Dana Beal, one of the world’s original pot protesters, was in New Zealand recently promoting Ibogaine, a controversial treatment for drug addiction. By CHRIS FOWLIE.
In the 1960’s Dana Beal helped found the Yippies – the Youth International Party – with Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, and participated in the first public Smoke-In, held in New York in 1966. Decades later, Beal founded the Global Marijuana March. Known as J Day in New Zealand, this highly anticipated annual event is now held in over 200 cities around the world.
The Yippies were one of the highlights of the 60’s. They tossed money at the stock exchange, tried to levitate the Pentagon and protested at the Democratic National Convention in 1968. In the 1970’s and 80’s they held smoke-ins for marijuana legalisation, marched against Reagan’s secret wars, and took the right to burn the flag all the way to the US Supreme Court. A hard core of Yippie activists continue to this day, working on drug law reform, medical marijuana, promoting Ibogaine for treatment of substance addiction, and protesting the wars of the 21st century. Among them is Dana Beal, who visited Aotearoa in September as part of the Ibogaine Forum held at Otago University on 5 & 6 September.
Over forty people attended the forum organised by former addict Tanea Paterson, with a least 8 having already tried Ibogaine therapy. Among them was Dr Anwa Jeewa who discussed his experience treating about 300 people in his South African clinic.
Ibogaine is a medicinal extract from the inner root bark of the Tabernanthe Iboga plant, which grows in West Africa and has long been used by the people there as a healant and ritual entheogen. It is a powerful tool for introspection, leading patients to an understanding of their addiction and showing them a path out of it. As well as this, in low doses Ibogaine acts like a stimulant, so proponents say it has the potential to be a maintenance tool for methamphetamine (P) addicts in a similar way to how methadone is given to heroin or morphine addicts.
“Ibogaine cancels out withdrawal,” says Dana Beal. “It’s legal here. It’s actually really conventional, because you’re not trying to lead them into taking more Ibogaine. Nobody does this stuff for fun – it’s a real ordeal.”
Yet Ibogaine has a remarkable success rate. “If you have legal access to Ibogaine, we could get it to about 70 or 80 percent, which is far greater than anything else.”
Ibogaine, and the separation of marijuana from hard drugs, are the same issue
Dana says the separation of marijuana from hard drugs has always driven his law reform efforts. “We did a number of Smoke-Ins in the summer of 1967. There was a situation where there was series of violent incidents, like police riots, and we distributed marijuana in order to encourage peace, and it worked: a wave of peace.”
He says that promoting Ibogaine, and the separation of marijuana from hard drugs, are “the same issue”, because if Ibogaine is available “you are able to deal with the problems that may occur because people you know may engage in problematic behaviour that is screwing up the whole scene.
“When you have Ibogaine it’s like having that “break this glass in case of fire” object, that you can deal with someone who has got completely out of control on a heroin problem. The system can’t deal with that. The system here [in New Zealand] has a lot of problems dealing with their P problem.”
It can be hard to understand why people would do such “really lousy drugs”, but Dana has one theory: “I think it’s the absence of good marijuana. Sufficient marijuana would displace the P thing almost completely, if we legalized marijuana, because it’s such a shitty high and any good pot would chase it away. You know how we got rid of speed in the 60’s? Millions of doses of LSD!”
“There was a thing involving the Vietnam War where they were importing heroin in the body bags. Me and Tom Forcade the founder of High Times did a demonstration against the CIA conspiracy to flood the marijuana scene with heroin. They had Operation Intercept and they cut off all the pot and heroin was everywhere. They were out to get us because they believed they could cripple the anti-war movement using heroin. They’d already done it to the black community.
“Ed Rosenthal in 1973 introduced me to Howard Lotsoff. Over a period of time he told me the whole thing. I was very deeply impressed, but we didn’t develop [Ibogaine] right away and it was a big mistake.
“A couple of years later I’m talking to the drug czar under Jimmy Carter, Peter Borne, hanging out at the NORML party that he got in trouble for being at. I saw everything, man. They were being very discreet, you wouldn’t have really seen coke being snorted. They had these snifters there, but you could tell. He was basically a good guy, but you know, he had problems. And they ended up pulling a serious of dirty tricks and the entire movement to legalise pot crashed. And that was when we realized the agreement not to talk about psychedelics didn’t mean anything, because if these guys were going to flirt with legalising coke, all that was out the window.
“We started developing Ibogaine and the problem was it was intermittent money, it would start and stop but Howard started doing the research. The first thing he did was read through all the literature and he started finding out a lot of the places heroin is active, Ibogaine is active but in a different way.“
Dana says there is even emerging evidence Ibogaine helps with Hepatitis C. “There’s a lot of skepticism about this claim, but there were three people at the [Dunedin] conference, all of
them took Ibogaine, and all of them the Hepatitis is fine. This is with one heroic dose like what you give for heroin.”
Although Ibogaine is legal in New Zealand, in order to be marketed as a treatment it would need to be approved by MedSafe, an agency of the Ministry of Health. Even if it is not approved by MedSafe, it is still legal to use.*
Treatments are available in the Netherlands, Britain, Canada, Mexico, South Africa, and some have already been done in Dunedin (“for opiates”). After a comprehensive medical check up, patients are given an oral dose of Ibogaine of up to 20mg per kg of body weight, with effects lasting for 24 to 48 hours, during which the patient lies down and experiences a vivid dream state while awake. This can be an extremely intense experience; aspects can be arduous as well as deeply emotional. During the treatment, symptoms of narcotic withdrawal virtually disappear, while patients afterward report almost none of the insatiable cravings associated with methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, alcohol or nicotine withdrawal.
Ibogaine has also been found to switch on a growth hormone called GDNF that not only regenerates dopamine neurons fried by substance abuse, but also back-signals to cell nuclei to express even more GDNF.
“Ibogaine turns on the growth factor that rebuilds the dopamine neurons. That’s specifically what’s involved with methamphetamine, because it’s a big dopamine releaser. That’s the reason people are completely burned out after they quit doing it. Their dopamine receptors are all wilted. So what we’re thinking is a low dose product where we give really low doses to methamphetamine addicts as a kind of replacement. It should still turn on the growth factor.”
An Ibogaine trip is not fun, so there is little potential for abuse. Undesirable side-effects include ataxia, nausea and (rarely) bradycardia (dangerous slowing of the breathing and heart rate), which is why patients must be screened for existing health conditions. Ibogaine can be risky, but in a controlled setting such as a clinic it has been shown to be a safe treatment for addiction, with some patients undergoing profound transformation. “Think of it like pulling a tooth. It really hurts but you’ll feel so much better later.”
“Everyone says there should be a clinical trial. I was thinking we should do the P here in Auckland, because it’s the biggest place where P is, and do the heroin down in Christchurch. We should go to the main places where the problem is.”
Sufficient marijuana would displace P almost completely… You know how we got rid of speed in the 60’s? Millions of doses of LSD!
“You’ve got to judge society by how it treats the most vulnerable people. The people who are sick and dying, the people in terrible pain. One of the things about the prohibitionist paradigm is that they like to inflict pain on people a lot.”
When asked how the medical marijuana movement is progressing in the US, Beal replies “it’s spreading like an inexorable tide.” The New York resident is pushing for a citizen’s initiated referendum, which unlike other states, New York doesn’t have – “or we’d have had legal medical marijuana twenty years ago.”
In the mean time, this tireless campaigner is concentrating on organizing the 2010 Global Marijuana March, which continues to grow. “We got Kathmandu and Istanbul this year – the more the merrier. We’ve got to go to India, and find the activist Sadhu’s or something. Just explain to them we finally see what they were talking about, and we need them to have processions through the streets on a certain day…”
More info: see these links:
- Information about the risks and benefits of ibogaine treatment: ibogaine.co.uk.
- Radio New Zealand interview with Kim Hill: Dana Beal: ibogaine and addiction (31′ 37″) “Long-term activist in the Youth International Party, or Yippies, and major organiser of the Global Million Marijuana March. He is visiting New Zealand as a proponent of the use of the drug ibogaine as a treatment for cocaine and methamphetamine addiction.”
[Originally published in NORML News Spring 2009]
* Since this article was written, Medsafe have confirmed the status of Ibogaine as a medicine under the Medicines Act. A clinical trial is currently underway in Northland and Otago, led by Dr Geoff Noller. Meanwhile, shortly after this interview Dana Beal was arrested in October 2009 for shifting medical marijuana across state lines.