Drug Might Help Cure Addictions

Researchers report that drug addicts in the Netherlands
have cited success with ibogaine.

An Associated Press report. (August 29, 1993)

MIAMI – Researchers at the University of Miami next month will conduct the first scientific human experiments in the nation on a drug that possibly could cure cocaine, heroin and alcohol addiction.

The drug, ibogaine, is found in the root of a West African plant, the iboga. It was used by the Bwiti African tribe in ritual ceremonies.

Ibogaine was popular on the streets of San Francisco and New York before the government classified it in 1970 as having no medicinal use. Researchers say that addicts in the Netherlands have reported success with the drug.

Researcher Juan Sanchez-Ramos cautioned that ibogaine’s potential as a treatment for drug addiction – and possible side effects – cannot be determined until it has been properly tested.

“It could have zero impact, or it could revolutionize drug therapy,” Sanchez-Ramos said.

But if ibogaine works, Miami researcher Deborah Mash says, it could have lasting rewards for American taxpayers.

“The cost of drug dependency to the American people carries a very heavy price tag,” said Mash, an associate professor of neurology at Miami.

Mash and Sanchez-Ramos are on a team of researchers that earlier this week won approval from the Food and Drug Administration to test ibogaine on people.

Researchers argued in favor of using the hallucinogen, citing favorable results that the International Coalition for Addict Self Help in Holland had in weaning addicts off drugs with ibogaine.

Although researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore have found that high-level doses of ibogaine cause nerve damage in the brain, Mash’s studies on primates show that low levels of the drug “demonstrate no significant neurotoxicity.”

Advocates also dismiss the possibility that users will become dependent on the drug.

“It has no potential for abuse, and it’s non-addictive,” said Bob Sisko, director of the Dutch group that treated addicts.


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