Sacred African Plant found Effective in Treating Addiction
Source: The City Sun - Brooklyn, New York Published: October 4 - October 10, 1995
By: Brother Shine, Rommell Washington, Raquel S. Rogers
At least three thousand years ago in the forests of Africa, humankind discovered the Eboga plant and declared it sacred. The plant contained an important medication now called Ibogaine.
Today in Europe and the United States Ibogaine is being tested for its ability to interrupt addiction not only to heroin or cocaine, but also to Methadone, alcohol and nicotine. Yet, in Central West Africa (Gabon, Cameron, Zaire and the Congo), Eboga has become widely used in African religions and as a medicine. The Republic of Gabon is the center of the Bwiti religion and the Mbiri medical societies each of whom use Ibogaine containing plants for healing purposes, including psychotherapy.
Eboga is used as an sacrament in the only growing Black African religion: Bwiti. It takes various forms from the orthodox to the reformed, but its adherents have been many. The first President of Gabon, the Honorable Leon Mba was a member of the Bwiti religion and defended it in French colonial courts. Gabon contained over forty distinct ethnic groups, isolated from each other by the ever present tropical rain forest. Yet, it was the Bwiti religion became the unifying force of the Gabonese independence movement. Dr. Bureau, a noted French researcher stated, "Gabon is to Africa what Tibet is to Asia, the spiritual center of religious initiation".
The earliest reports of Eboga reached Europe in the second half of the eighteenth century. The plant was officially named Tabernanthe iboga in 1889 and Ibogaine was first purified from the plant in 1901. In the early 1900s the French recommended it to treat certain heart and nervous conditions. But, medical interest in Ibogaine seemed to vanish and then in the 1930s it was recommended for use a stimulant and renamed Lamberene after location of Dr. Schweitzer's hospital in Gabon, Africa.
Research on the basic chemical identification and specific actions of the drug continued into the 1970s--in great part due to the work of the European chemist Robert Goutarel and pharmacologists, Raymand-Hamet, Jean Delourme-Houde and Daniel Vincent.
Ibogaine research then moved to the United States where its complete chemical identification was the result of research by W. I. Taylor of the Ciba pharmaceutical company. The research into understanding how Ibogaine worked and exactly what it did was performed by researchers under the direction of the Ciba scientist Jurg Schneider who went on to become the President of Dupont's Biochemicals division. But, science was still too primitive to understand Ibogaine.
At the same time Ciba scientists were performing animal research, Dr. Harris Isbell, the Director of the Federal Narcotics Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky gave low doses of Ibogaine to eight former black morphine addicts. He requested additional supplies of Ibogaine and then all information on his work vanished into either Department of Defense or CIA files, never to be seen again.
In the 1960s two areas of research occurred at the same time. The first was the work of the Psychiatrist Claudio Naranjo and the psychologist Leo Zeff. Between them, over seven hundred patients were treated for various psychiatric conditions with Ibogaine. These doctors determined that Ibogaine was the most valuable drug they had ever used in the treatment of psychiatric disease.
The 1960s was a time of drug experimentation. Research on Ibogaine was also being conducted by nineteen year old, Howard Lotsof. Lotsof tested drugs on himself and took notes on others who were also using drugs. Lotsof's drug experimentation resulted in his becoming a heroin and cocaine addict, but then as if by a miracle, continuing his research, this middle class Jewish junkie obtained a dose of Africa's sacred drug and was cured of his addiction.
Lotsof reported he felt no withdrawal from the heroin and thirty-seven hours later when he left his house he realized that he was no longer a narcotic addict. His entire relationship with heroin and cocaine had changed. While prior to his treatment with Ibogaine, he viewed heroin and cocaine as drugs that gave him comfort, he now viewed them as drugs that represented death. Lotsof made the choice to live.
It took him some months to get additional supplies of Ibogaine, but he was able to eventually give Ibogaine to nineteen other persons, six of whom were also narcotic addicts. What made the results of Lotsof's work so interesting is that neither he nor the other narcotic addicts who took Ibogaine had any desire to stop their drug use. Lotsof and the other addicts experienced no narcotic withdrawal, an aspect of narcotic treatment feared by addicts. Five out of the seven addicts who received the Ibogaine stopped heroin and/or cocaine use for a periods of about six months from one treatment with Ibogaine and Lotsof who had taken a series of treatments stayed clean for three and a half years.
He later became readdicted and went onto one of the Methadone programs becoming available in the 1970s. At that time persons getting Methadone believed that once you were on, there was no getting off, but Lotsof had experienced Ibogaine and knew that addiction was reversible. He successfully detoxed from Methadone and went on to a life free of addiction. He set an example for other Methadone patients who also began to leave Methadone behind them.
Interrupting Drug Addiction
In the early 1980s Lotsof decided Ibogaine's effect of interrupting drug addiction was too important not to be made available and began the journey by which he dedicated his life to bringing relief to addicts. After spending a year in the science libraries learning everything a person who was not a scientist or doctor could learn about Ibogaine and the addictive drugs, he contacted the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and was told that his story was interesting, but they wanted to see animal experimentation that would confirm what he said was true about Ibogaine.
But, there was no Ibogaine available and he realized that regulations for research were less strict in Europe. It took him three years to obtain Ibogaine and that happened only after he met with the Honorable Omar Bongo, the President of Gabon who made some of the roots of the Eboga plant available as a gift from Gabon to the people of the world, to fight addiction. Gabon had banned the export of the sacred plant, but lifted this ban for Lotsof's work.
A small sample was purified by French scientists at the Center for Scientific Research in France and reached the laboratories of Dr. M.R. Dzoljic in Holland. Dzoljic, a specialist in addiction research tested Ibogaine on morphine addicted rats and found that it reduced narcotic withdrawal.
With this early information, Dr. Stanley Glick at Albany Medical College began what can only be described as a race to discover the properties of Ibogaine. He published paper after paper, showing Ibogaine would reduce the intake of morphine and reverse certain effects caused by morphine and cocaine in the brain.
He was soon joined, though independently, in Ibogaine research by Dr. Patricia Broderick of City University of New York Medical School and Dr. Henry Sershen at the Nathan Kline Institute. Experiment after experiment showed ibogaine worked.
In 1991, Dr. Charles Grudzinskas of Lederle Laboratories, a pharmaceutical company, was asked to become the director of the Medications Development Division at NIDA. Grudzinskas opened the door for Ibogaine that resulted in millions of dollars being spent on basic Ibogaine research. He was soon moved upstairs as the NIDA old boys' networks didn't want any part of the "not invented here" Ibogaine. It soon became evident that while independent researchers were showing that Ibogaine worked, NIDA contracts were being given to researchers who said it was not effective. The Ibogaine wars were beginning.
Lotsof's close friend Bob Sisko was killing himself with cocaine. Finally, after a mutual friend begged Lotsof to break his rule of not treating human subjects, Lotsof arranged for Sisko's treatment. It worked. Sisko who had been using 1/4 to 1/2 of an ounce of coke a day stopped using cocaine after a single treatment with Ibogaine. He had been drinking more than a quart of hard liquor a day and the Ibogaine reduced his drinking to some wine and beer. Since that time, in fact, he has stopped drinking and to Sisko's surprise, his two pack a day cigarette habit was broken. Not even Sisko's friends believed it. Nothing like this had ever been seen before.
While Lotsof had experienced Ibogaine twenty-five years earlier, Sisko now understood the power of the sacred African plant. Lotsof continued slow methodical development as best he could, but now it was Sisko who went to Europe with a small amount of Ibogaine he had obtained from African contacts and treated a young couple who were addicted to heroin in Holland. The treatment was successful. Word quickly spread and soon lead to the treatment of one of the leaders of the addicts' Union in Holland . His name was Nico Adriaans and he was also a social worker at the European Addiction Research Institute at Erasmus University in Rotterdam. Adriaans was a heavy, long term heroin addict and his Ibogaine treatment freed him from addiction. Sisko left Adriaans with the remains of his Ibogaine supply and Adriaans treated his girlfriend successfully. Treatment led to treatment, but all the people involved realized that medical doctors were needed to provide the same rights of proper medical treatment to addicts that every other citizen was given.
After a year of discussion with Lotsof, Professor Dr. J. Bastiaans, a famous Dutch psychiatrist decided to treat his first Ibogaine patient. History was marching on.
Minimizing AIDS Transmission/Reducing Addictions
In 1992, AIDS activists Dana Beal recognized the importance of Ibogaine as a means of minimizing the transmission of AIDS by reducing addiction. Beal contacted Rommell Washington, a social worker specializing in addiction treatment at Harlem Hospital to inform him about Ibogaine. Washington felt that the African American community would have to play a political role in pushing the National Institute on Drug Abuse to perform the necessary work to make Ibogaine available. He called together the first Ibogaine meeting at Harlem Hospital in New York in 1992.
It was well attended by doctors and social workers,as well as political activist Dhoruba bin Wahad. The meeting resulted in permission for representatives of Harlem Hospital's Department of Psychiatry and Mr. Washington to attend what would be the first Ibogaine treatment training symposium in Europe. This occurred in January of 1993 under the authority of Professor Dr. J. Bastiaans. The training symposium was attended, among others, by Drs. Deborah C. Mash and J. Sanchez-Ramos of the University of Miami School of Medicine who were so impressed by Ibogaine's effects that they obtained University permission to file an Investigational New Drug Application (IND) with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin human studies with Ibogaine in the United States.
Resistance to the possibility of an effective treatment to drug addiction-- whether for financial gain, ego gratification or racist policy-- was significant and a special meeting of the FDA Advisory Council was called in August of 1993 to determine if the University of Miami researchers would be allowed to proceed to test Ibogaine on human patients. Media attention and the experiments of Drs. Glick, Broderick, Dzoljic, Mash and Sanchez-Ramos won this battle and the FDA approved the first human experimentation with Ibogaine.
The costs of the research were enormous and beyond what either Miami or Lotsof could provide. In the meantime the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) was not giving any grants to researchers whose work would demonstrate that Ibogaine was effective and has refused to make financial grants or contracts available to the Miami research group for the hospital studies.
In March of 1995, Brother Shine called the second and largest Ibogaine meeting to take place in Harlem. Eddie Ellis, Dhoruba bin Wahad, Warren Harry, Rommell Washington and Brother Shine came together as the Black Coalition on Drugs (B.C.O.D) as the Black Community was not familiar with Ibogaine or any of the alternative treatments. The B.C.O.D. demanded that there be Black drug treatment professionals involved in community-based Ibogaine trials.
Brother Shine, representing the African Descendants' Awareness Movement (A.D.A.M.) stated, "I've found that most people who work in the therapeutic community tend to back away when they hear the word, 'Ibogaine'. This is because most people have been misinformed about Ibogaine, if they knew anything about it at all. Many people think we are saying that Ibogaine is a magic bullet, a cure-all; when what we believe, is that when a person is treated with Ibogaine they really need a good Therapeutic Counselor. Anyone can stop using, but if they don't change their lifestyle, if they are not re-socialized, it will be just a matter of time before they resume usage.
By the time the March 1995, meeting took place, Rommell Washington, the Clinical Social Worker had not only attended the Ibogaine training session in Holland but, had joined Lotsof in the Republic of Panama where the Ministry of Health had approved hospital administered treatments with Ibogaine. This research was conducted in collaboration with the University of Miami and placed Panama at least two years ahead of the United States in Ibogaine research.
Outside of Africa, Rommell Washington had more information on Ibogaine as it is used to treat addiction then any other Black man in the Diaspora.
A.D.A.M. (African Descendants' Awareness Movement) and B.C.O.D. (Black Coalition On Drugs) are planning to come together again to bring the community updates on Ibogaine and other alternative health treatment concepts.