The growing spotlight on ibogaine’s role in addiction treatment is poised to shine even brighter, since the substance is to be the subject of a conference held in Tepoztlán, Mexico next year.
Ibogaine, a powder derived from the West African iboga shrub, has been used for healing and spiritual Bwiti ceremonies for centuries. In recent decades, it has caught the attention of the West, particularly for its miraculous abilities to help people kick addictions to opiates.
Now experts from around the world are planning to attend the conference, scheduled for March 14-16, 2016, to discuss the plant’s utility for treatment, as well as other topics such as global drug policy, the sustainability of iboga harvesting and the traditional role of the substance in West African culture.
Topics on the event program include ibogaine production methods, the ethics and safety issues involved in ibogaine treatments, the scientific development of ibogaine and its possible future use as a prescription drug.
Ibogaine is known as an “addiction interrupter” because people fighting heroin and other opium-based dependence often report that they feel no more cravings after an ibogaine experience — and, perhaps even more remarkably, no symptoms of withdrawal. Research suggests that the substance binds to opiate receptors in the brain, thus reducing or eliminating the compulsion to consume the substances.
Currently, ibogaine treatment is mostly practiced in smaller treatment centers in countries where it is legal, such as Mexico, New Zealand and Thailand. It is strictly prohibited as a Schedule I substance in the United States, defined as a drug of abuse with no medical value. However, as interest grows in its demonstrated addiction-fighting properties, more clinical studies are being launched, which could one day open the doors to using ibogaine in more formal, conventional settings as well.
The conference aims to bring together some of the sharpest and most experienced brains in the ibogaine field, including Chilean psychiatrist and psychotherapy expert Claudio Naranjo, psychologist and addiction expert Stanton Peele, and Kenneth Alper, a medical doctor who specializes in adult psychiatry at the NYU Langone Medical Center. Sponsors of the conference include the Global Ibogaine Therapy Alliance (GITA), the International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research & Service (ICEERS), and the Mexican human rights group Espolea.
Although GITA has hosted four other international conferences, this is the first major public gathering. In addition to sharing knowledge about the intricacies of treatment, practitioners will have the opportunity to learn potentially live-saving skills, such as how to monitor the vital signs of their patients and intervention techniques for use in the event that an emergency arises.
Readers who want to register or learn more about the conference can find all the appropriate information at ibogaineconference.org/.