September 14, 2021

Ibogaine's Enormous Anti-Addictive Potential

Ibogaine's Enormous Anti-Addictive Potential

Fawad Kalsi - 0:00:06
As soon as it kicked in, the microdose, I found myself in a grave in the middle of a desert wrapped in two pieces of white cloth and it was a beautiful sunny day with clear blue skies. It was the scariest thing I've ever done in my life with probably the best results.

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:00:28
In the tropical forests of central West Africa, there grows a shrub known as Tabernanthe iboga. It doesn't look too remarkable, grows to be about 6 feet high with clusters of yellow, orange fruits that look like a cross between a sweet potato and a lemon. But the root of the iboga plant contains the powerful psychoactive alkaloid ibogaine. This medicine has been used for generations in the Bwiti spiritual tradition practicing Gabon. We are only just starting to understand all the ways that I began can be used in Western medical therapeutic setting, but it is clear that ibogaine has the potential to treat opioid addiction.

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:01:06
Today we're discussing how preservation and improved accessibility to Ibogaine can change people's lives. Welcome to MIND CURIOUS, a podcast for those looking to explore the potential of psychedelic compounds. I'm your host, Dr. Sherry Walling. Before we dive in I just want to add one common sense reminder, this podcast does not constitute medical advice. The perspectives of our guests Fawad Kalsi, Hamilton Morris, Dr. Dan Engle are theirs alone and they don't represent me, my opinions, or those of our host Mind Cure Health. Let's dive in.

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:01:45
We are going to begin our deep dive into the power of, I began with a story, about how this plant medicine pretty much cured a man's opioid addiction. If you've been following the podcast, you might recall my guest Fawad Kalsi from our episode on Religion and Psychedelics. Fawad is an imam at the Langley Islamic Center in British Columbia, Canada. Growing up, Fawad was a straight laced devout young man with no experience with drugs, but in 2012 his life took a drastic turn on a family vacation.

Fawad Kalsi - 0:02:27
I took the family to Orlando and we were literally in the parking lot of Disney World. I think it was the Animal Kingdom and I just had this sharp pain right in the middle of my abdomen. just shooting right into my back and I just I didn't understand what was going on and I was so uncomfortable driving there. Just got there and everybody's excited and I just said,  I can't even walk, I can't even breathe properly, and I think I'm just going to go back to the hotel and and rest it out and I'll catch up with you guys. It was horrendous. I, I didn't even know how I dealt with that pain.

Fawad Kalsi - 0:02:59
I ended up staying in the hospital there for 11 days and they did every test in the bulk and they diagnosed me to have pancreatitis. and they couldn't figure out why. That is where my journey began with opioids. They prescribed oxycodone, said, just take it whenever you need it for the pain, or really cut the treats or pancreatitis. except they just kept me hungry for like about a week, eight days ,and kept me on IV until my pancreas shrunk.

Fawad Kalsi - 0:03:29
and  let me go and send me away with this bottle of pills. Every time I took them I would feel back to normal, I'd be pain free, and it would wear off, I would come back.  Then after that I had seven more pancreatitis attacks in 2013. and then they changed the diagnosis to chronic pancreatitis and they just kept on prescribing opioids, and then they went from yeah, oxycodone and OxyNEO, long lasting, short acting, everything and I was on them for five years and the last dose I ever took was 55 pills, equivalent to over half a gram of oxy, I went from being someone that had never used anything in my life to someone who was heavily dependent and addicted to opioids and I couldn't live without them. Where I actually realized and where I knew I was addicted was 2015 December 25th. So 24th, I ran out of my medicine or so called medicine or oxycodone.

Fawad Kalsi - 0:04:36
I asked my wife to get me my pills and  she said, you only got couple left here, you're going to be out 'cause she was worried that the doctors are closed on Christmas and and so she said, "If your meds are going to be finished." I said, well I'll be fine. it's okay, I'll deal with it for a day. That was the first time where after like  8 hours I started going into full blown. withdrawals. Christmas of 2015 was the worst possible day of my life.

Fawad Kalsi - 0:05:13
My own body was on fire. Every single bone in my body was aching. I was throwing up all over the place, had lost control of my bowels. I had literally locked myself in a room for 16 hours because I didn't want my children to see me in that condition. My wife was crying and I was begging her to hit me in the head with a bat.

Fawad Kalsi - 0:05:30
I said, "Just knock me out." I said, I don't know what to do, I'm going crazy. That was the toughest day of my life. I went into the doctors office on the 26th. first thing in the morning. I wanted to kill the guy and I said, it was the worst day of my life, give me the injection or whatever it is to calm me down and get me back to normal or give me the antidote to this ridiculousness.

Fawad Kalsi - 0:05:49
He was like that it doesn't work like that. You should go into the hospital, they would have refilled your prescription. I really had no idea that I was addicted. I just took it as it said it said take as needed every four to six hours. The doctors had told me that it was for pain relief and when it stopped working, when I started feeling like the pain wasn't going away I just go to doctor. He increased the dosage he's like yeah this you have to increase it every now and then, and then they were increasing it every month. Now that I look back it's really easy to talk about it but  I never had a clue that I was addicted until that particular day. A year before I actually was cured.

Fawad Kalsi - 0:06:29
My doctor was audited. He was told to get me off of the oxys 'cause I was being prescribed like terminally ill cancer patient dosage. and be given three to six months to get me off, and that's where my my real struggle started because I couldn't handle the withdrawals as he was chopping me down so I turned to the streets and started replenishing the stuff that he was cutting down. I had to find some how to stay normal. So yeah, the last eight months of my addiction.

Fawad Kalsi - 0:07:03
I was being chopped down by my doctor and he was just proud of me because he thought I was just doing wonderful but he didn't know that I was replenishing it off the streets. I ended up spending $40,000 in eight months, $5,000 a month on average. Luckily I had some angels looking after me. Even the guy that was supplying me was just really careful about getting me the same stuff that I was getting from my doctor. He was like listen, I'm not in the business of making addicts. I say these things because everybody judges these people, but this guy was like I need to see your prescriptions.

Fawad Kalsi - 0:07:39
I need to see your bottles. Even though he was a dealer he was like I'm not going to kill you, I don't want to kill you, I know what to do in this war on opioids is killing people and ruining their lives. He's really caring. I remember these people in my life as blessings and he got me through it when the medical system was my enemy, my doctor was my enemy.  I got to a breaking point because I started seeing my bank balance just disappear and I started seeing that I was going to end up on the streets at some point.

Fawad Kalsi - 0:08:05
I just started seeing the end and I broke down and I told my family and I said I need help. I've been doing this for the last like  six months and I'm going to go broke soon and the end is near. Honestly, that was the best thing that could have happened to me from my faith because that's where I was literally cornered in and I just turned to God then and I said, listen, if this is life. then I don't want it anymore. You gave it to me, so take it away. If it isn't, then you got to get me out of this like I have nowhere to go but you.

Fawad Kalsi - 0:08:36
That's where literally things started changing.

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:08:49
After Fawad reached out to his family and community for help, a friend suggested a change of scenery. Fawad took that advice and he and his family traveled from British Columbia to US. On that trip Fawad made a discovery that would ultimately save him.

Fawad Kalsi - 0:09:10
For the last 10 days of 2016 minutes, we ended up going to San Francisco. On New Year's Eve, that's where the miracle happened. New Year's Eve and came back from the fireworks back to the hotel, and I couldn't sleep so I turned on the TV and I started watching an episode of Law and Order, there was literally nothing else on TV, and ended up seeing this episode on Ibogaine and how it helped this heroin addict to solve their case. I don't want to go through the story,

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:09:41
On Law and Order? This is where you learned about Ibogaine? That's so funny

Fawad Kalsi - 0:09:46
For like six months prior, I was researching on how to kick the opioid habit and I couldn't find anything other than the mainstream like rehab, and this, and that. I never ever came across Ibogaine or Iboga and lo and behold, this Law and Order episode, and then I turned to my wife right after and I said, hey heroines from the same family, and she's like, why would you believe in what Hollywood's throw it out there? They're taking on the Pharmaceutical industry in that episode and saying that they don't work on cures, and that's why I believe it's not available. They work on just maintenance and and making sure they have a customer always. She asked, "Why would you believe what the Hollywood's pitching?" I said, you know what?

Fawad Kalsi - 0:10:31
I don't know, but I didn't understand why we were in San Francisco. I was grouchy the whole time, I didn't want to be here, I know now that I came, I was brought here for this reason. I started researching like a madman. As soon as I typed in Iboga, like a gamut of information, came up online and I started watching videos and people's experiences and I was going to go to Mexico. I ran into a friend and she told me, "Why are you going to Mexico?"  I said, well, it's not legal here and she said, who said it's not legal?

Fawad Kalsi - 0:11:06
I said well in Law and Order, it was illegal and she's like, is that the basis of your research? I said, well, I I would assume that  US and Canada is similar, so if it's illegal in the states then it should be illegal here too. She's like no, it's actually unregulated here, and there's a treatment center right in West Vancouver. That's where I met my angel Trevor Miller. I contacted him and he was fascinated by the story.

Fawad Kalsi - 0:11:28
He said that we treat people that are recreationally abusing but we want your case because you're someone that has been medically mismanaged and you've not used anything recreationally. Welcome aboard and we'll see you in March. That was January and so he booked me in for March. That's where my journey with Ibogaine started.

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:11:57
What was that like for you to finally have the sense of there's something that can help? Then I of course I want to hear what the treatment was like for you.

Fawad Kalsi - 0:12:07
Yeah. I was excited. I was super naive because I underestimated the power of Iboga. I watched a lot of videos and I just thought I was going to take some tree root.

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:12:22
Like drink a tea?

Fawad Kalsi - 0:12:22
Yeah. I just thought I was going to take these capsules and I was going to see green men jump around and they're going to talk to me and they're going to laugh and I'm going to be funny for a bit and I'll wake up and I'll be cured. It was nothing like that today.

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:12:38

Fawad Kalsi - 0:12:38
It was life changing. They have to remember I never used anything in my life, I had no understanding about psychedelics other than you know what I'd seen in TV or movies. and just like some wavy patterns and the '60s and the '70s lights flashing and that was psychedelics for me. but I had hope again. I knew from New Year's Eve, January 1st, that I had found the solution.

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:13:09
You just felt that in your soul, you're just your new?

Fawad Kalsi - 0:13:12
Yeah because everything like I told you, everything happened when I was cornered in and I asked and I was given. The relationship with God for me changed. This journey actually changed my relationship with God from a textbook relationship, from belief to conviction. That's the best way that I can explain it. I knew that His plan was in fact

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:13:42
Talk to me about what the experience was like. for you taking the medicine. Did you see little green men that jumped around and you were all better? It sounds like it was different than that.

Fawad Kalsi - 0:13:50
Oh yeah. I did see the little green men bill. I had seen them at one point and they were fighting the opioids. But the experience was amazing, frightening. It was the scariest thing I've ever done in my life, with probably the best results. Scary in the sense that I was so sensitive to anything. They started me off at the treatment center using a microdose, so they do that for everyone.

Fawad Kalsi - 0:14:10
There was three of us getting treated at the same time. Is really professional operation. They started me off with microdose and the microdoses just post to check how my body would react just to make sure that I didn't have any sort of allergies or anything and I actually went on a full fledged psychedelic journey on the microdose, which was pretty cool for Trevor and his team to see, But I as soon as it kicked in the microdose I found myself in a grave in the middle of a desert wrapped in two pieces of white cloth and it was beautiful sunny day with clear blue skies. That was the freakiest thing I've ever seen in my life. That's how my journey started.

Fawad Kalsi - 0:15:01
I just tried to wiggle myself out of these two cloth and I was like Oh my God, I'm dead. I died. This is the stupidest thing I ever did. They said do this and now I'm dead. I was trying to wiggle out of it and then I just started hearing chants of prayers from Mecca and I started seeing the house God in Mecca, the Kaaba, as it's known, and start seeing people walking around it and chanting prayers. I just opened my eyes, and started crying and bawling to my wife and I said, save me, help me, I'm gone.

Fawad Kalsi - 0:15:37
Literally, my heart was shaking and it was so real for me, the experience.  Then I was told to close my eyes again and just relax. because if you get frightened, just open your eyes and you can close them again. I did so, and I seen myself running towards this. amazing light like I've never seen before and I had two steel suitcases in my hand and I was running, running, running. I don't know why I was running. All of a sudden this steel suitcases fell out of my hand and they opened up and they were empty.

Fawad Kalsi - 0:16:12
I literally fell to the ground and I started bawling my eyes again and I just crying and literally, physically I was in this world. I was shaking as well. I looked back and I see myself like just that little tidbit. about me running towards the light. I felt like I was running towards God and when the suitcases emptied up, when they fell to the ground and they were empty, I seen my life and it was empty and I fell to the ground because I had nothing prepared or I was taking nothing with me to God and I had nothing prepared so I felt like I was a failure. That's why it's falling.

Fawad Kalsi - 0:16:56
I wasted my time in this life and I didn't prepare for my meeting with my creator. The journey changed my life. It was the hardest thing I've ever experienced in my life to deal with that. I dealt with things like my past, I dealt with my siblings calling me names when I was kid, or even getting bullied in school or the things that I had wronged others with, I had to deal with all of that. It came all up in that journey. There was a warrior within me that woke up and they just dealt with them. There was this fictitious sword that came out of nowhere and I just started ripping these memories and this life experiencing up.

Fawad Kalsi - 0:17:47
To be honest, after that happened, after I went through that, I've never been burdened again about my life. I was free from those burdens.

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:18:01
The desire for the oxycodone was gone immediately, like in that day it ended?

Fawad Kalsi - 0:18:10
Not with the microdose. I was in the in the treatment center for eight days. I was supposed to be there for 10 days. After the microdose I wanted to run away from the center, I didn't want to do it again. God bless Trevor 'cause he said he said listen man, that is the most amazing experience I've heard of someone on a microdose. Aren't you a little bit curious about who's going to come out on the other side once this is all done? He goes, I'm super excited. He goes, aren't you excited? He goes, if you're supposed to be here tomorrow, leave that to God.  I ended up caving, and I stayed and so the small dose.

Fawad Kalsi - 0:18:45
They do that for a couple days and then the fourth day they do the flood dose. Flood dose is the big those. That's the ceremonial dose. I was under for  12 or 16 hours and once I got out of the flood dose I was no longer an opioid addict. I didn't have any desire.

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:19:08
It was cleared from you?

Fawad Kalsi - 0:19:09
It was gone. It was gone. Right up to the flood dose I was pretty much done with opioids, but I still had in me, there was a bit of it that kept on coming back and saying, hey I need it, I need it, I'm feeling pain, I'm feeling pain and I need the opioids. But the flood dose it just knocked it out of me. I woke up, I was even thinking about opioids. I was just thinking about how to get stronger to get out here and I wanted to be with my daughter or my sons and I was just itching to get out.  Trevor was like, listen, you need to get stronger and healthier and you don't want your kids to see you in this week and state, so let's just stay and you got to stay.

Fawad Kalsi - 0:19:47
I said, I'm cured, I'm cured, I'm free and I got to leave and they helped me pack till 8 days and then I just said see you later, I'm not staying here anymore. I ran off to my kids and family. The amazing part is that since March of 2017, I have not touched a single pill or any drugs and I was cured of my pancreatitis same time. I got a clean bill of health since I came back. My doctor was shocked and he literally made me do a urine test.

Fawad Kalsi - 0:20:16
after about a month of me being cured to make sure that I was not secretly using opioids and that's how shocked he was, how I went from so many opioids to zero in a matter of eight days.

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:20:40
The speed of Fawad transformation is hard to believe from the perspective of modern medical science. Opioid addiction is a notoriously difficult to treat, which is why it is so deadly and has destroyed so many lives. As Fawad mentioned, Ibogaine is illegal in the United States. In countries where it is unregulated, such as Canada, it is not a mainstream option for treating addiction. But luckily the research on psychedelics like Ibogaine is steadily increasing. We're just beginning to imagine its potential as a therapeutic tool.

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:21:07
Dr. Dan Engle is one of the people exploring possible treatments using Ibogaine. He is a neurologist, psychiatrist, and plant medicine expert. His areas of research include concussion recovery, neurocognitive restoration, and traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs. He's also a primary investigator and consultant in Mind Cure health. Dan talks about the accessibility of Ibogaine and other ways that it can be used besides treating addiction.

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:21:32
I had a conversation with a friend yesterday who is a physician and we're talking about some of the patients that she's treating and just the tenacity of addiction and the way that it was really creating destruction in their lives as it does in many people's lives. I said, well, have you have you heard about Ibogaine? Have you heard about the iboga plant and some of the potential that this holds for helping to alleviate addiction? She hadn't. She hadn't heard anything about it, so we had a good long conversation.

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:22:11
But I'm really happy to talk with you as someone who is really well versed and well studied in the world of iboga and Ibogaine and the potentials that these medicines hold.

Dr. Dan Engle - 0:22:26
It's such an exciting time in this entire field because medicines that have been used for hundreds, if not thousands of years are now finding their more contemporary position in this really complex medical mainstream for supporting a lot of treatment resistant psychiatric conditions that the standard of care has been short and being able to fully alleviate, our standard of care, particularly for addiction treatment, response rates are pretty low, For something like Ibogaine, which is the chief alkaloid in iboga, which is the whole plant, its recovery rates are pretty phenomenal, particularly compared to the standard of care.

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:23:11
Yeah. Where is it in the world of being accessible to people who are struggling with addiction?

Dr. Dan Engle - 0:23:19
Yeah, it's a great question in the landscape of different regulatory agencies, policies of access, and exclusion on one side of the spectrum and the other, Ibogaine has continuously been in Schedule I. since the early late 60s, or early 70s, when everything was lumped into Schedule I at that point. Because we don't really yet have a clear understanding from the federal government about the excellent potential that these medicines have, there's just continuously been this locked door approach. There are a few agencies in the States, Canada, and South that are studying it, but in the United States alone it is just consistently been pretty heavily armored and it's  unpalatable and unfortunate. Schedule 1 designation. When you look at the global landscape, more and more people are appreciating its benefits and opening up their regulatory agencies to put it into an easier classification.

Dr. Dan Engle - 0:24:24
or easier scheduling to work with. Whether it's on the research side or on the clinical treatment side, the US is just taking such a strong position over the last close to 50 years and all of that policy is just taking a long time to update. Most of the medicines don't deserve to be in Schedule I anyway. Schedule I means that the medicine itself is highly addictive and it has no treatment potential. We know for medicines particularly like Ibogaine, psilocybin, the list is long, those are all still, unfortunately, Schedule I federally in the United States,

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:25:11
Despite having very limited evidence that they're at all addictive, in addition, the potential power that they have  to be healing and helpful to people,

Dr. Dan Engle - 0:25:20
Right, especially for addiction. Ibogaine is an addiction medicine, so the sideman has excellent data as an addiction medicine. This is also to be noted that these medicines, when we're talking about their therapeutic benefit, we're talking about them being used in a therapeutic container, so not just people taking these medicines and being good and "fixed" especially if they're doing it in a recreational situation or a setting that's not clinical or therapeutic, There  are huge differentials between those two, whether it's a casual setting or a therapeutic setting. In the right setting, these medicines are phenomenal.

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:26:02
Some of the work that you are doing in the research realm is looking at other potential ways that Ibogaine can be helpful to things like TBI, neuroregeneration. Do you want to say a little bit about that?

Dr. Dan Engle - 0:26:16
Yeah. Ibogaine and iboga, again, their relationship like mescaline is to peyote. For people to be owners, they're able to understand mescaline's the chief component in peyote, Ibogaine is the chief component in iboga. It's helpful to recognize when we use medicines in this way, there is benefit because with Ibogaine there's a more specific dose range, it's easier to use it clinically and get an expected outcome. It does have benefits too when we're looking at the broader context in studying the whole plant itself and and we're still in our infancy to really understand fully how to use these medicines in the best way. Being able to use Ibogaine and identify its therapeutic potential and then scale out from their groundbreaking research that is able to even look at the entire plant and its therapeutic potential.

Dr. Dan Engle - 0:27:11
We're still really just scratching the surface, that's why this research is so important. Then to your question, when we look at something like Ibogaine, it is so complex in its receptor profile, how it works near a chemically physiologically cycle emotionally. Because it works on 50 plus different receptor profiles, it has a wide variety of potential therapeutic options. You mentioned neuroregeneration, iboga and Ibogaine are one of the very few chemicals, potentially even the only one in research that showed to be able to reverse the neurodegenerative effects of Parkinson's disease, the dopamine neurons in the substantia nigra where they dwindle over time or they generate overtime. Iboga and Ibogaine have shown to be able to reverse that. There are very few again if any other medicines and neurochemicals that are able to reverse that degree of degeneration. That's one area of curiosity. Another that we've talked about already is its extensive history and data in the addiction recovery arena.

Dr. Dan Engle - 0:28:14
Thousands and thousands of people have benefited from iboga, Ibogaine, and thousands and thousands are dying daily because of addiction and PTSD related to addiction globally. This is why the field is exciting and it's also pretty urgent because these are massive psychiatric epidemics that are plaguing. thousands of people globally on a daily basis. Trauma is one of those as well. There are organizations that are using Ibogaine as a treatment for a dual diagnosis of PTSD and addiction. When held in a therapeutic container, it's very good, especially for veterans going through their trauma recovery work to support their addiction recovery work and their hundreds and hundreds of consistent testimonials of significant benefit are irrefutable. That's just one subset if we're looking at addictionology and how consistently trauma is connected to that.

Dr. Dan Engle - 0:29:28
When we have clients who have a really complex presentation of their underlying core wounds and traumas, and we have medicines that can work on multiple different diagnostic subtypes simultaneously, then it gets really exciting. Traumatic brain injury is another area specialization of line and Ibogaine has potential benefit there as well because it's super. supportive in accelerating people's cognitive recovery. We could describe Ibogaine, especially when it's used as a microdose protocol as a pretty significant nootropic or cognitive enhancing medicine.

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:30:18
More of the health promotion than the treatment intervention side, a substance that helps to keep the brain healthy rather than is intervening to solve a problem.

Dr. Dan Engle - 0:30:29
Yeah, great distinction there. It might be working to alleviate some of the challenge stemming from traumatic brain injury at a physiologic level. We just haven't studied it well enough. For example, Ketamine's quite good at resolving traumatic brain injury. We are one of the first centers to be able to use this a couple of years ago and just saw a significant benefit.

Dr. Dan Engle - 0:30:46
It's probably because ketamine is really effective to resolve a lot of the neuroinflammation that happens with traumatic brain injury. Ibogaine might very well do the same thing, so not only working to accelerate the symptom recovery, ie because with traumatic brain injury, oftentimes people have posted custom syndrome. That's when you get a variety of different cognitive performance deficits because of an injury, so it's hard to think, focus, concentrate, remember, do your daily tasks.

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:31:26
You're irritable, you can damage relationships. There's all kinds of other life problems that come along with the TBI.

Dr. Dan Engle - 0:31:33
Totally. We might see something like Ibogaine being very supportive in supporting the symptom recovery while addressing the underlying issue simultaneously.

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:31:44
In addition to treating addiction, Ibogaine can be used to heal neurodegenerative diseases. the damage caused by traumatic brain injuries, PTSD, and more. But unfortunately the existence of the iboga plant is nearly endangered due to increasing demand and climate change. It's important that the iboga plant remains available to the indigenous communities of central West Africa.

Dr. Dan Engle - 0:32:09
Now, experts are looking to make synthetic ibogaine as a possible solution.

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:32:15
Hamilton Morris is a journalist and scientist with a background in anthropology and chemistry. You may know him as creator of the hit Viceland documentary series, Hamilton's Pharmacopia. On the show Hamilton travels the world and investigates the history, chemistry, and societal impact of psychoactive substances. He's also joined Mind Cure as a scientific advisor. On a recent episode of this series, Hamilton traveled to Gabon and participated in the iboga ceremony with the practitioners of the Bwiti discipline. Having experienced its ceremonial use, he's an advocate of preserving the iboga plant and manufacturing is synthetic version of Ibogaine.

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:32:50
I ask Hamilton for his thoughts on Ibogaine and what users of synthetic Ibogaine might gain or lose by forgoing the "natural option." I'm especially curious about Ibogaine as a therapeutic tool. I know you've had some experience with this in in Gabon, could you say a little bit about the potential promise that it holds?

Hamilton Morris - 0:33:27
Yeah. I think that it offers something that many of the classical psychedelics do not both experientially and pharmacologically. It has this very, very complicated pharmacology, but experientially it feels very fortifying, almost like what I would imagine an anabolic steroid feels like where you have this sense of strength, physical strength, mental strength, and a feeling that you can overcome whatever the challenges are that you're facing. When people talk about Ibogaine, it's almost always in the context of opioid addiction, which is fine and good because that is one of the most challenging substance abuse problems to treat. But I think that that's just the tip of the iceberg, and that there is a lot of potential in Ibogaine and other iboga alkaloids and synthetic derivatives of Ibogaine that could be used to treat a variety of different impulse control disorders and addictions, compulsions, things like that.

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:34:39
I know you're an advocate for synthetic ibogaine. Can you say a little bit about the difference between synthetic drugs versus harvested plant medicine?

Hamilton Morris - 0:34:48
I think that we have a tendency to think that whatever nature produces has to be optimized for therapeutic properties in humans, but that's of course not why it evolved. It's just a beautiful coincidence that it happens to work as well as it does for humans, and so for that reason, I also think that there's often room for improvement and that these things should be valued for all of the amazing potential that they have, but they shouldn't be looked at as the be all, end all when it's very possible that we can figure out ways to improve the way that they're delivered and figure out optimal ways to dose them and figure out the best way to combine alkaloids, if that is done in order to achieve the best therapeutic outcome.

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:35:34
How long is that scientific process  to take something like a plant and then try to reverse engineer it in the laboratory?

Hamilton Morris - 0:35:43
Well, it really depends. In the case of Ibogaine, a lot of the material that is circulating is produced from another plant alkaloid called and in that case it's technically not even a synthesis, it's a degradation reaction, where in synthesis you're putting two things together in the degradation you're stripping something away. In that case it's just extracting and isolating this starting material from this other tree and then basically just treating it with a strong base and alcohol and boiling it for a little while and you're left with Ibogaine. There's also other ways to do it, using a total synthesis process, starting from something like 5-methoxytryptamine. The synthesis is not so challenging. It's been done before many times, and that's not the major barrier.

Hamilton Morris - 0:36:34
I think the the real barrier is just figuring out how best to deliver these things and how to create the best. therapeutic framework to provide support for the patient and figure out what types of aftercare are necessary, what types of integration is necessary. I think we still haven't figured out basic things about how best to use these things in our culture. There are things that they do in Gabon that are clearly very useful in that cultural context, but I don't know how well they would translate to the medical culture of Canada or the United States. Things like burying people alive and sacrificing a chicken over them.

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:37:24
Five days of drumming.

Hamilton Morris - 0:37:27
Yeah, five day long fasts. Ritualistic bathing process is extremely painful, eye drops, all this stuff. It's very clear that it works well in that culture. But we don't have a framework for that experience in the United States and we have just a general, I would say cultural distaste for anything that is uncomfortable.

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:37:56
Well, just give me the pill, just give me the drug, doesn't matter, not fix it.

Hamilton Morris - 0:38:01
Yeah. I've been thinking about whether there would have been as much of a problem with oxycodone as there was if. it were just a bitter liquid that people had to drink,

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:38:15
Because if it was uncomfortable.

Hamilton Morris - 0:38:16
Yeah, just if they had to taste this bitter stuff, if that would have been sufficient to detur abuse. I think that that's when people wonder well, why isn't there as many problems with these things in these traditional indigenous groups? It's like, well, they're pretty much never working with extracted compounds, it's usually outside of, like an aqueous infusion. It's usually just a whole plant material, and often there's an associated bitterness that creates some suffering or discomfort in the ingestion that makes it much less likely that people will use these things excessively or frivolously,

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:39:03
I guess I wonder what's what's lost when we Take these compounds into the laboratory and sort of package them in a way that's easily consumable for Western culture.

Hamilton Morris - 0:39:16
Yeah, well, certainly the ritual is lost, the music is lost. That it worries me far more than any people. I always get hung up in the difference between natural and synthetic. That I think is just like non issue, basically. I've seen people try to figure out insanely convoluted ways like saying, they'll be like in isotopic difference in the nitrogen though there could be more radiocarbon in a natural product versus a synthetic one.

Hamilton Morris - 0:39:38
It's like if you're getting to the point that you're trying to use trace radiocarbon as an explanation for the difference, you're thinking in the wrong place. There are much more substantial differences, and those are psychological ones, not chemical ones, which people just tend to dismiss entirely. They're more inclined to create some fictional interpretation involving radiocarbon than they are to acknowledge their own biases surrounding the concept of natural and synthetic. So yeah, when you make these things synthetically, I don't think anything is lost at all. But I think there's sometimes a cultural context that changes, and that will in turn have an effect on the experience.

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:40:36
You can make Ibogaine legal and package it up in a pill, but the intensity and weight of the experience necessitates great care and attention. You can't just lift Ibogaine from its original cultural context and drop it into Western medicine. This is a challenge along with protecting the iboga plant and improving accessibility. But overcoming these obstacles is worth it if it means a possible solution to some of our most difficult medical challenges. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 70,630 people died from drug overdose in 2019.

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:41:09
Over 48,000 deaths were attributed to overdosing on synthetic opioids other than methadone in a 12-month period. In 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency related to the opioid epidemic. We are long overdue for some  intervention that can help turn the tide against this deadly disease, and the millions of families it leaves devastated in its wake. I'm deeply grateful to my guests; Fawad Kalsi, Dr. Dan Engle, and Hamilton Morris for their wisdom, insight and vulnerability. For more about our guests, to learn about their backgrounds, or follow them on social media, you can visit us at, click on the podcast tab and all that information will be right there for you.

Dr. Sherry Walling - 0:41:57
Thanks so much for joining me. If you have a question or there's a topic you'd like to see us tackle, something that you are curious about, reach out via all the normal social media channels. We would love to hear your feedback, your comments, and your questions. Thanks so much for joining me. Stay curious. 

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