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My Heroin-Addicted Friend Was Determined to Detox with the Hallucinogen Ibogaine ... I Scored It for Him and Supervised His Trip

A first-hand account of a very alternative approach to escaping a terrible addiction.

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During the early years of the AIDS crisis, when neither the government nor private industry was bothering to look for treatments, desperate gay men—watching themselves and their partners waste away—imported experimental treatments from outside the country and distributed them via a network of “buyers clubs.” Doctors sympathetic to the community sometimes risked their careers to administer these promising (or not), mostly untested compounds, some of which were dangerous. Although operating outside the law, the buyers clubs were tolerated by the FDA because of pressure from the community.

The idea that people with a life-threatening illness have the right to access unapproved treatments—even risky ones—has gained credibility, although it remains controversial. Doctors, for one, are split on it. Addicts currently cannot become members of this special club. But should they, especially given the lamentable absence of effective drug treatments? The answer may depend on the answer to the question, is addiction a life-threatening illness? There is a slow trend among experts toward yes. But to force the issue, addicts would have to turn their despair into action. And that may require a turnaround that leads to recovery anyway.

As for Seth, he called me last week from Maui to thank me and tell me that so far, he was still clean. "The Ibogaine was the best thing I've ever done," he said.


Matt Harvey is an award-winning freelance journalist whose writing has appeared on, Black Book, the New York Post and the New York Press among other publications. He lives in Manhattan.

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