I was a speaker at the Psychedelic Psychotherapy Forum held in October a couple of years ago in Victoria. That is where I met Bradley Foster who invited me to be a part of the upcoming Career Day. My company is called Liberty Root Therapy Ltd. (www.libertyroot.net
) We have been operating it for the last 4 years providing the psychedelic plant medicine Ibogaine to those who feel called to it and qualify.
We work mostly with opioid addicts, as it is a powerful addiction interrupter. Since last May, I have not been doing much hands on work as there have been some regulatory changes in Canada. I have been focused on the big picture on how we can make this medicine available to more people.
To what I give to this panel, I have the unique experience of actually running a business in Canada giving psychedelics to people, legally, with Health Canada knowing about it. I bring a unique perspective having operated a company that has given psychedelic therapy to more than 200 people.
Jacobsen: How does Ibogaine work to be an addiction interrupter?
Millar: The backstory is that it comes from the Iboga shrub. It has been used ceremonially for centuries in Africa in the Bwiti tradition. They claim the pygmies gave it to them. It is used ‘in the jungle’ for healing on many levels as well as initiation into adulthood and the tribe in general.
In 1962, a heroin addict in New York City by the name of Howard Lotsof had a chemist buddy who knew that he would try anything. He asked him to try Ibogaine, and he did. This sent him on a long psychedelic trip, it can be as long as 36-hours, but when he came out the other end he realized he hadn’t wanted heroin the whole time he’d been on it, nor did he want it anymore. That is when its anti-addictive properties were discovered.
He became a champion for the medicine and got the right people to pay attention to some degree. He founded the Global Ibogaine Therapy Alliance and established some standards of care. I was recently the Executive Director of that organization. (www.ibogainealliance.org
It seems to scrub the opiate receptors and bring people to an opiate naive state. We treat mostly opioid addicts; it helps to interrupt any negative pattern a person wants to overcome including most drugs.
But it works especially well for opioids. It helps people get off the drug without the pain of withdrawal, which can drag out for months and months. We bring clients in for 10 days.
We have a doctor working with us to prescribe morphine. a short-acting opioid, so they would be on that for the first day or so to stabilize.
Then we tend to low dose with Ibogaine for one or two days. The way that works is somebody wakes up in the morning, has a bit of withdrawal, and then we give them a small dose of Ibogaine and the withdrawals are taken away for 4-6 hours.
When the withdrawals come back, we put them back on morphine. Because the Ibogaine has done some of its work, we only need to go in with about half as much of the opioid. We do that for a couple of days and ween them off the opiate as much as possible before the next day, which is when we bring in a registered nurse and do the ‘flood dose’ of Ibogaine.
This is the full 36-hour long experience. As I said, we bring in a registered nurse. Ibogaine is potentially deadly. There is a big screening process prior to bringing any clients come in, including an ECG to check their heart as well as blood work.
During that 36-hour long experience, it is, as far as I as a non-patient is concerned, a person lying on a bed. But the first 8-12 hours a person will go through something that’s been called an oneiric experience, or “as related to dreams.”
As with many psychedelic psychotherapies, you may relive past traumatic events, but see it from a different context so some forgiveness may happen there. It is hard to describe the experience adequately.
The first 6-12 hours contains most of the ‘bells and whistles’, then the following 24 provides a lot of time to reflect. Eventually they’ll get some sleep and if we need to do it, we can give some booster medicine if there are any other withdrawals.
For the most part, after the flood, they are physically free of opiates. Generally, the cravings have disappeared. Withdrawal from opiates is normally dire pain for anywhere from a couple days to a couple months with some of post-acute symptoms often extending six months or more. With Ibogaine most of this is addressed in a few days. It’s such a gift.
It is amazing to see. People still to have decisions to make out the other end of the treatment, so it is not a 100% success rate overall. We see long-term in the unscientific studies that we have done out of Liberty Root a 60-65% success rate treating these addicts.
It blows regular addiction statistics out of the water. That number correlates with the general consensus around the success of Ibogaine. Some of the more scientific studies done tend to show around a 50% success rate on average.
Jacobsen: How might this apply to the opioid epidemic ongoing in the country at the moment?
Millar: It is a really great solution!
Millar: The way Ibogaine has been classified for the last 4 or 5 years when I was working with it. It was classified as a natural health product within Canada. That meant that it was regulated to a certain degree, but wasn’t regulated to the point where a person would be breaking a law by using it.
In May, it was put on the prescription drug list. I think it is where it should be because it is potentially dangerous. A natural health product should not be potentially dangerous. It is good that it was put on the prescription drug list.
But in order to be available, it needs to get a drug identifier number. To get that drug identifier number, you need to have the stage 1, 2, 3 clinical trials in order for Health Canada to say, “This is how the drug should be used.”
It is currently in a regulatory Twilight Zone. My aim is to move it beyond that Twilight Zone. But it would be huge in piece in trying to fix this opioid crisis. It is definitely not for everybody. The way I started to use this medicine was to look for ways to help the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver.
It was a passion project that I started in 2001, and in 2009 Ibogaine came on the radar as a potential solution. The right synchronicities happened to have the right doors open. I was able to put together a great team for this.
Our philosophy was we will take paying customers and then use some profits take people from the Downtown Eastside and help them. We helped a good few people out of that neighborhood.
The people we’ve helped from that hood are doing great from what I know; I am in touch with a couple of them. One has a job and an apartment. He told me that he has $5,000 that he wants to invest in something [Laughing]. To go from being homeless on the Downtown Eastside, staying in a shelter; going through this process, getting on his feet enough that now he’s asking me about how to invest $5K in cryptocurrencies. It’s pretty amazing. [Laughing].