Quite often when I write books, there won’t be an exact medication or drug that does what I need in the plot. So I’ll make one up with some of the characteristics of one chemical and other characteristics of another.
When I was researching Ceremony, I kept coming back to a controlled substance called ibogaine. Ibogaine is a hallucinogen, and has been used for centuries in Africa in religious ceremonies. Some research suggests that ibogaine can treat alcoholism and opiate addiction, but there are other indications that it’s dangerous—according to Wikipedia, 1 in 300 users die from heart problems after ingesting it. As a result, it’s banned in many countries, including the USA. It’s a schedule 1 narcotic, up there with cocaine and LSD: it is not to be used for any reason, including medicine.
Supposedly the natives of West Africa shredded the bark, then chewed on it to get a “high”—hallucinations, numbness of the skin—I didn’t find a lot of information about what the high actually was. And it’s also apparently hard on the heart—a bunch of people died from it, although the information I found was mostly anecdotal.
So what I found fascinating is that the plant, tabernanthe iboga, is totally unregulated in the USA. You can buy seeds off the internet, plant them in your backyard (moist soil, hot weather, partial shade if you’ve got a green thumb), and let the plants grow. It normally grows to about 6 feet tall. I’m not suggesting you grow this plant—who knows, the DEA might be monitoring your tabernanthe iboga purchases—and it’s likely that if you were ever to shred the bark and chew it, you’d be committing a felony.
I’m fascinated by the loopholes surrounding this plant and this chemical, and if you read Ceremony, you’ll find that ibogaine plays a front-and-center role in the murder.
Despite ibogaine being relatively unknown, its proponents have written books about its effectiveness to treat alcoholism and opiate addiction. (None of the writers are doctors—but the stories are fascinating.) Before you sell everything you own to move to an ibogaine clinic in Central America, though, be sure to pre-order Ceremony!