman's initiation before giving the
> root bark to
> PREVENT death (this is an essential point most possibly originating in the
> Mitsogho's original Mabandji-initiation-ritual which has spread
> from there to
> many other lodges). Are you sure the healer meant that it might
> PROVOKE death?
> Normally, as far as we know, this sort of trance is not provoked
> pharmacologically, but it might happen (as we experienced several
> times) to
> women before initiation (and outside the ritual context!) while
> listening and
> moving to traditional music. Interestingly enough, to the
> Mitsogho who call
> this situation a "crisis" does it mean that the person who was
> involved HAS to
> be intitiated "to get to know the spirit that is possessing her"
> (it is also
> possible for men to get initiated into the Mabandji, but that's a
> minority and
> the ones we know do not behave in a really typical "male" way outside the
> ritual; and we never heard that a man could get a "crisis"
> outside the ritual
> context).

I imagine that a more Western idea of "possession" is that accessing and
integrating of repressed aspects of the psyche in therapy. Sometimes they're
called "sub-personalities." It's generally reckoned to be a highly healthy
thing to do.

That's it!


> It was surprising to us that Suester, as a woman who grew up not only in a
> Western society and with the viewpoint of Western sciences, but also with
> Western music, was reacting and performing exactly the same way
> as the Mitsogho
> did during their intiation, which meant to us that there might be
> some cerebral
> correlate for this reaction. - As this is really a women's
> secret, she is not
> allowed to speak about the experience "from inside", but there are obvious
> positive consequences for the individual: The Mitsogho state that
> an initiated
> woman should fall into a "possession trance" at least once a year
> "to meet her
> spirit" and that seems reasonnable, as Suester herself got into an
> extraordinary good mood for at least weeks after every time they
> provoked this
> reaction...
> Yet another explanation of possibly dangerous "full body tremors"
> could be that
> the healer was speaking about generalized epileptic seizures: We
> personally
> know about one case where a young man who got initiated to treat
> alcohol-related problems (and who "needed about twice as much Iboga as
> normally") was suffering three times within 24 hours from such
> seizures, but
> that could have been related to the drug-related situation.
> Several healers
> told us that they never before experienced something like that.
> Dear Edward: thanks so lot for sharing your experiences with us! Most
> interestingly to us (of course, without knowing your spiritual
> background), you
> mention that often dreams and intuitive knowing are leading you
> the right way to
> treat - we're sure you know that that's exactly what the Mitsogho
> say! but what
> normally seems a little strange to most Western ears an minds. -
> As a medical
> doctor, I would like to tell you that strange experience that
> every time I went
> into the forest with a traditional healer to collect different
> barks, they were
> astonished that I wasn't able to know the effect of the medicament from
> watching, even not from smelling and tasting it! a knowledge that had been
> summarized in Europe by the great Paracelsus already some centuries ago...
> Dear Alberto: very interesting that you are working with Ibogaine
> in Cancun,
> specially as we are going to live and work (with an Austrian development
> agency) at Puerto Cabezas (Northern Atlantic coast of Nicaragua) up from
> august, so maybe we could get the possibility to see you there one day!
> Concerning the elements of your treatment you mention in your
> mail: The "fluid
> regimen" seems to be handled in a "flexible" way traditionally,
> we suppose that
> most clients already start with the intake of the root bark in a
> certain state
> of hypo-hydration (because they might not drink during the
> preparation that
> last for hours and it's always hot...), and all the candidates we
> watched were
> vomiting a lot. Some healers told us that fluid could stop the
> visions, so they
> prevent the candidates from drinking at least for about (4-)6
> hours until the
> peak of the visions is over. (It’s possible that they give fluids in male
> initiation rituals as late as possible but regulary after the peak of the
> visions to women, but this experience is surely far from being
> representive.)
> As a life-saving measure, to give iv-fluids seems completely
> logical according
> to our own hypothesis that a rising level of sympathetic
> stimulation (as to
> beexpected in a shock-like state) might endanger the heart.
> To be in a dark room with headphones on is really the opposite of
> the continuous
> social interactions and the "collective setting" as Rachel calls
> it - and as
> well as personally, we would prefer to do it the African way,
> it's obvious that
> different cultures are resulting in different needs as to be able
> to be on it's
> own or to profit from the collective support.
> Concerning lateral movements, you came to the same sesult as the African
> healers. Maybe it's interesting that at later stages of the
> ritual, they tell
> the candidate to move and even dance rapidly with "full body
> diadochokinesis",
> thus provoking new visions.
> Finally: our aim is not to "scientifically underpin spirituality"
> - but, in a
> society as the one we're living in, it might be difficult to establish a
> "medical" treatment that often has been critizized in an ideological way
> without taking that scientific viewpoint. And among those who
> really got the
> chance to travel with Iboga, spirituality is "evidence based" (as
> Fernandez
> calls it in his classical book about the Bwiti) "whilst our
> senses are the way
> they are" (exactly, Nick!) as opposite to something you might
> believe in or
> not.
> Best regards to all / Saludos!
> Suester & Uwe
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