Watch: Why Is Ibogaine Still Illegal In The US Despite Huge Success In Addiction Treatment?

by Aaron Kase

on April 29, 2015

In a video titled Why Is Ibogaine Illegal? In Two And A Half Minutesspiritual healer and drug policy activist Dimitri Mobengo Mugianis speaks about the utility of ibogaine as an addiction treatment, and the obstacles to its acceptance in Western society.

“This has been a movement completely propelled by the most marginalized people, whether it’s colonized or indigenous people in Africa, or drug users in the West,” Mugianis says in the video.

Ibogaine is a naturally occurring substance found in the Tabernanthe iboga shrub in West Africa. It has long been used for spiritual practice among certain tribes, and has been used medically in various parts of the world.

New Zealand was the first country in the world to offer ibogaine as a prescription on an experimental basis starting in 2009. Recently Vermont’s governor dedicated his State of the State speech to the issue of addiction and the necessity of alternative treatment options. In response, members of the Vermont State Legislature proposed a bill to allow a non-profit ibogaine detox center in the state. As early as next year, the bill could be approved.

The substance has shown immense promise in treating addictions. In 1962, a 19-year-old named Howard Lotsof used ibogaine to conquer a heroin addiction, and subsequently became a pioneering advocate of the medicine. Naturally, in the throes of an anti-drug hysteria, the United States listed it on Schedule I under the Controlled Substances Act in the 1960s, deeming it of no medical value and banning it across the board.

Currently, patients in the U.S. have to travel to Mexico or other countries if they want to try to treat their addiction, since ibogaine remains illegal domestically.

Mugianis used ibogaine to beat his own opiate addiction in 2003, and has helped others along the same path ever since.

“Underground drug users are giving it to other drugs users,” he says. “As sometimes happens, science catches up with spirit and people are starting to look at it.”

The number of people using ibogaine is growing and there are numerous anecdotal reports of its success as an “addiction interrupter,” with some people reporting that they can lick their habit with a single dose. A study about the long-term effects of ibogaine on addiction is currently underway, sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).

Mugianis lays out several reasons why there is still resistance to the psychedelic. For one thing, there’s very little profit in it.

“In the West there’s not really much interest in a detox,” he says. “There’s an interest in maintenance drugs. It’s a lot to get people’s head around.”

But the stigma is starting to fade, says Mugianis. Since the video was shot in 2009, there have been some strides towards greater acceptance of ibogaine’s potential as a medicine. This map compiled by the Global Ibogaine Therapists Alliance (GITA) shows its legal status worldwide. But many of the challenge to its legalization in the US and Europe remain, and greater awareness and study of its potentials is necessary.

Watch the video below to hear Mugianis’ talk: