In a recent article, The Daily Beast’s “The Big Money Behind Kentucky AG Daniel Cameron’s Bizarre Psychedelic Drug Crusade” took aim at the Kentucky Attorney General and the proposed allocation of $42 million towards ibogaine research in the state. The criticism primarily centered on the funding being directed to a single company, without any evidence to support the claim. But the political skew of the article becomes apparent in how they discuss ibogaine itself, citing the most sensational claims and highlighting outdated myths about ibogaine. At Ambio, it’s telling that these myths are still pervasive, and we’re grateful that Kentucky’s public discourse is bringing them to the surface.
Ambio is at Arms Length from this Issue
We should clarify, first of all, that Ambio Life Sciences is a competitor of and not related in any way to ATAI Life Sciences, whom the article names as the potential benefactor of Kentucky funds. Ambio is not publicly traded, nor do we have any investors who are connected to them or who have a stake in US politics. We are a long-standing ibogaine company owned by Mexican and Canadian citizens that operates clinics in Mexico.
Our partners have over 40+ years of combined experience working with ibogaine safety, and we’ve been sought out by numerous Kentuckians. In fact, at the time of this publication, we have more than one individual going through our program from the state of Kentucky. All of these people have had extensive exposure to the options made available to them by conventional medicine and addiction recovery, and were forced to look elsewhere when those treatments did not serve them.
Over the past several months, the Kentucky Opioid Commission has heard hours of emotional testimony from panels of experts as well as people who have benefited from ibogaine treatment in numerous ways. They have heard from military veterans struggling with traumatic brain injury and PTSD, as well as from numerous individuals from Kentucky and elsewhere who were addicted to opioids and used ibogaine to find a firm foundation in recovery.
Nonetheless, the Daily Beast called the commission’s interest in ibogaine a “mystery,” and in their effort to cite political motives, it has cited some of the most selective and exaggerated descriptions it could find about ibogaine. They call ibogaine “perilous”, citing a Time Magazine headline from earlier this year that called ibogaine “the most promising and perilous psychedelic medicine for addiction,” in an article that explored ibogaine medical risk, but also numerous highly positive healing stories, some of whom have also testified in Kentucky. They also said that ibogaine can make you “violently ill,” citing an article in The Guardian that interviews a UK band called The Avalanches, which is hardly a reliable source on the topic.
Myth 1: Is Ibogaine “Perilous”?
The word perilous means “full of danger or risk.” However, there’s no indication that ibogaine possesses more risk than other medications. Ibogaine prolongs the QT interval, which is part of the cardiac rhythm, and if it is overly prolonged, this can lead to arrhythmias. Numerous other medications also have similar issues, and cannot be taken with certain other medications, or under certain types of medical conditions.
Prior to 2009, there were an estimated total of 3,414 treatments conducted with ibogaine, and a total of 11 reported fatalities. At that time, there was no cardiac screening or monitoring, very little was known about dosages and medication contraindications, and treatments were largely conducted by laypeople without medical supervision. In medical lingo, that means that there is an estimated “number to harm” of 310 people under non-ideal conditions.
In 2015, Ambio’s co-founder, Jonathan Dickinson, was the co-author of Clinical Guidelines for Ibogaine-Assisted Detoxification, which outlined a simple risk management strategy for ibogaine treatment. Since then, there has been a dramatic reduction in ibogaine-related fatalities, as this knowledge has been implemented.
At Ambio, we employ a patent-pending safety protocol that helps to protect the heart and facilitate the metabolism of ibogaine. We also take great care with medications, and we maintain comprehensive medical screening and monitoring around the treatments. In 2022, we treated over 430 individuals with no adverse events, and in 2023 we are on track to increase the number of treatments by almost 30%, again with no adverse events. From our perspective, ibogaine requires care and diligence, like any serious medical procedure, but this should not be sensationalized at the expense of Kentuckians’ access to treatment.
Myth 2: Does Ibogaine make you “Violently Ill”?
According to a music journalist interviewing the UK band the Avalanches, ibogaine makes you “violently ill.” What this has to do with medical sciences, I have no idea.
For those who are curious what an ibogaine treatment actually looks like, it often looks like people are asleep, laying restfully, and turning inward introspectively. It can be challenging, and some of the visions can be beautiful, while others can be confrontational. The biggest challenge that we often have is coaching people who don’t see anything, but were expecting to. The experience can be exhausting, because people don’t sleep, but after a night of rest, some food, and a shower, often people see the major benefits begin to emerge, and continue for weeks or months afterwards.
Harm Reduction Philosophy
Ibogaine is not a one-size fits all solution. It can’t make someone in the midst of addiction ready for a change. Howard Lotsof, who discovered ibogaine’s effects on opioid withdrawal used to say, “Anyone who is addicted to drugs who wishes to be free of that addiction, shall be able to have that choice.” Ibogaine is all about returning choice to individuals in moments where it feels as though choice has been stripped away. At Ambio, we have seen enough to know that ibogaine should be one of the treatment options that are available, as part of a comprehensive strategy.
While it’s essential to scrutinize how public funds are allocated, it’s equally crucial to examine the facts and potential benefits of the proposal and Ibogaine assisted therapy. Our successes at Ambio Life Sciences, which include many of our patients from Kentucky who have sought us out when conventional treatments failed, highlights that Ibogaine-assisted therapy can be administered safely on a large scale. In the face of the opioid crisis, Kentucky’s efforts to explore innovative solutions while also providing robust support for existing programs should be applauded.