Ibogaine returns to its roots in Kentucky
The Lexington Narcotic Farm carried out CIA-funded ibogaine experiments in the 1950s
Last week I had the pleasure to talk with Jeremy Weate, a former philosophy PhD who then went to work on development in Africa - helping to set up a newspaper and publishing firm in Nigeria. While there, he discovered the wonders of Tabernanthe iboga, a shrub used by the Bwiti tribe for healing and worship. He is now director of the Global Ibogaine Therapy Alliance, runs an iboga retreat centre in Portugal, and is working on a documentary called The Ibogaine Stories, about all the colourful and sometimes shady characters involved in iboga’s journey from central Africa to the West over the last century.
These are exciting times for ibogaine. In the 1990s, it looked to be on the verge of medical acceptance as a treatment for heroin addiction. However, that effort fell apart amid acriminious law suits between the two leading figures in the field - activist Howard Lotsoff and scientist Deborah Mash. Ibogaine treatment went underground and has been there ever since. But the shrub is emerging now - atai Life Sciences has backed Deborah Mash’s new company, DemeRX; ibogaine was among the plants to be decriminalized (for posssession) in Colorado; and it’s also part of a bipartisan congressional initiative to increase federal funding for psychedelics. Most remarkably, the Bible Belt state of Kentucky ear-marked $42 million to be spent on ibogaine research and support to help the millions in the state addicted to opioids.
As Jeremy told me, Kentucky’s support for ibogaine is not as strange as it seems. In fact, the first ever western experiments with ibogaine took place in Kentucky, 76 years ago, in a remarkable and ultimately controversial addiction treatment centre known as the Narcotics Farm, famous for having one of the best jazz bands in the US. More after the paywall.
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