What started as a rumor might be an incredible breakthrough. Ibogaine doesn’t come from a laboratory, but from an ancient plant. It was discovered not by a scientist, but by a heroin addict. However, when it comes to curing addiction, a reputable scientist, Dr. Deborah Mash, professor of neurology and molecular and cellular pharmacology, thinks it is a legitimate phenomenon.

Mash is one of few scientists in the world to study ibogaine, a natural hallucinogen. She actually started her research in order to “debunk” what she believed to be a counterculture myth; the original observations of ibogaine’s effects came from junkies who took the substance to get high. However, as the physical and financial costs of addiction throughout society have skyrocketed, more and more people desperate to find solutions have tried new things with a more open mind. Patrick Kroupa, formerly a long-term addict, was one of those people searching for answers as Dr. Mash was petitioning the FDA to be able to research ibogaine’s effectiveness in addiction treatment.

Clinical trials started in 1993, and moved offshore to St. Kitts in 1995; Kroupa took part in the clinical trials and was among Mash’s most serious heroin addicts. He claims to have felt his addiction leaving his body within 45 minutes, and it was the first time in 10 years he felt clean. Four years later, after taking heroin from ages 14-30, he is still clean. For Kroupa, ibogaine was literally a lifesaver.

A single dose blocked even hardcore withdrawal symptoms in each user throughout the clinical trials. After treating hundreds of addicts, Mash believes the treatment is entirely effective at treating even the most serious, long-term addicts. The secret may be in noribogaine, the substance that the body produces as it metabolizes ibogaine. It “resets” the switches in the brain that cause cravings for drugs. Meanwhile, the addicts experience a dreamlike state as they reset, and while those are poorly understood, they appear to be important to the process.

Ibogaine remains illegal in the United States, but is legal in most other parts of the world. It can be administered safely only in a medically-supervised setting with specially-trained clinicians who have extensive experience with the safety protocols required for ibogaine treatment for drug dependence.