Drug activist speaks about possible addiction cure

Dana Beal spoke to University students about a drug that may be used to cure addictions.

Laura Sievert

In a basement corner of the new Science Teaching and Student Services Building approximately 30 students gathered to hear Dana Beal, a longtime advocate of legalizing marijuana, speak on behalf of another drug that is currently illegal.

He was advocating for the drug Ibogaine, and credited it with the ability to heal a drug or alcohol addictions after a single dose. But with few studies to support Beal’s claims, some students were left wondering.

Ibogaine is currently legal in some parts of the Netherlands, Canada and Mexico, but is considered a schedule one drug in the United States by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which means it is illegal to possess it under any circumstances. 

Ibogaine comes from the Tabernanthe Iboga plant, which grows in Western Africa.  According to Dr. Tracy Blevins, who has a Ph.D. in biomedical science, the main side effects include nausea, ataxia, which is the inability to move, bradycardia, a slowing of the heart rate, and, in rare cases, death.

The drug works in three stages, according to Beal, stage one is the “visualization stage,” which puts the addict into a dream-like state.  The second stage is the “heavy introspection phase,” when the addict experiences a psychedelic state of mind.  The final phase is the “insomnia phase” and the addict will sleep for approximately 36 hours before waking up free of both the addiction and any withdrawal symptoms.

He went on to say that in some cases the user will need multiple doses to completely interrupt their addiction.  Some need another dose three to 12 months later.

“I know they have problems with psychedelic drugs in medicine, but they can’t have the therapeutic effects without the psychedelic effects,” Beal said.

Despite the passionate argument Beal made, there were still skeptics in the crowd.  B.J. Valente, a chemistry and Spanish major, said the drug claimed to do too many things with barely any proof to back it up.

“It needs more work done on it,” he said, “like actual comprehensive studies. But if it really has been having a positive effect on people, it bears looking into.”

The event was sponsored by Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) and the majority of attendees were current members.  Zach Tauer, SSDP board director, said, “Ibogaine can be very beneficial to society if the DEA allows the research to be undertaken.”

Beal is going to be lobbying for Ibogaine this weekend as the Universal Access to Methamphetamine Treatment Act just went before Congress.