The relationship between the human species and plants capable of altering body and mind is millenarian; people have developed a harmonic relationship with these plants, and frequently they have had a great influence in the human and cultural development of many societies and civilizations.
In Central West Africa grows a plant called Tabernanthe iboga the root bark of which has played a major role in rites of passage and healing ceremonies. The plant is used in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Congo and, most notably, in Gabon by the Pygmees, Fang and Mitsogo tribes in a culture called Bwiti.
Ibogaine in modern society
In 1963, Howard Lotsof, a young heroin addict, undertook an experiment along with six fellow addicts, ingesting one of the twelve alkaloids found in the iboga root bark called ibogaine. The next day, six out of seven subjects stopped their heroin use, having no withdrawal or craving. In the following years, efforts to get ibogaine developed as an accepted treatment modality got little response from the pharmaceutical industry. NIDA composed a 4000 page Drug Master File with 16 volumes of pre-clinical studies. In 1993, the FDA approved a phase 1 clinical trial, which ended with the first patient due to conflicts about patents. In 1995, NIDA decided not to support ibogaine research anymore, but drug user unions and activist organizations promoted its use and made it available in non-clinical, underground contexts. The amount of treatment providers and demand by drug addicts has grown exponentially in the last 10 years. There are ibogaine clinics in countries including Brazil, Mexico, Canada, Thailand and South Africa, and lay treatment providers around the world. In 2009, New Zealand was the first country in the world to accept ibogaine as a prescription medication.