Addict wants drug ‘mainstreamed’
By Sarah Harvey on Sat, 5 Sep 2009
For Tanea Paterson, the drug Ibogaine changed her from a drug addict to someone able to live her life.
Now she wants others to be able to get the drug.
Ibogaine, used for centuries by West Africans for rite-of-passage ceremonies and for its healing properties, is not illegal in New Zealand but is only administered by underground healers.
Ms Paterson, and many others worldwide, want the drug used to help people recover from addiction.
Due to its hallucinogenic properties, it is prohibited in the United States and a handful of other countries, but Canada and Mexico allow Ibogaine treatment clinics to operate.
Ms Paterson has organised a forum, to be held today at the University of Otago, where speakers from throughout the world will gather to discuss how the drug can become “mainstream”.
Participants include international heavyweights such as the founder of Cures Not Wars, in New York, Dana Beal, and the director of the Minds Alive International Treatment Centre in Durban, South Africa, Dr Anwa Jeewa.
Dr Gavin Cape, the director of the Community Alcohol and Drug Service, in Dunedin will also attend.
Ms Paterson has battled with drugs for more than a decade. When she was 17, she was involved in a serious car crash which left her dealing with chronic pain.
She was at the time a hairdressing apprentice and began to self-medicate by injecting morphine to deal with the pain.
It quickly became a habit – she contracted Hepatitis C from the needles she was using and watched as her life slowly unravelled.
She tried, and failed, to come off the drug naturally so, at 23, ended up on the methadone programme.
Methadone helped her escape from the drug scene but it also came with social stigma and restrictions.
“Life on methadone is not living – it is just existing. It was really hard to see a future, I couldn’t get excited about anything. You lose your purpose.”
After seven years she tried to withdraw from methadone, but failed.
Then, three and a-half years ago, a friend told her about Ibogaine.
“I had pretty much hit crisis point. I was severely depressed and I couldn’t see a way out.”
At first she did not believe what it was claimed the drug could do, so she spent months researching Ibogaine before deciding to undergo treatment in Australia.
She spent 10 days in Australia, where she was constantly monitored and given nutritious food and the drug.
The treatment was exhausting and not a “magic bullet”, but when she returned to New Zealand, 80% of her withdrawal symptoms had gone.
She no longer needed methadone and could start to live a normal life.
A counsellor said Ms Paterson went from experiencing severe fatigue, depression, anxiety and self-hate to recovering her physical energy and getting over fatigue, which allowed her body to heal.
Since then, she had enrolled in a polytechnic health course and helped others by taking them through the course in their homes.
She dreamed of setting up a treatment centre in New Zealand.
“I think there [are] a lot more people out there who deserve help,” she said.
The Ibogaine Community Forum is on at the University of Otago Burns 2 lecture theatre from 10am-6pm today. It is open to the public.