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Why Thousands Are Turning to a Psychedelic Plant from Africa for Release from Severe Addictions

A psychedelic plant from Africa has sparked an underground revolution in medicine.

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Clare and her sister Sarah show up at the house a couple hours after I arrive. They both stand just over five feet tall, and have no physical resemblance beyond that. Bespectacled Clare resembles a hippie accountant, while ink-and-bleach Sarah is more skate punk. They both project substantial presence.

Later that afternoon Chris Bava and his wife, Cat, stop by. Both are artists and former clients who are renting a beautiful beach house just down the hill from Pangea. Chris was a Category 5 poly-addicted mess, hooked on heroin, ketamine, crystal meth, and methadone. He had done three years in a federal joint for a drug related offense, and was clean and sober for a number of years before falling back into addiction. Clare had saved both of their lives through ibogaine therapy, and they now paid their respects, as many former clients did, by volunteering their time at the clinic.

“You can’t really use me as an example, though,” Chris says, waving me off. “I’m not an an ibogaine success story, it didn’t work on me the first couple of times.”

Cat quibbles, “After the second treatment he went on a ketamine rampage and we had to commit him. That was when he was ready to quit, that third time. And it worked.”

Later the three of us are walking on the beach together while Jeff, another former addict who is part of a provider training program, is keeping an eye on the guy from Detroit, who is throwing balls to Chris and Cat’s dogs. Jeff is making sure Detroit doesn’t try to cop dope from someone on the beach or street. The addicts who come to Pangea often need constant monitoring, like this guy. Within a day he is caught with a smuggled set of works and it becomes apparent to the staff that he has broken into the med closet and stolen methadone and valium. After hanging around for a week, on his parents dime, without undergoing the treatment, he eventually decides to leave, and Clare ends up having to drop him across the border.

Cat pulls up alongside me as we shuffle through the sand.

“I wasn’t expecting anything when I took ibogaine,” she says in a thick Aussie drawl, “but I found it cured me of smoking, and nicotine was definitely my drug of choice. I smoked for 35 years! I expected to die of lung cancer. I can’t tell you how surprised I was not to crave a cigarette. I was simply baffled.”

The next day I fast after gagging down a handful of supplements with a macrobiotic vegetable juice Sarah makes me, part of Pangea’s neurotransmitter replacement therapy regimen. The supplements are meant to prep the brain for the ibogaine, and most of the addicts coming in for treatment have depleted neurotransmitters and are suffering from various degrees of depression, chronic fatigue, liver issues, or viral infection. In some cases patients have to be stabilized with benzodiazapines before they can undergo the treatment, hence the valium on site. For the more benign cases, marijuana is provided for anyone who wants it, to combat anxiety, nausea, and depression. It’s also available because it’s considered medicine, and it's not illegal. This small detail alone would be considered radical, and most likely dangerous, across the border, where just up the road in San Diego legal medical marijuana clinics are raided on a weekly basis. To be honest, the weed makes for a nice vibe, and in a place like this -- a trip factory, a healing center -- vibe is everything.

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