Iboga: A Psychoactive Shrub that Interrupts Addiction
by Paige Guion
For many addicts, the cycle of recovery and relapse can seem unbreakable, and conventional treatment methods are often little long-term help. Ibogaine, an alkaloid extracted from the African iboga bush, offers hope: supressing withdrawal symptoms and washing away cravings sometimes with a single treatment.
For the past seven years I had watched my now 24-year-old daughter descend into the misery of heroin addiction. Vigilantly, I waited for that mythical bottom where Abby would touch stone, submerged in pain, and with both feet push off, ascending toward life. It did not come: not with homelessness, not with a brief stint in jail, not with an abscess colonized by a bacterial infection so maniacal it seemed to incorporate the very antibiotics meant to kill it into its membrane and continue to bloom; an infection so tenacious, the loss of her arm was threatened just to stifle its spread.
A year ago I learned about ibogaine, a vision-inducing alkaloid extracted from the root bark of an African shrub, Tabernanthe iboga. This medicine is said to stymie withdrawal symptoms and wash away cravings with a single treatment. Iboga is used ritually in coming-of- age ceremonies among the Bwiti people of Gabon, similar to indigenous Americans’ use of peyote.