Eric Taub heard about ibogaine in 1989 from a friend who was considering using it to treat his alcoholism. What his friend said about ibogaine was so intriguing that Taub headed straight to the University of Florida Library to do research. He learned about and immediately contacted Howard Lotsof, the father of the ibogaine movement.
Lotsof took ibogaine in the sixties when he was a peer leader in a group of drug self experimenters. The group's involvement included heroin and the opportunity to investigate ibogaine, a relatively unknown hallucinogen. After a 36 hour experience, ibogaine eliminated all of his withdrawal symptoms and cravings for heroin, providing the first demonstration of ibogaine's anti-addictive effects. Lotsof was convinced of ibogaine's potential to treat addiction, but it wasn't until the eighties that he began to dedicate himself to getting ibogaine approved as a regulated drug in the United States. Ibogaine is currently illegal in the United States, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Sweden and Denmark. In the rest of the world, it is legal or unregulated.
On March 8th, 1992, Taub left Cameroon with thirteen grams of ibogaine HCl and settled in an offshore location close to the United States. He began what was to be a 15 year odyssey as an ibogaine treatment provider. His autobiography is in progress, and he's excited about "a recent surge of mainstream interest in iboga and its south American counterpart, ayahuasca. Both plants are considered to be sacred by the tribes who ingest them. Both are also known to be effective in treating drug addiction in the Western world."
Ibogaine is derived from the tabernanthe iboga shrub, which is native to west central Africa, where it has been used for millennia as a treatment for physical, mental and spiritual ailments. Ibogaine interacts with multiple neurotransmitter systems in the brain to reduce and sometimes reverse the craving for and debilitating effects of highly addictive drugs such as cocaine, morphine, amphetamines and nicotine. Ibogaine also increases the expression level of the protein glial derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), which both protects and stimulates the regeneration of neurons that secrete dopamine.
Taub explains, "In the tribal use of ibogaine, the visionary aspect of iboga is revered as an integral part of the healing process -- this is especially ironic in light of the fact that Dr. Deborah Mash, a professor at the University of Miami and one of the top scientific experts on ibogaine, is working to develop noribogaine (12-Hydroxyibogamine), an ibogaine metabolite that does not induce visions." Dr. Stanley Glick, the Director of the Center for Neuropharmacology and Neuroscience at Albany Medical College in New York, is developing 18-methoxycoronaridine (18-MC), another iboga alkaloid that has a better safety profile than ibogaine. And the Iboga Therapy House near Vancouver is now conducting a long-term observational study to examine changes in substance use in 20 consecutive individuals undergoing ibogaine-based addiction treatment for opiate dependence sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). MAPS is also developing the protocol for a parallel study at the Ibogaine Association in Mexico.
There are good reasons for the increased public consciousness of these plants that have long been stigmatized for their hallucinogenic effects. Taub explains that some of the interest is due to the rise of eco-tourism, especially in the case of ayahuasca. Another factor is a growing number of well researched documentaries about ibogaine such as Ben De Loenen's "Ibogaine -- Rite of Passage." Taub states, "It's been over 40 years since LSD rocked the world. LSD is a synthetic drug that has been used and abused. Ayahuasca and iboga, by their very nature, will never be drugs of abuse. Their healing process is arduous and simply not at all suitable for partying. These medicines are geared for serious self-examination."
Taub is starting an ibogaine center in Barcelona where he plans to offer intensive training to prospective ibogaine providers. He is also seeking the support of the Autonomous University of Barcelona to conduct a study on ibogaine. Since the winter of 1999, the university's research team has been conducting clinical studies giving ayahuasca to healthy volunteers and Taub is excited about the prospect of having the support of the scientific community. "This is an example of the demand for effective treatment finally being great enough to motivate the scientific community to jump on board. I am hopeful that iboga and ayahuasca, two of the most powerful plant medicines on the planet, will finally be given validation for their effectiveness to treat human dis-ease."