CHAPTER VI – BOB SISKO
The Story of Ibogaine – report on the Staten Island project
By Dana Beal and Paul de Rienzo
Before their falling out, Kleber did introduce Lotsof to Louis Harris, a very prominent biochemist in the opiate field. Harris maintained colonies of addicted animals at the Medical College of Virginia. He and Mario Aceto started designing studies to t est Ibogaine on those animals. Harris told Lotsof another person he should check with. Arthur Jacobson, at the National Institute of Mental Health’s Committee on Problems of Drug Dependency, was willing to run and pay for additional studies on any potent ial for abuse with Ibogaine.
One bit of information Howard did get from Pollin was that the Director of the Addiction Research Center, Jerome Jaffee, was interested. Jaffee was about to replace Pollin as head of NIDA. Howard called him, and he put Howard in touch with Dr. Robert L ange. Lange introduced him to a chemical company. He also put him in contact with a lab in Massachusetts competent to do FDA work that agreed to design and budget studies. But he was still $50,000 short of the money it would take to produce and refine t he Ibogaine.
In 1986, Lotsof formed NDA International and with a small band of friends, lawyers and investors, secured the worldwide use patents for Ibogaine. The patent (#4,587,243) for coke and amphetamine came through May 6th.
Howard’s first important investor was Leo Zeff. One of the Grand Old Men of Ibogaine, Dr. Zeff had given it to more than 500 of his psychiatric patients when psychedelic research was still respectable. The famed Chilean psychiatrist Claudio Naranjo, who is much better known because he published The Healing Journeyin the late ’60′s, was Zeff’s protege. When Lotsof contacted Zeff in Los Angeles, Zeff was transfixed by Howard’s explanation of Ibogaine’s effect as an addiction interrupter. He immediately reviewed all his files, and came up with only three who had substance abuse problems.
« They all quit drugs! » he said, when he got back to Howard, « but there were only three who were drug abusers, so I never noticed. When it worked, you see, the Ibogaine always transformed the patient completely. »
« What do you mean? » asked Howard. « What were the effects? »
« With Ibogaine, we got the most wonderful effects. » Zeff immediately withdrew $25,000 from his life savings and invested it in the company. Howard took the money and sponsored the first international Ibogaine symposium in Paris in January, 1987. He br ought together the twelve foremost experts in the world, including Zeff, Robert Goutarel, Otto Gollnhofer, H. Deportere, and William Gladstone.
« The common denominator is Iboga, » explained Professor Otto Gollnhofer in his opening remarks, placing Lotsof’s discovery in perspecitive: « If we have cancer and AIDS against which we are struggling, another of the evils of our era is ‘drugs,’ which may have more victims then any other. The stakes are enormously high. »
Lotsof addressed the conferees, giving a detailed account of Ibogaine effects at the therapeutic dose before patients finally fall asleep. Upon awaking, Lotsof explained, « patients…no longer possess the desire to use cocaine and other drugs. »
The experts, skeptical of this claim, begain to grill Lotsof, probing and challenging. The onslaught began when Goutarel, honorary director of the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), asked, « If the patient is cured, why do you have to repeat the treatment six months later? »
« The effects of the treatment are not permanent, » Lotsof responded.
Goutarel fired back, « What is the status of the patient when he leaves the hospital? »
« Completely drug free. » Lotsof went on to explain that Ibogaine’s effects are only temporary, and the same drives and forces that lead patients to use drugs in the first instance gradually return. Under fire, Lotsof was cool and professional, displaying knowledge and exertise on a par with, if not greater than, many of those present.
Professor Portier, Director of the Natural Substance Division of the CNRS, quizzed Lotsof likea headmaster would a sophomore: « Can you define what you mean by ‘anxiety’?
« I define anxiety in these terms: an increased adrenergic activity which begins to create a state of discomfort in the patient. » As the probing continued, Lotsof passed each test put to him, winning the respect and acceptance of those present. As a peer, he had been through a sort of scientific « rite of passage.’ Acknowledged as an expert by the experts, Lotsof sat down and shared his insights and experiences of 25 years with Ibogaine.
The upshot was a call for an international research initiative. « We must puit forth all of the information we have on the subject from every field, » said Professor Gollnhofer, calling for the creation of an interdisciplinary team to conduct Iboga research.
Among the attendeess was Dr Peter Baumann, a Swiss paychiatrist from Zurich. Baumann had been influencewd by Naranjo, and Naranjjo’s whol approach to Ibogaine gre out of his experience with harmaline, which is like a stripped-down Iboga molecule. To get his patients to verbalize–they tended to withdraw or even doze on harmaline–Naranjo customarily administered it with ampetamines, a practice he extended to Ibogaine. Hence his descriptions of Ibogaine as « engendering unique rage. » [Quips Howard: « Patients on Ibogain and speed, mand as Hell, because he was trying to distract them from their visualizations in order to grill them about what they were seeing! »]
All of the other experts present blamed the « unique rage » phenomenon on Naranjo’s technique. And they were all being deferential to Zeff, who had given Ibogaine to many more people than Baumann, who was somewhat in the minority in feeling psychiatric intervention during the actual Ibogaine was the key to successful therapy, as with LSD.
« That was not my experience, » said Zeff. « Of everything we tried, Ibogaine achieved the most profound personal transformation of the patient–which after all is the goal and purpose of psychiatry. When it worked, the therapist was just a bystander. »
Baumann berated him. « What do you know, old man. I was Claudio Naranjo’s protege. »
« Ah yes, Naranjo. He was a student of mine. » Everyone present was embarrassed by Baumann’s attempt to humiliate the older man.[Baumann, however, nursed a grudge, and in 1990 blamed Ibogaine for the death of one of his clients at his villa in France during an i llicit (his Swiss license was not valid there) group therapy ses-sion. It may well have been caused by Baumann’s intrusive badgering technique. The poor woman had a weak heart; but death was inconsistent with Ibogaine over-dose– it occured not at onset but four hours after administration, when it should have begun to wear off, and only 400 mg. were given. Baumann, however, was mostly interested in « clearing » his drug of preference, MDMA, several doses of which turned up missing in the ensuing investigation. Swiss regulatory authorities recently determined the Ibogaine was not the cause of death. But Howard had long since informed all of his collaborators, world wide, and established a procedure for administration of an antidote.]
From Paris, Howard and Norma flew to Libreville, Gabon, accompanied by Bob Sisko. The three of them met with President Omar Bongo and his science adviser Dr. Jean-Noel Gassitta, who spent two weeks probing Howard’s sincerity. In Gabon,Tabernathe iboga , the plant of which Ibogaine is the main alkaloid, is the sacrament of the national religion, Bwiti. Once in a lifetime, often at puberty, the initiate is given enough of the bark of the plant’s roots to « split the head » and induce the four to five hours of visualizations necessary to « meet their ancestors. » Possibly they may « meet the Bwiti, » a kind of universal African ancestor « between man and angel » equivalent in their religion to the Holy Spirit in Christianity.
Both Omar Bongo and his predecessor Leon M’ba, the father of Gabonese independence, were Bwiti. Their sacrament was persecuted by colonial authorities. Gabonese are extremely sensitive about being bamboozled by Western druggies and the adverse international regulatory consequences that might ensue from bad press. Export of the root to the outside world is embargoed.
And here was Howard, asking for supplies: « Your Excellency, America and all the « advanced » countries are in the grip of a terrible epidemic of addiction. Many of the victims in my country are African-Americans–kidnapped perhaps from this very land. But we believe that the antidote exists, here in the sheltering rain forest. We believe the anti-toxin for this terrible plague is iboga, the plant which heals the spirit. We implore you to release emergency medical research supplies of iboga, so that testing can begin to demonstrate to our Food and Drug Administration that iboga is safe– »
« I know iboga is safe, » replied President Bongo. « I have eaten iboga. »
Howard looked him in the eye and said: « I too have eaten iboga, and I know it is safe. »
President Bongo’s jaw dropped. Howard was an initiate! The President agreed to release forty kilos of root bark to NDA. He said: « This will be Gabon’s gift to America. » He thought a minute and said: « This will be Gabon’s gift to the world. »
He flew them in his private plane to Ombway, south of the Equator, where they were personal guests of the Binkt Maktar and other parliamentary notables. Dr. Jean-Noel Gassita took them into the densest forest, to see the giant 35-foot iboga trees, which no westerner had seen for sixty years. In the village, they also saw it under cultivation, and were presented with seeds, which did not, unfortuantely, germinate later when supplied to a botanical garden.
Viewing the old videotape of the trip you can see that Howard and Norma’s travelling companion, Bob Sisko, is not his current roly-poly self. He’s almost skeletal. He was de facto the addict representative on the trip, since he had a bad coke habit. H e would be the first person treated. He would also be the next great architect of Ibogaine development. In the next two to three years, in new human trials involving two dozen addicts, he would reproduce and verify Howard Lotsof’s original results, with f ar closer measurements and greater understanding.
Bob Sisko returned to New York City from Woodstock in 1976 when he divorced his wife Pauline. He moved in on the YIPPIE ground floor (literally, helping rebuild the ground floor of #9). He did a stint in D.C. YIP, recruiting Alice Torbush into the orga nization. Even when he left for a while, he’d be back. He organized the eighteen months’ resistance to the eviction of Studio 10 and led CITIZENS AGAINST HEROIN in 1981. He did the RAR concerts with Howard, and assisted somewhat during the Staten Island P roject phase.
But during the first half of the ’80s, his pet project was the American Clemency Committee. His celebrated postcard campaign forced New York’s Governor Cuomo to free Gary McGivern, a convict accused of killing a guard while actually handcuffed in the back seat of a police car. After the Clemency Committee went into hiatus, Dana asked him: « Why don’t you do more on Ibogaine? »
Sisko, whose new thing was a public relations company uptown in the mid-50s, responded by putting together the first corporate package for NDA Interna-tional. He wrote the first product information. He coined the name for the product: « ENDABUSE. »
His PR firm shared office space with law offices housing the defense committee for the « New York 8, » Black radicals who were successfully fighting off a police frame-up on weapons charges. Later they organized with Al Sharpton. They were never that k een on Ibogaine, despite its RAR pedigree. They associated it with ’62 YIPPIE! marijuana decrim. And its representative was Sisko. While others on the scene were quitting coke after the 70s, Sisko continued to do it every day. He was also doing in excess of a liter of vodka a day.
Sisko was accompanying Howard to Gabon because his Israeli contacts would be important for extracting and purifying Ibogaine from the root. By the time they made the trip, though, Sisko was free-basing an eighth of an ounce of coke a day.
The first batch of root bark was bogus–low alkaloid concentrations. The Gabonese had to be massaged into providing a second shipment–the real thing. In the summer of 1987, Omar Bongo visited President Reagan. Unbeknownst to the White House, Lotsof a nd Sisko also arranged to meet with Bongo during his official stay in Washington, D.C. So circumspect was Bongo’s security detail in ushering the Ibogaine representatives upstairs, where Bongo received them in shirtsleeves, that the Secret Service didn’t even know they were there. Sisko and Howard were almost detained on the way out by flustered feds, until their status as Omar Bongo’s honored guests was confirmed by Gabonese security.
President Bongo arranged to have 40 kilos of primo grade iboga delivered by diplomatic pouch to his embasssy in Ottawa, where it was not illegal, and Howard Lotsof could take possession. From Canada the forty kilos of root bark scrapings moved back to Europe, for extraction and reduction into 97% Ibogaine hydrochloride, and then to Israel, for an additional purification process–to 99.7%–to boost absorbability. Then it was shipped, via Europe, back to Canada.
Meanwhile, Sisko’s business was falling apart.
« Everyone who knew him was afraid that one day we’d call Sisko, » says Howard, « and no one would be alive to answer the phone. Or that we’d get the call. And he’d be dead. »
Finally, the Ibogaine was ready. Based on Howard’s ’60s experience, it was de-cided not to bring it into the United States. Holland, due to its reputation for having the most rational drug policy in Europe, became the site for the first human experim ents with Ibogaine in twenty-five years. Bob Sisko arrived in Holland a few days after a friendly U.S. physician, December 10, 1987.
« I was in the public relations business, » he says, « and I was surrounded by cocaine–my clients, the people I worked with. They either wanted it, expected it, or they procured it and put it in front of me.
« What I’d do when I’d travel abroad, is I’d buy a couple of Afrin bottles, you know, and I would empty the Afrin out, and pour the cocaine in. I would fill it up with water, and I would shake it up. Being in the public relations business, you have to be cool. But if you’re in a meeting with a straight client, you can always reach in your pocket and take out a bottle of Dristan. And tilt your head back. And nobody knows.
« Before taking Ibogaine, I was sitting around waiting and drinking a great deal, and doing this coke I had in the Afrin bottle, smoking a lot of cigarettes. Finally, the doctor said, ‘Yeah, we can do it in the morning,’ and then I realized I had only three cigarettes left, and I said, ‘This drug–I’ve been told–takes thirty-six to forty-eight hours. I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit here for thirty-six hours without cigarettes.’
« Somebody had to go out for me, in the middle of the night, to get me a pack of Camels. And I took the Ibogaine. And the whole time I didn’t smoke. And then I looked up, and I saw the doctor take out a cigarette and light it, and I saw him cough. I sa w his body violently react to it, with a tremendous heave-ho. And I said to myself, ‘How is it possible that this brilliant man can continue to ingest small amounts of toxin–twenty, thirty times a day–when he knows it to have a cumulative effect?’
« I haven’t had a cigarette since that day. »
Here was the first new discovery, one quite unexpected. Ibogaine can interrupt cigarettes . A few years later C. Everette Koop got on TV and informed us cigarettes and heroin share a common narcotic receptor. Since most addicts smoke cigarettes, Sisk o and Howard soon realized this was a big bonus.
But there was more. In the time before and after their trip to Gabon, they had immersed themselves in literatures about the African religious version of the experience. Chapter 18 of James Fernandez’s « BWITI–An Ethnography of the Religious Imagination in Africa » became part of their orientation package for addicts they were treating. Listen to Bob’s account of his first treatment:
« Within an hour of taking it, you start to get wobbly, and say, whoa, I have to lay down. And then time passes, and all of a sudden you look up and a movie screen appears [« Windows. »]. You find a place, either a wall or a ceiling–and what happens is your subconscious and all of your repressed memories come forth, and you’re able to view it in a totally impartial manner. In the same way as if you were viewing a motion picture. It’s just like watching TV. And this is the stuff that might normally get released fifteen-to-twenty-minutes-a-night while you’re in REM sleep.
« Then what happens is you go through another stage where you ask questions about what you’ve experienced, and you come up with answers. And then you go through a third period. You gain access to the information stored in your individual hereditary archive. You meet your ancestors. It was a very spiritual 64experience for me.
« It is a wonder drug. It’s like a re-set button, and it clears and re-sets all the neurotransmitters to operate at maximum efficiency, so that everything becomes crystal clear to you. It’s a miracle. »
And there was more, although like many who have the experience, Sisko was wary of expressing it for a long time. He met Bwiti–very the avatar of the African religion– a very definite, highly energetic though discorporate entity.
When he saw Howard, though, soon after he got back to New York, they had their first big dispute. Sisko told him, « The Ibogaine really works! I never experienced anything like it. We’ve got to start treating people–real, live addicts–now. »
« As president of a corporation engaged in legitimate pharmaceutical development, I can’t get NDA involved in anything that would run afoul of the laws or regulations of the U.S. or any other country where we intend to business, » said Howard. « I really sympathize–and I’m interested in sharing your findings. But I can’t jeopardize our entire development schedule just to treat a few individuals. »
« Howard, people are dying, » Sisko objected. « I know dozens of people personally who need Ibogaine. It’s not right to withhold it any longer. »
The argument raged all winter. By spring relations were icy. It took almost a year, using connection he had established with the head of the Chemistry Department of a large university in Western Africa, for Sisko to get his own Ibogaine.
Among the first to be treated was Fred, a hardcore fiend known to Dana from Studio 10 days. He’d been in and out of jails and Odyssey House since becoming addicted to heroin in 1981. Fred was never a perfect success. But like the patient who can keep his cancer under control with recurrent chemo-therapy, his first treatment in April, 1989, produced such a visible improvement in Fred that Dana completely startled, stopped paying attention to the parade he was marshalling for ten whole minutes. This was long enough for a rival faction to divert the entire back half of the parade to Central Park from its original target, Congressman Charles Rangel’s office at 125th Street in Harlem.
Dana had started going to ACT UP meetings in early ’88 because he thought the whole Dutch harm reduction (« safe drugs ») model was essential to stop AIDS; now he got up and plugged Ibogaine at ACT UP meetings. The change in Fred was so dramatic, Dana also decided the time had come for the drug reform movement to give Ibogaine the same priority a s legalizing pot or clean needles. He staked all his prestige as founder of the smoke-ins on it, and split the pot movement for three years.
Ibogaine prevailed in the end.
Fred even moved into #9 Bleecker. With the re-treatments, he became the most Ibogainized person in the world. And like a scientist puzzling over moon rocks, with each treatment Dana gleaned more data.
« I met Bwiti the first time, » said Fred. « All of a sudden this 300-pound Black Buddha a lot like Fats Domino pops into the room and says ‘What are you waiting for? Let’s go!’ He took me on a journey to a pyramid or a mountain of light, and on it were arranged a Star of David, a cross, a star and crescent, all the symbols of the religions. But from the top of the mountain, shining through all of them but superior to all of them, was this blinding light. And I recognized it as the light Moses saw through the burning bush. »
Five months later, feeling strong pre-addictive anxiety, he contacted Howard for a re-treatment. During it, Fred re-experienced the Holocaust through the eyes of his mother, a survivor of the camps. Later he was able to describe to his uncle, perfect ly, the faces of relatives who’d died in the Nazi death camps, whom he had no way of knowing. His uncle started crying.[How do you know if you’re having a true religious experience, and not just crazy? Philip Dick says that if you come into information you have no way of knowing, and it later turns out to be true, then perhaps you have had a genuine revelation (a « theophany, » he calls it). The catch, of course, is acting in time on it. And if it turns out to be true, the initiate is transposed into realms of freedom–i.e, freedom to act on truth previously unsuspected–realms that would not exist without Iboga.]
Now of everyone connected with the Project, Sisko’s scene overlapped most the the original YIPPIES; he is good friends with YIPPIE founder Bob Fass, for instance. Bob lobbied heavily for the treatment of the wife of his friend Joe the Gentle Giant, a 34-year-old woman named Linda T. He had to lobby, because Lind didn’t seem like a good candidate for treatment. « Not only was I a drug addict, » she said, « I was an unrepentant one. »
« Everybody kep saying ‘oh, you gotta quit drugs! you gotta quit drugs! And I kept saying ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,’ but I didn’t really want to, because–let’s face it–I could afford it. I’d been doing heroin since I was 14 years old. When I wasn’t doing it I was taking pills of some sort. « I didn’t think Ibogaine was going to work. The reasoin why I got it was because I was addicted to Dutch heroin. »
Sisko wanted to respond to the Dutch doctors who argued that Ibogaine might work on weak American smack, but not real Dutch quality stuff. But Linda had a job that required her to commute to Holland, so she had learned to smoke it there, in the Dutch manner, on tinfoil.
« From what I know, » she continued, « the Ibogaine I took was from the Gabon Republic. I looked like a big gelatine capsule. It had this white-silvery powder in it that had been adjusted to my body weight. I just put it in my mouth and took it. There were other people in the room, and in the other room outside, but I preferred to be alone throughout the whole thing. They kept asking me how I felt. My hands were still shaking four day later.
« At seventy minutes, it started hitting me. Then I started getting dizzy. And then I said I think I’m going to lay down… My eyes… my eyelids… when I started closing them, turned into a TV screen. And I’m watching a stage. »
She met the Bwiti:
« I came before the Throne, and His face was a mask with which he gestured ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ very emphatically – and he had incredibly deep eyes, so deep I kept thinking they must hurt. He spoke only simple words. He said, ‘Go Back!’ At first I thought he meant go back to the beginning of Ibogaine, which I wanted to do because I was resisting it, but then I understood what he meant when I was jet-propelled back to the beginning of time. And I witnessed the beginning of earth and how it was put together. I saw behind me and past me. I saw from the beginning of time. I had my life handed back to me, here… finish it.
« Immediately after the treatment, my heroin use stopped. It worked immediately. With no heavy withdrawals. Just chils. It changed the way I think – even my personality. »
She found her Catholic religious convictions were strengthened; she never again doubted the existence of an afterlife, for example.
« It totally changed my life. I [didn’t] have a habit anymore. I experienced chills, but not bad ones. And I was an experienced drugs addict, one that had been through jonesing many times, not always of my own volition. I was still on heroin before I took the Ibogaine. At first, I took the drug, and I thought that I still wanted to get high, what’s wrong? And then, you know, as time went on, and the Ibogaine wore on, it took it out of me–the urge. I had been a junkie for many years, so this, to me was something totally new. »
Linda provided dramatic confirmation of Lotsof’s original ’63 finding, that Ibogaine can interrupt addiction even in people who neither particularly want nor expect it to work: « I sort of took it to appease everyone, » she said, « and the fucking drug worked. I couldn’t believe it. It worked. » For the next six months she remained drug free, and used the money she saved to invest and start a business manufacturing gaming equipment, which she was soon shipping all over to new places that were opening up legal gambling. After six months she notified Sisko she was beginning to feel the urge to use heroin again, and needed re-treatment. She had, on three occasions during the previous thirty days, taken quaaludes. But she’d remained junkfree. Win a month, she was re-treated.
Now Linda was something of a social lion of the Manhattan Bohemian set. She was good friends with the « Pople of Pot » Mickey Cesar, leader of the breakaway a few months earlier from the Parade to Congressman Charles Rangel’s office. Linda actually appeared in two videos with Mickey around this time while he was out of jail for a spell. So for anyone in the Pople’s retinue to pretend Ibogaine didn’t work after that was really a matter of focusing on the relapse and ignoring Linda’s business sucess. She also happened to be a card-playing buddy of Herbert Hunke, the man who turned William Burroughs on to heroin. He was one of the folks who’s just ashappy as can be on his daily 100 mgs. of methadone. But according to Hunke, Ibogaine is the closest thing yet to the cure Burroughs and beats were looking for in the ’50′s: « Howard Lotsof found the first thing that actually helps you to quit–if you want to. »
In October, 1989, Bob Sisko treated the first Dutch addicts–Ron and Geerte F. of the Dutch squatters movement. Geerte–back from Holland after opening up Umbrella House squat on Avenue C asround the corner from Sisko’s place on East 3rd Street–had found out about Ibogaine in New York. She was anxious to get a treatment for Ron, her multiply-addicted boyfriendl.
Both treatments were a success, even though Geerte tried to resist the Ibogaine’s effects. Bob went back to New York, leaving Geerte and Ron enough Ibogaine to treat ten addi tional Dutch junkies. « At first, » she says, « Everyone was totally cynical. No one is more cynical than a junkie. But by the end, they were banging on my door, saying, ‘Treat us, treat us!’ and there wasn’t enough Ibogaine. » She adds: « Ibogaine is not the solution in itself, although it takes away withdrawal completely. Ibogaine helps you to realize that all power is available to cure yourself through willpower. »
What first convinced all her junkie friends Ibogaine was for real was that Ron, her boyfriend, was selling his 65 milligram daily dose of methadone, and spending the money, not on coke or smack, but on camping gear for their upcoming trip to Nepal. The powerful purgative action of Ibogaine (prized by the Africans) had flushed the methadone right out of his system.
Ibogaine interrupts methadone addiction. In thirty-six hours, just like heroin. No more two to six months of excruciating withdrawal. This was the second great unexpected finding of Sisko’s paraclinical research. It would reverberate powerfully back through the anti-methadone movement, especially the ex-Black Panther accupuncturists.
When Sisko got back from Holland, he was heavily lobbied by Dana and Fred on behalf of Jeff–a friend of Charles Kritsky, who’d known Howard and Sisko since the day his wife Joan set type for YIPster Times, circa ’77-’78. A big fan of Spinrad and a New York survivor of Forcade’s Chaoticist circle, Charlie was a half-German, half-Puerto Rican from the Lower East Side. Most of his childhood friend had become junkies except him and his friend Ric, who just smoke pot and did coke. When they were teenagers, they took four of their buddies up to the country for a detox. After sitting up for 48 hous without sleep trying to helpl four junkies kick cold turkey, they developed a profound respect for addiction, but wer e no closer 6to gettting even one of thier friends off junk. Once in the city, one by one, they relapsed.
Charles, a zealous student of the Ultimate Chaotic act, had consciously followed the progress of Ibogaine since the late ’70s. He was a font of reassurance and support for the project amidst indifference; he tried to use his connections on the club Scene to line up publicity and enforsements. Charles needed a treatment for his friend Jeff, a tallented interior designer who, in between being on the nod, did little carpentry jobs at the World, a club on East Houston. Charles had a dream that if he could just get Jeff off dope for a little while, they could turn the cinderblock front of his carriage house on East 5th St. into a store for his rock ‘n’ roll accessories.
Jeff was an industrious addict, working long hard hours to maintain $80-$100 daily heroin and almost daily cocaine use. Charlie went along for the treatment. But there was only about a gram of Ibogaine for Jeff, who was almost six feet tall and needed more. « He kept laying there saying, ‘Charlie it isn’t working’, » Charles said later, « But I asked him–so how come you don’t get up and go cop?’ He couldn’t! » Ten hours after taking Ibogaine, he requested a hot fudge sundae.
Following treatment, Jeff began to complain bitterly about his back. They symptoms were not related to detox, but rather a back injury which the detox had unmasked. A work-related injury had gone undiagnosed for sometime, with Jeff in effect self-medicating for a slipped disk.
The difference Ibogaine mad in Jeff was electric–the « Xanadu effect. » Jeff was one of those junkies who is constantly knick-knacking, pulling antique grill and window-frames out of dumpsters and bringing them home only to have them pile up, unused. Now, in several weeks of feverish construction, all the opium dreams stopped up in Jeff’s head were actualized. When the showroom was unveiled–a veritable pleasure dome–Sisko and Dana realized this was their first of a subtle new class of effects: the « Ibogaine artifact. »
Perhaps as result of unmasking thge back injury, or perhaps as the result of his age–41–Jeff’s post-treatment was markedly longer than most. But it was useful to find that a heroin habit could mask an underlying injury; and Sisko also noted that the recovery period seemed notably shorter the younger the individual. Jeff’s alcohol consumption did decrease makedly at first; personal appearance and hygiene improved. But Jeff’s loyalties were sufficiently tangled by by the contempt myany of his junkie friend had for the whole YIP trip, that after two months he relapsed, ripping off Charles in the Process. Still, a single Ibogaine treatment had put the store over the hump, and Kritsky attired the stars, including Madonna, Billy Idol, Hall & Oats, and Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam.
What would the effect be in the inner city, if all creative people currently impaired on heroin and coke were unleashed, and started small businesses?
Among the last of nine initial treatms done by Sisko in Amsterdam were a Greek theatrical couple–a director and his mate, a costume designer–who’d read a reprint of the original Overthrow article in the journal of the Greek YIPPIES. « M, » the director, was addicted to both heroin and methadone. He used 50 mg.-a-day of methadone, as well as 1/4 of a gram of heroin, but rarely drank and had ceased once-frequent mushroom and LSD use.
The treatment began with routine Ibogaine symptoms.After an hour, though, « M » began vomiting. Despite the beginnings of the visionary stage, he complained of physical discomfort.Two-and-a-half hours later he asked for methadone. He was not indicating any signs of physical withdrawal, however. Under the pretext of using the bathroom, he phoned his fiancee « A » and insisted she bring him methadone at once.
When she arrived, she surrptitiously slipped the methadone to « M, » who renewed his request to Sisko for methadone. Sisko refused. « M » persuasively argued he was in great discomfort–that the therapy was not working. Sisko debated the pros and cons of aborting treatment. « M » was displaying high anxiety, but still no physical symptoms of withdrawal. He continued to campaign to end the treatment. Sometime thereafter, « A » returned and slipped him 25 mg. Halcion, which he took and promptly threw up, before finally drifting off to sleep hours later.
Upon awakening, he again summoned « A » to his side and took an additional 30 mg. of methadone.
Sisko, upon learing of this, decided to terminate the treatment. In the next days, in conferences with both « M » and « A, » « M » came to see that what he had experienced was an anxiety reaction, not physical withdrawal from narcotics. Sisko agreed to treat him again, but as soon as he was done treating « A. »
« A » had been living in Athens, sniffing one gram of smack a day for months. She’d been using continually for three years. She had been able to observe what Ibogaine was like in « M, » and was most cooperative. Her Ibogaine dose was given in two administrations, one-and-a-half hours apart. At no time did she vomit or feel nauseous. Nor did she experience any discomfort of withdrawal. She recovered quickly, and went home to join « M, » who had continued to shoot heroin and do methadone. For a week she refrained from using heroin, despite being around « M’s » contined use. At the end of the week, she accompanied him for his second treatment attempt, ten day after the first one.
Sisko had observed about half of his subjects become nauseaous, and half of these vomit at some time during the treatment. Therefore, « M » began by taking two dramamine. An hour later « M » ingested his dose of Ibogaine, and within 35 minutes was beginning to feel the effects. Seventy minutes after ingestion, he reeported the onset of nausea.
A booster dose of Ibogaine was administered, but « M » vomite immediately, losing the booster and some Ibogaine ingested earlier. Sisko determined that emergency measures were in order. By prior consent of « M, » a rectal acqueous solution had been prepared. It was administered. Within an hour « M » was experiencing the full Ibogaine effect, being characteristically « overwhelmed. » The balance of the treatment was uneventful. « M » recovered within three days, declared the procedure an overwhelming success, and moved with « A » to another city.
These treatments pin-pointed problems–such as coping with « enabling behavior » in a couple where the one who isn’t being treated is slipping drugs to the one who is, as well as the urghent requirement for a better anti-nausea medication–that would have to be overcome to perfect the procedure. And there was another discovery here–Ibogaine might work, but only on the second or third try–a result that would be confirmed in animals, as we learn in the next chapter. There was one follow-up phone interview of this coupld. « M » told Sisko that he’d used heroin on just two occasions; « A » told him she had remained completely heroin-free.
All of these initial treatment episodes became the basis for Sisko’s Interrupting Drug Dependency: A Summary of Nine Case Histories. With the publication ofNine Case Histories, Sisko set the stage for his next big idea–making freedom from addiction a reality for those, specifically the Dutch Junkie-bond, who’d initiated the struggle for addict rights.
Without Ibogaine, « Freedom from addiction » is just a slogan. But Sisko knew that not using Ibogaine one he had it would mean acquiescence in slavery and the perpetuation of slavery.
It was a challenge Sisko couldn’t resist.
Once he was sure the interruption of addiction was real, Bob Sisko knew that he had to form an organization to make freedom from addiction a reality for addicts everywhere. The name he chose was the International Coalition for Addict Self Help (ICASH). The first ICASH treatment was of the founder of the Junkie-bond, Nico Adriaans.
Yet it was through the cases of Nico and his girlfriend that Sisko came to know as well the limits of freedom–that Ibogaine is not the cure it was first hoped to be, but a treatment. In time, both Nico and Josien relapsed into addiction, and required re-treatment. On a tape made ten months after his treatment, Nico gave a much clearer description than before to an American junkie of the religious quality of his first experience [See Chapter 8: Nico Adriaans — where the Voice comes and says, « So if you know, act like it. » , ]; and Dana upon seeing this later, asked Sisko: « How could some one relapse after such an experience?
Sisko thought about it a minute and said: « He forgot. On Ibogaine he will remember again. »
Josien Harms re-counted how she became re-addicted to heroin in another tape made in February, ’91, during that later round of treatments:
« The Ibogaine gives you a feeling that you want to use your brain. You want to be occupied. You want to do things. After Ibogaine, it really gives you a sense like Wow–what possibilities you have, and with heroin, it’s just not possible. It puts some grip on your brain, and you’re not able to use your brain fully. Maybe four months after I had taken the Ibogaine, I tried it one time and I thought, « Oh yeah, now I remember why I »m don’t want to use any more. » But somehow, I just tried it a few times, and six months after I took the Ibogaine I was back on, using daily again. I thought I had it under control, and that I could do that . Just take it once in a while. And now, if I do the Ibogaine again, I don’t want to play around with it any more. I don’t want to try, even try, if I can do that–to use once in a while. I just want to stay away from it this time. It costs too much mone y. And it’s just not nice. »
So even though it’s not a perfect cure, through a kind of Ibogaine learning curve the possibility of freedom exists for each individual. Because through Ibogaine, unlike the ordinary addict, they have learned how to quit–later, without Ibogaine.
What is more, information made availble during the experience may lay around, and then, under the stimulus of a disinhibit ing situation, snap into focus months afterward.
During the spring of 1991 an ex-Israeli Army medic who was working with Sisko and Howard, named Boaz Wachtel, succeeded in wheedling a treament for his cigarette addiction. The treatment worked; but on Ibogaine Boaz experienced being present, 4,000 years earlier, at the offering of the Tablets, and then wandering in the desert for 40 years.
In August of ’91, when Bob Sisko re-treated himself because his drinking had gotten too heavy again, Bwiti instructed him to go to a certain schul on East First Street. There he met someone with contacts in Czechoslovakia and access to an investment hous e with several million dollars to invest. The clinic in Prague didn’t work out; the new Czech government was too beholden to Bush and James Baker to grant approval, but soon after the initial contact in the schul, in the Lower East Side apartment of the Czech contact, Boaz experienced one of those moments where everything seems to re-arrange –and information made available to him months before, on the Ibogaine–snapped into focus.
They were talking about a tank ditch on the Golan, between Israel and Syria, when Boaz remembered a fragment from his visions: the greening of Israel, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, even Saudi Arabia by bringing water down from lakes in Eastern Turkey vi a a series acqueducts. A review of elevation maps showed it was eminently feasible. Boaz credits Ibogaine for strengthening his conviction to act on the vision, the sense that peace in that particular corner of the world remains
somehow essential in the design of things. He went to work, and today his water-for-peace plan forms one of the few really solid bases for peace negotiations. The region has dangerously depleted its aquifers; everyone in the area needs an agreement tha t will let them share in the potential water from the north, if agreement with Syria can be reached.
One night not long after Boaz first got his Great New Idea, after he was done explaining how he felt it related to his Ibogaine experience, Sisko conceded that his own recent re-treatment « really refreshed my memories of the first time I did it. The reality of it. When you don’t do it for awhile, you really forget what it’s like. Did you know that I traveled anywhere in the world in a blink of an eye? It was like Astral Projection. »
He went on to speculate that the effect may be somewhat dependent on place. Sisko wants to take Ibogaine at MT. Sinai, to see if he might be able to talk to Moishe Rebbineu. After another six months or so, he told Dana about a story from Numbers, Chapter 12, Verses 1-16, about Moses and Moses’ sister, a story Jews are supposed to study once a year.
« It really supports the idea that dreaming was the usual medium for religious experience and prophecies, » said Sisko.
Moses was married to an Ethiopian — a Black woman. And Miriam, his sister, and Aaron started making a stink, saying « Hath the Lord indeed spoken only with Moses? Hath He not spoke also with us? » — Sisko paused for dramatic effect — « And the Lord heard it. »
So God called Moses, Aaron, Miriam to the Meeting Tent, and descended on a pillar of cloud and said, « If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord do make myself knwn unto him in a vision, I do speak with in a dream.
« My servant Moses is not so; he is trusted in all My house; with him I do speak mouth to mouth, even manifestly, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord doth he behold » — in other words I talk to this guy face to face, not in dreams at night like any run-of-the-mill Prophet.
Then God said, in effect: »You have grievously hassled my Man, Moses. You want White? I’ll give you White. »
Ande he turned Miriam into a leper. But because God is merciful, after a week He turned her back.
« Jews don’t talk about this story a lot, » Sisko said, « because it involves racism, even though Miriam’s primary offense was to undermine the Project, by dissing Moses. »
« But the story seems to say God is against racism. That he views it as spiritual leprosy. »
Since his second treatment, Sisko religiously dons his skull-cap and marches over to schul every Friday night. He is unavailable on Saturdays. He wants to go take Ibogaine on Mt. Sinai. He wants to see if he can talk to Moishe Rebbineu. But even with out that, his gadfly role, hassling the feds for proceding so ponderously with Ibogaine development, is in the highest tradition of confronting a complacent,Pharonic authority, and speaking truth to power.
He hasn’t smoked a cigarette in five and a half years.