There is a deep-seated faith and traditionalism in the business of healing the inner suffering that is innately part of the human condition. The United States is a country riddled with addiction, mood disorders and other neuroses, with a vast margin of our population over prescribed and over diagnosed. A common solution to the paralyzing, tragic disorder of addiction is the twelve steps program of Alcoholics Anonymous, founded by Bill Wilson in 1935. The majority of recovery centers sprawled across the world implement his teachings, principles and traditions…holding meetings, passing out literature and giving accounts of turmoil and then, success. This model of treatment has become an industry in recent years, and there is a blind obedience in our culture and judicial system that accepts twelve step programs as the only way to salvation. I am not attempting to dispute this traditional model of recovery entirely; I am only asking that we reconsider that twelve step programs and other conventional models of care are the only way. My personal experience within the rooms that hold space for this humble, desperate and proud community have, at times, carried me through the maze of shadow I’ve meandered in and out of for most of my life. There are many ideas and concepts that don’t resonate with me, however I intensely relate to the people seated at these meetings and respect the collective experience greatly. As they often say in the program, take in your heart what you connect with, and then leave the rest. Many years ago I found myself frantic and desperate to stop my own vicious cycle. More recently, humiliated and broken within a different kind of room, I could not let go of another’s addiction. I’ve always found solace and warmth there when I needed it gravely. I have seen these tools work for strangers and friends who suffer from addictions to drugs, people, food, sex, technology and any other harmful use of outside sources that fool us into believing we can move through life numb and hidden. I am asking addicts, codependents, those suffering from mood disorders and others with spiritual maladies that have found something to be missing within the confining walls approved by western culture to look here. Consider another way towards divine enlightenment that is not so different from the customary rehabilitation many of us have experience with. Those who seek a spiritual awakening and contact with the god/dess of your understanding, as mentioned throughout the strides of Alcoholics Anonymous (NA and others included) know that you can find god* here.
It is fairly well known that the great founder of AA experimented with LSD in the late 1950s with Betty Eisner, a pioneer and advocate for the use of acid as a tool in psychotherapy. Bill W. expressed that taking LSD could be helpful for especially cynical alcoholics, who found the idea of a spiritual awakening tedious or impossible. He was quite clear that an experience with LSD did not provide an overnight cure for those who are spiritually starved, but a shining light at the end of a long tunnel; a possible ‘incentive’ towards recovery. This idea was quickly dismissed and is now generally refuted by program members when brought up for discussion. To reject the innate spiritual properties of miraculous psychedelic medicines simply for their mind-altering qualities is a disservice to those who suffer. For the skeptics and intransigent program members, I don’t believe that the numbered staircase is to be rejected in its entirety. Is it at all possible to merge these ideas for those who need more? Is there room for portions of the traditional recovery system, other established therapeutic outlooks and entheogenic healing? To do this we must consider the source of these ideas. The root. The void. Where are these renowned steps floating? I believe Iboga, and other sacred plant medicines can give us the answer.
In the nineteenth century, Europeans first described the initial written reports of Tabernanthe Iboga. French and Belgian explorers settling in the Western regions of Africa discovered the mystical root bark being used as a transcendent, ritualistic plant medicine by the Gabonese and those who practice the spiritual discipline, Bwiti. It is said that Pygmies ingested Iboga for thousands of years prior to sharing it with the Gabonese, founders of the Bwiti belief system. Followers partake in ancestor worship, a highly important aspect of an Iboga ceremony, using the bark to connect families and their community, and as an overall therapeutic tool. It is not used exclusively for one purpose, but as a facilitator in communication and a connection to the celestial void humans tend to ignore. Iboga is taken for initiation to Bwiti and with other vital ceremonies and feasts that mark life and death. Some ceremonies can be used to drive out wicked spirits or to heal the sick and suffering. The original word for Iboga, Eboga or Maboga is derived from, ‘boghaga’ a verb meaning ‘to care for’. Initiation to Bwiti is an intense three-day period where the initiate, called the banzi, swallows copious amounts of bitter shavings from the root of the Iboga plant. A large group of Gabonese are involved in these complex rites of passage but the ceremony is lead by the nganga, the principal healer of the community, who cares for the banzi and shares his inherent wisdom. Initiation always occurs in the night, as the moon lights the sky with her mysticism, and darkness invites the spirit world out; it is a sacred time of secrecy, magic and prophecies. A French doctor, Griffon de Bellay, discovered Bwiti and their Holy Wood in 1864 and returned to France with samples of the root. Shortly after, a botanist by the name of Ballion made his first botanical account at the Museum of Natural History naming the plant Tabernanthe Iboga in 1889. Several years later, two French scientists, Dybowski and Landrin, extracted the alkaloid known as Ibogaine from the plant in 1901. From 1930 through the 1960s, Ibogaine was sold in France as a stimulant under the name Lambarène. The most knowledgeable and valiant members of the psychedelic movement in the early 1960s were led to try Ibogaine in higher doses, knowing virtually nothing of it’s history or Bwiti. Despite the precious alkaloid being very difficult to acquire, there were groups interested in exploring the effects of the substance. At this time there was a limited supply of Ibogaine, as it is difficult to synthesize, unlike LSD and nearly impossible to procure, unlike peyote or mescaline easily transported from Mexico. Generally, taking the alkaloid is not considered a pleasant experience; with zero addictive qualities and a reduction of desire for the consumption of other drugs, dealers found no market in the sale of Ibogaine. The infamous Howards Lotsof discovered Ibogaine’s anti-addictive properties at the age of nineteen in 1962 simply by mistake. A fairly prominent chemist of the 1950s LSD scene and acquaintance of Lotsof offered him Ibogaine, and described an extreme thirty-six hour trip. Lotsof, wary and unsure, passed the alkaloid off to another friend. After taking the substance, astonished, this friend reported a major decrease in withdrawal symptoms and cravings of his drug of choice, heroin. After additional informal observation of the interruption of addictive tendencies, Lotsof sought out objective and clinical evidence to confirm these suspicions. In the late 1960s, as the FDA began investigating hallucinogens, Ibogaine was classified as a “substance likely to cause dependency or endanger human health” and the FDA listed it as a Schedule I substance. This caused any further interest and research in Ibogaine as a rival against addiction to come to a halt. It was not until the 1980s that Lotsof again attempted to promote the uses of Ibogaine working quietly and in the dark amidst the Reagan administration and the sweeping, repressive War on Drugs policy. After years of private research, in 1983 Howard Lotsof applied for a patent for the treatment of addiction to morphine, seeking out approval from NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse). It is no surprise that he was met with incredulous cynicism and it was clear that the institute was openly bothered by the hallucinogenic effects of Ibogaine. At this time, the school of thought was based on an addict’s culpability of his addiction, and they were unwilling to fund any studies for the treatment. Finally, Lotsof aroused interest in Dr. Doris Clouet, chief of the opiates branch of NIDA. Consequently, after pairing up with the plant medicine advocate, Dr. Clouet was let go from her position with NIDA, as well as losing her integrity within the system. Soon after, she began research verifying that Ibogaine eradicates the uncomfortable symptom of muscular rigidity, which occurs during opiate withdrawal, also a symptom of Parkinson’s disease. He was finally able to acquire patent requests in 1985, and in 1986 Howard Lotsof began his private company, NDA International, with a community of associates, lawyers and investors. Thereafter, he filed for patents for the use of Ibogaine to treat a multitude of dependency conditions including addictions to opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine, nicotine and alcohol. In 1987 he organized a conference in Paris that included all of the leading Ibogaine advocates, scholars, and scientists. Lotsof then traveled to Gabon, Africa to source the Iboga root bark with permission from the president of the region. Ibogaine treatment has never been legal in the United States, however in 1991 through 1993, patients enlisted by NDA International were treated in the Netherlands. Finally, NIDA followed suit and established a clinical trial for the treatment of cocaine use from late 1993 through 1994. The next year, NIDA decided to no longer fund the protocol they had developed after receiving the harsh opinions of the pharmaceutical industry. A medication that could potentially cure addiction in one or two sessions was clearly not seen as profitable. This finally solidified that the use of Ibogaine in the U.S. was not likely to take shape. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) was founded in 1986. MAPS, among many others, has paved the way in using observational case studies in order to track the efficacy of Ibogaine-assisted detox in opiate dependent people. Other research is currently being dedicated to the use of Ibogaine as well as a close relative, Voacangine, for treatment of Parkinson’s disease and a variety of other disorders. MAPS and a few other organizations conduct a wide range of clinical studies on the healing effects of entheogens such as the use of MDMA on PTSD patients, LSD assisted psychotherapy, medical marijuana research and many more alternative medicines.
In a supervised and sometimes clinical environment, Ibogaine’s categorical schedule I placement is simply incorrect. There is no potential for abuse or addiction to Ibogaine, as it has become known to heal the addicted. There is little point to frivolous recreational play; the journey with the Iboga spirit is intense, and often dark and ominous. However, it is important to consider medical supervision when taking Ibogaine, depending on your circumstances. Prior to treatment it is highly recommended and often required that a patient have a full physical and EKG. There have been deaths from Ibogaine due to the slowing of the heart (bradycardia), combinations with additional substances proving to be lethal, and other conditions. Under no circumstances should someone take Ibogaine alone. The estimated mortality rate of Ibogaine is around 1 in 300, coming in close to the odds of 1 in 289 that come with the self-administered use of legal prescription opioids. With these risks considered, Ibogaine is now being researched and understood to have a wide variety of powerful medical uses that are undoubtedly worth exploring. Straying from stigma, it’s appropriate to claim that addiction and some mood disorders could be categorized as malevolent and often separate life forces within, even a menacing spirit as understood by Bwiti. It has become clear that Iboga is able to chemically interrupt these demons within the physical body, as well as spiritually, within the soul. Physically, after an addict ingests the alkaloid Ibogaine they are swung back to a novice state in their addiction. Using the same amount they had just a few days prior is always proven to be too much. Ibogaine resets neurotransmitter receptors, and works on various sites demonstrating both physiological and psychological restoration. Furthermore, Ibogaine increases levels of the protein GDNF (Glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor) helping the progress of new neurons and generating a period of neuroplasticity. As this phenomenon occurs, it becomes easier for the keepers of our magical brains to learn new habits. This is essential to ending destructive behaviors, and forms new emotional and physical processes by allowing neurons in the brain to counteract disease and injury. Neuroplasticity leads to lasting change, and gives an addict (person) the opportunity to adjust their responses to new circumstances or deviations in their environment. After Ibogaine is ingested, Noribogaine, (or 10-hydroxyibogaine) a metabolite produced by the alkaloid, is stored in the liver and can block the brain’s opiate receptors. Released slowly over time, its effects can continue for up to three months. Inside the structures of twelve step programs, it is generally immediately suggested that the addict attend ninety meetings in ninety days. This is based on the theory of habit formation, the inclination to find a connection with those who share similar burdens by repeated attendance, and likely the idea that if you are able to sit and listen to the terrors and revival of addiction for one hour each day, the concept of sobriety may seep into the other twenty three. I found this parallel and nearly exact time frame of the production of Noribogaine and that of the counsel of program members to be profound. This initial period is crucial within the life of an addict, among other types who are attempting to form positive, life-changing habits. There are some personalities who simply cannot manage to take the program based suggestion, or that of their psychologist or other therapeutic provider. Ibogaine tends to this problem magnificently.
For individuals with little experience with hallucinogens as a whole, the apparitions that come with a flood dose of Ibogaine can be quite daunting. The visions produced are similar to a lucid dream state, but added are an array of physical qualities including nausea and an extreme lack of center and balance. During a session, the receiver is mostly bedridden unless assisted. In order to take in the restorative properties of the medicine, in a sense, mindfulness and active participation is forced by the inability to walk without aid. Despite these drastic side effects, while taking Ibogaine a person is always aware of who and where they are, and the fact that they have taken a psychoactive substance. The dualistic phases of open and closed eye hallucinations occur at a heightened level for anywhere from six to twelve hours, adding or subtracting time, depending on dosage and metabolism. What is known as the life review aspect occurs, and the oneirogenic effect can facilitate different perspectives to challenging experiences that are often a source or cofactor of the addictive nature and/or mood disorder. It is possible to relive events through objective, safe lenses and gain understanding to what may have caused deeply engrained habits, reactions and traits that have become embedded within. This sensation can also help those who suffer from a multitude of syndromes, especially PTSD, as Ibogaine visions carry one through many occasions of their life, often rearranging outlook and understanding. Another thoughtful similarity to the twelve-step model of treatment to addiction is the life review portion as it relates to steps four through ten of AA/NA* and other step based programs. It is suggested that one acquire a sponsor within the rooms fairly quickly once a decision to attempt abstinence through working the steps has been made. A sponsor is someone who has solid, long-term sobriety and is willing to walk an addict through each phase, giving several written and reading assignments along the way. Stated in step four, a requirement to make a “searching and fearless moral inventory” is made, which often includes a timeline of a person’s life. With a sponsor, it is asked that they share and analyze their relationships with drugs, others and themselves. The subsequent steps include admittance to god, and the request for the removal of “defects of character”. The dreaded and notorious ninth step speaks of making amends to those who have been harmed by the behavior of the addict. Ibogaine provides nearly all of this to the psychonaut over the course of one night by enveloping them with the presence of spirit as they make the journey down the path of their life with clarity, understanding and depth. Consequently, these abstract visions offer the healed an opportunity for a living amends to those they may have burdened. Not everyone takes this chance, just as an addict working through the AA/NA model may not find himself at step nine without having stumbled along the way. It must be made clear that partaking in an Ibogaine session is not an immediate fix for those who are addicted or suffer. Just as a residential rehabilitation center sets up a sober addict for success after thirty or more days of intense treatment and isolation from family, drugs and the outside world, we must provide aftercare for those who choose entheogenic healing. Ongoing therapeutic aid, life coaching, abstinence based programs, supervised micro-dosing of psychedelic substances, or any other form of aftercare is highly recommended after using Ibogaine. Although the alkaloid can often help a desperate addict stay away from their drug of choice in only one session, it is imperative that they are supported and seek additional assistance to make successful changes. When talking about addiction we must stop blame and isolation and, dare I say, cease the disease model and simply ask, why the pain? Ibogaine will take you to the heart of the matter.
My personal relationship with Ibogaine is one that I hold dear and close; there are simply not enough words to describe the incredible healing that came out of my session with this holy plant. I did not undergo the extraordinary Bwiti initiation in Gabon, but found myself at a medical clinic in Mexico called Crossroads, attending what is known as a psycho spiritual weekend. The Ibogaine session, integration and other rituals took four days but felt as if I had traveled through space and time and back to Earth many years later. I was one of a group of six seekers, all with a different variety of perplexities surrounding their human experience. Our small group consisted of three women and three men, all having traveled many miles from home into this unknown, radical experience. Nearly thirty, I found myself between two females of vastly different generations. Mary**, a sixty-year-old hippie with a fractured shin from New Mexico had come to the clinic despite her injury. She had participated in over ten Mother Ayahuasca ceremonies and came looking for the paternal spirit of Iboga, interested in a new perspective. The other was Georgia, a beautiful wide-eyed southern bell from Tennessee, only nineteen, sent by her stepfather who had recently been through his own deep and transformative journey with Ibogaine. She arrived watery and open, and had spent the last month micro dosing LSD to treat her anxiety. Two of the men were from nearby Los Angeles. Freddy, with his wide grin and boastful masculine personality was quite skeptical, but had been recommended to the clinic by his niece, a clean and sober heroin addict as a response to Ibogaine. Felix was from upstate New York but resided in LA, a musician in his early thirties with long hair, spectacles and a mellow disposition. The last to arrive, sick and spun, was Adam – a heroin and speed addict with a sixteen-month-old daughter. He had flown across the country from Florida and despite his active addict status, had managed to maneuver his way into the psycho spiritual weekend (the program offered for non-addicts). He was welcomed with open arms and all had hope in his success. Our resident shamaness asked that we fast for at least six hours; the stomach must be fairly empty for the medicine to work properly. Ibogaine is a purgative and may cause nausea and the general feeling of motion sickness, although everyone experiences this differently. Our day was spent waiting and sharing about our lives, filled with complicated stories about what had brought us to Mexico. Our gracious and intuitive guide answered all of our questions telling stories and talking openly with us until the time came. We each saw a doctor, took the required tests that allowed us to undergo treatment and met with the attentive and tender nurses who would be there throughout the night, minding our heart monitors and basic needs. After hours of anticipation and nerves, we were given a bag of IV fluid in bed and taken through a quiet, soothing guided meditation. Our dosage level was determined by weight, and we were given a smaller test quantity around 9pm. A half hour later, the flood dose was administered and the staff turned on a variation of traditional Bwiti sounds, thumping tribal music and soft, winding melodies. Soon after, I heard the buzzing in my ears we were told to expect; it was the distinct fusion of swarms of bees and a low, primordial hum. With eyes open, I saw recognizable tracers on the ceiling of the clinic, and bugs swooping overhead in unison, swirling around the room. I felt no fear, only a quiet sense of observation. A penetrating shiver fell over me and I shook with cold, my teeth smacking against each other in uncontrollable pulses. Our angelic night nurse quietly came to my side and without any words, softly tucked another blanket over my vibrating legs and smiled knowingly. My body finally went slack – I had opened my heart. With eyes closed, the visions began to unfold brilliantly, in bright colors and figures. Holy totems and symbols began to evolve and grow behind my eyelids. My connection and deep feelings of reverence and respect for these strangely familiar deities was overwhelming and powerful. As the medicine began to work on me, I had an intense sense that my ancestors, that of the Earth, my blood and the all-encompassing grandfather spirit, were watching over me intently. This feeling was deeply connected to the buzz in my ears; the universal sound of Iboga kept me safe. I began to feel hot and restless, the sheets tangled around my legs. I saw my family of origin, as I knew them young and today. Their depiction was clear but dreamlike, with many qualities and periods of time merging into one image. There was a benevolent and particular focus on my mother that quickly turned into a menacing apparition. The greater intelligence of this plant was teaching me. I darted my eyes open with a quick tinge of panic, observing the room my body was still in and then noticing my protectors peering over the square skylight above me. They crowded around the perimeter in three gazing down, resembling ancient rock carvings with solemn faces engraved with wisdom. I stared at them in amazement; a smile full of wonder crept over my face. Hello. I closed my eyes again, and allowed my lessons to come. Soon, memories and moments were flashing by as if traveling through a dark and infinite void speckled with sacred geometry. I saw my eyelashes flutter open for the first time as a newborn, staring into my mother’s eyes. Events from my childhood and beyond appeared as a long row of doors. I realized that I was walking with an unknown entity upon a curving, vibrant colored road, floating in a hollow galaxy. As we meandered along, I flung each door open, and saw what resembled a video projection of my life playing on an infinite loop, as if that time had never passed. I came upon doors with hesitation, skipping some and then returning, allowing my mind to slowly accept the reality of particular happenings. I had a cheery conversation with The Other, asking questions and receiving often comical and natural responses. I was the universe, and the universe was I. We talked as if we had always spoken, with a sense of ease. We listened to one another with focus.
Prior to the session, our group was asked to write a list of specific questions we had for the medicine, as well as our intentions, rather than expectations, upon integration. I asked many questions, some with existential flair and others more specific. What is the meaning of life? Why did I choose an addict? How can I be a better mother? What is the meaning behind my tears? Show me the key to happiness. I assumed there would be penetrating and groundbreaking revelations in answer. I had lines of questions, more than a dozen. Iboga has an exquisite sense of humor I was shown immediately and even now the answer I was given, nearly the same for all questions, can bring me to tears. At the start of my journey, quickly and with force, a being within the medicine mocked and smiled at me in the dark. “Is that all you’ve got?” it seemed to say. I felt a sense of light behind the sneer, and LOVE was my answer. My bottomless question regarding the meaning of life and key to happiness was love, of course. My shame behind choosing those who suffer, as we all do in vast and seemingly insurmountable ways, was not complex. I chose for love. My tears that often leave me wrecked and embarrassed, I was told that each drop spilling down my face is love… an outpouring of love. The only way to parent my child is with love. I say it now with sincerity and respect for the wisdom I was given, although Lennon had been singing the tune for years. I saw the people in my life for who they are, they were seamless and perfect and with each detailed flaw they possessed, I saw only light. It was my own darkness, my own disparagement and criticism that needed to wane. The gifts I was given were striking and I hold them with deep respect; they are my treasures. I had moments of clarity, devastating splendor and even flashes of grotesque images that served as desperate lessons I hadn’t realized I was in need of. I felt the energy of my peers in the room and extreme moments of love and kindness towards all. I had some control over what occurred, although if I strayed away I was always brought back, sometimes with ease and at other times abrasively. There were transcendent teachings to be learned and regardless of where I tried to hide, I would be taught. If I needed transparency regarding an exact topic, I could easily ask to be shown clarity. The trip was surreal and fuzzy, with repetitive sounds echoing through my ears, long and winding, stretched to their limit. Iboga takes ahold of you in overwhelming and cavernous waves, spiraling down into the depths of one’s self, making it arduous and nearly impossible to transcribe to another. I felt moments of force that seemed to be more than I could take; I recall pondering in fright whether I would be administered another dose. A slight panic ensued at the thought, but had I been offered an additional capsule I would have bravely taken it. I felt waves of nausea at times, and only vomited once, dry heaving several times throughout. I had no fear surrounding this, purging was part of the process, although the taste was vile and unpleasant. Only once did I feel an despairing wish for my voyage to end, but soon I was brought into the light. “As above, so below.”* Without the dim and murky graves I was propelled towards without warning, I could not experience the devastating trance of bright truth, everything was connected and one. I had an unfortunate awareness of the clock, the time blazed upon a pillar to the right of my bed. Towards those unforgiving intervals of morning…three, four and five am, I began to feel fatigued and drained, trying to restrain myself from blinking and checking the hour. The force lessened but the visions and undercurrent of themes that had been offered to me were strong and unrelenting. I stirred and twisted mechanically, slipping into visions slightly shattered with fatigue. Almost twelve hours later exactly at nine am, I sat up with a dazed grin. I felt shaky and clear, amazed and grateful. Our shamaness floated around the room in whispers and took her time with each of us. She approached me with a gentle smile and kind words, asking me how I felt and if I was at all hungry. I could barely express how amusing and generous I found the Iboga spirit to be; I felt like I was shining. My stomach was quite literally empty so she prepared a light dish of fresh fruit; it was as if I had never eaten a mango or strawberry before, they tasted superb and otherworldly. Most of us rose slowly and at different times while two stayed resting in bed for the day and well into the evening. It was nearly impossible to sleep, despite having not having slept through the night. I was able to manage two short naps, each bombarded with heavy and lucid dreams, quite similar to the night’s previous visions but in a less conscious state. We had been assured that this was all to be expected, and several of us found ourselves up and about. We made our way to the roof of the clinic, speckled with plant life and serenity, rays of light gleaming and bright with the morning. We squelched in the god-nectar water of the soaking spa available to us. Together we talked of our journeys, relating and comparing, assimilating back into the reality the sun brought. I cannot recall a day in my life where I felt entirely content to sprawl about without a looming sense of guilt; I was given permission to simply be there with my rebirthed self. There was no frantic buzz of technology and zero contact with anyone other than those around me in this shared experience, feeling private yet connected all at once. It was a day of subterranean introspection, writing and processing, resting and a sense of revival from all that I had felt throughout the waves of my life. The people I met there - explorers, providers, guides and healers, hold an infinite space in my heart for we are all bonded through the brilliant spirit of Iboga.
Upon my return to the place I call home, I felt a slight sense of disconnect from the reality the collective human experience has agreed upon. Days after treatment, I was able to live, bond, parent and work. Underneath the robotic motions that society demanded, I felt a bottomless sense of understanding and empathy that seemed to be lacking at every turn. I wanted to fill every empty abyss, and every person I could find with tenderness and light. Very little bothered me, and virtually nothing worried me, the reflective and thoughtful sense of compassion and consideration to those around me was overwhelming. I had the intuitive understanding that we are all one; I had been given exactly what was missing. I would catch a stranger’s gaze and feel all of their fear and grief, throwing every ounce of energy I could into sending them kindness and love. My partner in this round of life had led the path to finding my own relationship to this sacred plant medicine; he ventured off into the unknown just two months prior looking for relief himself. I felt safe and quiet with him in the early days after my return from Mexico, as we compared and contrasted one another’s voyage. Allowing our differences to sit quietly, while the similarities filled us with hope and laughter. We now speak in gratitude and wonder in the sacred language of Iboga, knowing with grace that very few beings have the privilege of connecting with this ethereal, stunning root.
After having my own cathartic session with Ibogaine, I have become increasingly zealous and protective of all plant medicines and spiritual substances. These archaic rituals have found their way into contemporary societies and located a place amongst modern technology for a divine purpose, and deserve the utmost respect and regard. More research must be funded and more education must be provided on god releasing plants and molecules. For those among us who have failed to find relief within the structure of western culture’s repressive and often-hypocritical practices, we must be given the opportunity to look further into counterculture and question the rules without risk. There is far more to be discovered within than many are willing to recognize. Our status amongst the earth and cosmos is one that can only be found through inner speculation and an analysis of identity and self. In recent years alternative ideas as a means of battling personal suffering have become more accessible to the masses. Yoga and meditation practices are taught all over the United States, readily available to those who connect to the principles of mindfulness and a physical spiritual discipline. Cleansing, detoxing and fasting with a variety of green plant juices has become a bit of a trend in coastal cities amongst America. The art of abstaining has been considered a divine custom for thousands of years. Breath work, hypnosis including past life regressions, acupuncture and other traditional Chinese medicines, mantra meditation, kundalini yoga, float tanks and a vast range of methods that teach natural wellness have become available to communities who seek another approach. Why are plant medicines, tryptamines and other entheogens not held in the same regard? We must halt the imprisonment of hallucinogens and expansive mind drugs. It is necessary that we find a conceivable way to insert this form of treatment into our society for those who are inclined, and in an appropriate mental and physical state for this kind of healing. We are long overdue for a paradigm shift in health and wellness in the United States, and more studies must be made possible in order to explore the sacred roots we have brushed off as the devilish friends of the underbelly of society, or of supposed uncivilized creatures in undeveloped countries. What these drugs offer is a kind of telescope that directs our vision inward. As the biochemist and psychopharmacologist Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin (named the “godfather of psychedelics”) once wrote, “These tools—the psychedelic drugs and plants—offer a much faster method than most of the classical alternatives for the accomplishments of the goals we seek: conscious awareness of our interior workings and greater clarity as to our responsibilities towards our own species and all others with whom we share this planet.”
Despite my thirst and conviction for the proposal of plant medicine and psychedelic advocacy, it is clear that personal growth is not solely achieved amongst the inner world. Taking an SSRI as a means to combat depression without additional therapeutic treatment is generally not recommended. Simply abstaining from drugs and alcohol to fight addiction without treating trauma and spiritual starvation is hardly enough. We cannot ingest plant medicine and expect all of the work within our human realm to be over. Within the parameters of twelve step programs, a conscious spiritual experience and contact with god* is demanded upon completion of the exercises laid out for the addict. It is apparent that those who bear the burdens of addiction and others with mood disorders can find a sense of faith, renewal and conviction through their despair after a contact with greater godly influences. How we manage to attain that connection is truly up to us. There is room for a multi faceted treatment that may include the twelve steps, other therapeutic tools and radical subjective psychedelic perception. The reawakening of our mystical instincts can promote a change in learned delusions and apparent concrete points of view regarding life as a whole and our actions within it. We demand unfathomable answers for the boundless questions within the human mind, but some require more than faith to find them. The burning question remains—why the pain? There is not one, almighty correct way to move forward to a fulfilling and content lifecycle. Allowing these sacred tools to be used in a responsible and prolific way can potentially catapult addicts and others into a new kind of meaningful recovery through direct connection to the cosmic divine.
The sensation of floating, being stripped of the ego and enveloped in a profound sense of light and grateful satisfaction is of course, not solely attainable through plant medicine. Many spiritual teachers talk of this exact, nearly indefinable process being met through discipline and meditation. But for those of us who are drawn to what has been buried and defamed for decades, for those of us that need to see it to believe it, there is another way. If we can shoot ourselves out into the stars and in turn, go within…why not?
*God – “I use a lot of different words for god – infinite intelligence, primordial, perfection or universal creativity. All of these, to me, are god. And ‘god’ is a word, I think, that some people feel uncomfortable with. So they can use another word, you know? It’s the great mystery.” – Alex Grey
*The Twelve Steps
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
*As above so below – “All systems of magic are claimed to function by this formula. "'That which is above is the same as that which is below'...Macrocosmos is the same as microcosmos. The universe is the same as God, God is the same as man, man is the same as the cell, the cell is the same as the atom, the atom is the same as...and so on, ad infinitum.” - themystica.com
**Names have been changed
Crossroads Ibogaine testimonial - Paije
Cures Not Wars - an Ibogaine activist webpage run by Dana Beal
Tripping on Iboga - Daniel Pinchbeck
The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies
Mindvox - An Ibogaine community
My Eboga - A Bwiti Based Pharmacology & Plant Master Teacher
YouTube Ibogaine Documentary
Vice episode featuring Ibogaine
Heart Medicine: A True Love Story
Fadiman, James. The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide. Vermont: Park Street Press, 2011.
Pinchbeck, Daniel. Breaking Open the Head. New York: Broadway Books, 2002.
Mallendi, Paicheler & Ravalec. Iboga: The Visionary Root of African Shamanism. Vermont: Park Street Press, 2007.
Oroc, James. Tryptamine Palace. Vermont: Park Street Press, 2009.
Richards, William. Sacred Knowledge. New York: Colombia University Press, 2016.
Alper, Beal & Kaplan. Contemporary History of Ibogaine in the United States and Europe. 2001 Elsevier Science. April 2016. <http://www.ibogaine.desk.nl/history.html#treat>
Drug Addicts Aren’t the Only Ones Recovering: Iboga also found to cure anxiety, depression and PTSD. 2016 Psychedelic Times. April 2016. <http://psychedelictimes.com/learn-more-iboga/>
Iboga. 2016 Psychedelic Times. April 2016. < http://psychedelictimes.com/iboga/>
Ibogaine-Assisted Detoxification. 2012-2016 Global Ibogaine Therapy Alliance. April 2016. <https://www.ibogainealliance.org/ibogaine/therapy/detox/#fn5-1911>
Ibogaine Therapy. 2016 Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. April 2016. <http://www.maps.org/research/ibogaine-therapy>
The Ibogaine Dossier. 1999 The Ibogaine Dossier. April 2016. <http://www.ibogaine.desk.nl/index.html>
Jagger, Chris. The 25 Most Common Causes of Death. June 2011 Med Help International. April 2016. <http://www.medhelp.org/general-health/articles/The-25-Most-Common-Causes-of-Death>
Tabernanthe Iboga. 1995-2016 Erowid. April 2016. <https://www.erowid.org/plants/iboga/iboga.shtml>
Beachum, Brandon. Episode 77: Interview with Martin Polanco, Deanne Adamson & Dan Engle on the miraculous plant medicine Ibogaine. December 31, 2000. The Positive Head Podcast.
Iboga Expierience and the Global Ibogaine Conference: An Interview with Jonathan Dickinson. February 21, 2016. Psychedelic Times Podcast.
Trussell, Duncan. Aubrey Marcus Guest. October 26, 2015. The Duncan Trussell Family Hour.