How the psychedelic Ibogaine helped a retired Vancouver firefighter treat his depression

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Ibogaine has shown promise in treating addiction, from alcohol and opiates to methamphetamine and heroin. A 2018 study published in  The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse  found that “a single ibogaine treatment reduced opioid withdrawal symptoms and achieved opioid cessation or sustained reduced use in dependent individuals as measured over 12 months.”

But Ibogaine can also be toxic to the heart, and fatal in some cases. In 2017, Health Canada added the substance to the  Prescription Drug List, meaning that it can only be legally obtained with a medical prescription.

It remains legal in New Zealand and Uraguay and controlled in Denmark, Australia, Brazil, Hungary, South Africa and Portugal, in addition to Canada.

For his treatment, Bjarnason travelled to Costa Rica, where Ibogaine is not regulated, and ingested it with the guidance of an experienced practitioner.

Bjarnason said the treatment was not an instant cure but changed his perspective about his struggles with depression and alcohol.

“What it did is basically showed me how I could cure myself. It’s not like I take this one pill and I’m better. It’s a long journey afterwards with therapy, but what it shows you is how to be a better person,” he said.

Mind Medicine Inc., a psychedelic medicine biotech company, is developing an Ibogaine derivative, 18-MC, and maintains that the substance’s anti-addictive properties is non-toxic and non-hallucinogenic.


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