Dana Beal Wants To Cure Heroin Addiction With Ibogaine

Dana Beal (Image: Andrew Arnett for Orange Beef Press)

by Andrew Arnett

(New York City) It’s the Fourth of July and I’m having lunch at an Indian restaurant in midtown Manhattan with Dana Beal. I can’t think of a better person to break (nan) bread with, on this auspicious occasion, than Dana, so-called “grandfather” of the cannabis legalization movement.

Dana Beal, 68, embodies all the ideals of freedom, independence and sacrifice which this holiday celebrates. His history of activism spans over 50 years.

In 1963, at the age of 16, he organized his first demonstration of 2000 people in Lansing , Michigan, in protest of the blowing up of a black girls church in Birmingham by the Ku Klux Klan.

A few years later, he organized the first Washington D.C. marijuana Smoke-In, which today is celebrating its 45th anniversary.

Dana has gone on to many other auspicious accomplishments including the founding of the Global Marijuana March. But his road has been a rocky one. He’s paid the price for his civil disobedience with multiple arrests on pot related charges.

This hasn’t stopped Dana, nor even slowed him down. Twice a week he heads a protest outside the Manhattan district attorney’s office in Lower Manhattan, calling on DA Cyrus Vance to stop prosecuting sick patients arrested with pot.

Dana’s main focus today, however, is establishing a heroin treatment clinic in Afghanistan using ibogaine, through the Ibogaine for Afghanistan Benefit. Proponents of ibogaine claim that this drug can cure heroin addiction with one dose.

“Ibogaine has been found,” Dana tells me, “to switch on a growth factor, GDNF, that not only regenerates dopamine neurons suppressed by substance abuse, but also back-signals to cell nuclei to express more and more GDNF so addicts can stay clean without needing more ibogaine.”

As a result of ibogaine treatment, symptoms of narcotics withdrawal should disappear, as well as the cravings associated with heroin.

“What exactly is ibogaine?” I ask.

“Ibogaine,” he says, “is a medicinal extract from the inner root bark of the Tabernanthe Iboga plant which grows in West Africa. It is used by the people there for healing and as a ritual entheogen.”

“Why Afghanistan? Why not establish a clinic right here in New York?”

“For one thing,” he tells me, “the heroin epidemic in Afghanistan has metastasized. There are upwards to 16 million heroin users there. That’s over 5 percent of the population. Also, it’s to show how easy it is when you have a government willing to work with you.”

Like heroin and marijuana, ibogaine is classified as a Schedule I narcotic in the U.S. and like marijuana, it has no accepted medical use for treatment in this country. Certainly, another fallacy of the doomed War on Drugs.

I asked Dana what he thought about this broad lumping together of pot and heroin into the same group.

“Heroin takes away everything,” he says. “People should just smoke pot. If they would just stick to smoking pot, they would be fine.”

“Ultimately, the War on Drugs is really just a war on pot.”

“How so?” I ask.

“To begin with, marijuana feeds the prison-industrial complex. America has the highest incarceration rate in the world with over two million people in jail. 700 thousand of those are for marijuana arrests. That’s almost a third of all those in jail. In addition, we pump over $50 billion a year into fighting this War on Drugs.”

“Certainly,” I say, “you must be pleased by the great strides the cannabis movement has made in recent years?”

“We are just in the foothills,” Dana tells me.

“There is a long way to go yet,” I say.

“Yes, my friend. But I have been to the mountain top. And at the top of the mountain, on the sunny side, there is marijuana.”

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