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The first time I heard former Yippie activist Dana Beal mention ibogaine I couldn’t have cared less what he was talking about. I had booked him to speak on political theater and creative resistance…you know, Yippie shit…as one of a dozen speakers featured at an all day Green Party rally we held in Washington Square Park during the 2004 Republican National Convention. Beal is a shady, self-promoting character. Instead of offering something useful to the crowd, he gave a rambling sermon on the miracles of this obscure drug that cured junkies of addiction. Holding up a collection of papers no doubt meant to imbue his message with gravitas he ranted through a byzantine cosmology of all the evil forces that were arrayed against this miracle substance becoming a mainstream treatment.
I had no idea what ibogaine was nor that Beal was a member of the “ibogaine underground,” an ad-hoc network of doctors, researchers, activists, shamans and lay-providers who believe that this substance is the key to not only treating but unlocking an entirely new paradigm in the understanding of addiction. This network is underground because ibogaine and the iboga root from which it is made are illegal in the U.S., designated Schedule 1 with a “high potential for abuse or addiction and no known medicinal applications.” Anyone in the underground will tell you that’s patently ridiculous, “patently,” they say, because the real root of ibogaine prohibition is not that it causes addiction but that it might cure addiction, sometimes with a single dose, and that sure is bad news for an industry built around a so-called “chronic” disease.