On Tuesday, May 28th, 2019, Oakland California City Council approved the decriminalization of peyote, magic mushrooms, ayahuasca, and ibogaine, all of them natural sources of psychedelics. A few weeks earlier, in the month of May, Denver Colorado had decriminalized these substances as well. These natural substances, which temporarily alter the state of consciousness, have been used medicinally and for religious purposes for thousands of years in the Americas and in Central Africa. The City of Oakland has resolved that the law enforcement agencies shall stop any work involving these substances. From now on, nobody should be arrested or investigated or prosecuted for possessing or using these natural substances.
Why is this significant?
The significance of this is that right now, as the US grapples with opioid addiction and the President seeks to fight back against it, many people are touting victory because some of these substances are used during rehab against opioid addiction. As we discuss below, research indicates that ibogaine is powerful against opioid withdrawal symptoms.
A warning from important stakeholders in the industry:
Johnny Tabaie, the renowned founder of a luxury drug rehab – The Holistic Sanctuary, who has witnessed closely how hundreds of Americans recovered from opioid addiction during ibogaine and ayahuasca retreats, referred to the recent case of Matthew Melon the billionaire investor who passed away before he reached another rehab facility he intended to visit. Tabaie had a word of warning: “I never lead a treatment session using ibogaine or ayahuasca without the presence of emergency Doctors. This is why we have a 100% track record in safety. Yes, sadly it increases the cost of rehab, but there is a real danger to life when taking these substances so people must not self-prescribe. Hopefully the FDA will introduce additional measures to strike a balance between our desire to fight back against opioids – and the added risk of unsupervised consumption. I would urge anyone to be responsible at this point in time”.
About Natural Psychedelics
Peyote is a cactus that is found in the South-Western parts of the US and some parts of Mexico. It has no spine. It has buttons that look like discs all over its body that are removed and then dried out. Some of the active compounds within these buttons are alkaloids that are psychoactive. Native Americans had respect for this substance which they used for medicinal and religious purposes for almost twenty thousand years without abusing it. It’s psychedelic effects are necessary during religious ceremonies as they are believed to bring people closer to God and enhance communication at that level. This psychoactive effect is what led to the abuse of this substance after the colonization of the Americas. Among other reasons, the abuse of this substance led to the eventual banning of possession, sale, and use of it.
Knowledge of peyote’s medical benefits is almost lost because the research was prohibited by the American government. It is hoped that very soon scientists will be studying peyote for its medical benefits.
Though recreational use of peyote was banned, the use of peyote in the US is legal only within the Native American church where it is used ceremonially. Native Americans do dislike the recreational use of peyote because it shows a lack of respect for a natural substance that has a significant meaning for them. They don’t believe that recreational use will benefit the users outside the religious environment.
Peyote can be rolled in a tobacco leaf and smoked. It can also be eaten solid or brewed into a tea or ground into a powder and then taken through capsules.
What is Ibogaine?
Ibogaine is an alkaloid that is either extracted directly from the iboga plant or semi-synthesized from another alkaloid called voacangine, a precursor compound. The Iboga tree is indigenous to central Africa. Ibogaine is psychoactive. The pygmies of Central Africa have used it for medicinal and spiritual purposes for millennia. They used it to explore their mind and the spiritual realm. The pygmies passed the knowledge of the health and spiritual benefits of ibogaine to the Bwiti tribe in Gabon. French explorers in Gabon took the knowledge from the Bwiti tribe to France in 1899-1900.
In the US, ibogaine was classified and a Schedule 1 drug. This means it has high potential for abuse without any medical purposes. They banned it in the 1960s. Because it was prohibited in western countries, research into its effectiveness as a medicine is almost non-existent. It is now claimed by European pioneers that it is effective for treating withdrawal symptoms of drug withdrawal. It is now being used for the treatment of drug addiction in some countries.
Preliminary research has found ibogaine to be effective in stopping withdrawal symptoms. There is now focused research for ibogaine as an alternative treatment for drug addiction to cocaine, opioid, and methamphetamine. Scientists now know that it works by adjusting brain chemistry. As a result, it stops withdrawal symptoms and cravings fast in a person who should have experienced intense withdrawal symptoms for up to two weeks. In other words, it does not end addiction, it interrupts it. (1).
According to the New York Times Gwyneth Paltrow has written about ibogaine on Goop. Anyone can visit that website for more information. In addition to its use for withdrawal symptoms of addiction, ibogaine has been found to bring relief for anxiety and depression sufferers. It is a matter of time before scientists uncover a long list of health benefits that were already known thousands of years before by the pygmies. This move by Oakland City Council will open us research into ibogaine and other natural substances.
What is Ayahuasca?
The word “ayahuasca” is the Anglicized version of the word ayawaska which means spirit vine or soul vine. It is a psychoactive brew made from the ayahuasca or bani stereopsis caapi vine that is indigenous to South America. Other ingredients are added to the brew, such as chacruna plant which is also psychoactive because it contains DMT. It is DMT that gives ayahuasca its psychoactive effects. For thousands of years, shamans in the Amazon region of South America have used ayahuasca to open up communication with the spirit world. It helps them with divination and diagnosis.
Ayahuasca tea is safe to use in a controlled environment such as during magical ceremony. Its effects range from a little stimulation to extreme visions. Europeans who explored South America wrote about the ayahuasca experience and sparked interest in it. even now, Westerners develop interest when they hear/read about intriguing stories of its mind-altering effects. Now there is also interest in its medicinal benefits such as treatment of depression, anxiety, addiction and fear.
What is Psylocybin?
Psylocybin is a natural psychedelic prodrug compound found in more than 200 species of mushroom that are generally known as magic or psilocybin mushrooms. When it enters the body, psilocybin is quickly converted to psilocin, a mind-altering drug similar to mescaline, LSD, and DMT. It creates euphoria, a distorted sense of time, changes in perception, spiritual experiences, and visual and mental hallucination. It has side effect that include nausea and panic attacks.
For thousands of years, indigenous societies used psylocybin for divinatory and spiritual ceremonies. Unfortunately, the US federal government made it illegal to possess, plant, buy or sell psilocybin beginning in the 1960s. The ban made it illegal to study its effects on the body and mind. Luckily, psilocybin’s popularity as a spiritually enhancing substance grew starting in the 1970s. Magic mushrooms differ. Therefore, the intensity and duration of any batch of psylocybin are different depending on the type of mushrooms, dosage and individual physiology. Generally, its mind-altering effects last from two to six hours.
Psylocybin has very low levels of toxins and low harm potential. It will be interesting to see how society responds to its decriminalization.
Decriminalize Nature Oakland
The Oakland City Council members put their resolution to decriminalize these natural substances due to the pressure coming from Decriminalize Nature Oakland. Decriminalize Nature Oakland, a community group, believes that these substances may reduce symptoms of certain mental health problems, knowing that they have been used medicinally for thousands of years. In their resolution they claimed, “Substance abuse, addiction, recidivism, trauma, post-traumatic stress symptoms, chronic depression, severe anxiety, end-of-life anxiety, grief, diabetes, cluster headaches, and other conditions are plaguing our community…. The use of Entheogenic Plants has been shown to be beneficial to the health and well-being of individuals and communities in addressing these afflictions.”
The Oakland City Council members did not decriminalize the use and possession of LSD, MDMA and other synthetic drugs.
Changes are taking place at federal level as well. In 2018, the US federal government lifted the status of psilocybin from Schedule 1 to “breakthrough therapy.” This allows more research into the treatment of depression. After that, efforts to decriminalize psilocybin in the whole state of California failed to qualify for the 2018 ballot. Now, it seems that things are back at the drawing board again.
- Brown TK. (2013, Mar). Current Drug Abuse Review. Ibogaine in the treatment of substance dependence.