Since the 1960s a disparate group of scientists and former drug addicts have been advocating a radical treatment for addiction - a hallucinogen called ibogaine, derived from an African plant, that in some cases seems to obliterate withdrawal symptoms from heroin, cocaine and alcohol. So why isn't it widely used?

As far as scientists understand, ibogaine affects the brain in two distinct ways. The first is metabolic. It creates a protein that blocks receptors in the brain that trigger cravings, stopping the symptoms of withdrawal.

"Ibogaine tends to remove the withdrawals immediately and brings people back to their pre-addiction stage," says Jeewa. With normal detox this process can take months.

Its second effect is much less understood. It seems to inspire a dream-like state that is intensely introspective, allowing addicts to address issues in their life that they use alcohol or drugs to suppress.


Ibogaine is derived from the bark of the root of the iboga tree
Howard Lotsof's early campaign had little success and ibogaine was banned in the US, along with LSD and psilocybin mushrooms, in 1967.

In most other countries it remains unregulated and unlicensed. Lotsof set up a private clinic in the Netherlands in the 1980s and since then similar clinics have emerged in Canada, Mexico and South Africa.

These clinics operate in a legal grey area. But a small group of scientists is still working to bring ibogaine into the mainstream.
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