Thursday, October 9, 2008

EDEN'S GIFT: How a sacred African shrub became mankind's hope to end addiction

In 1962 nineteen year old heroin addict Howard Lotsof ended a 33 hour episode with an exotic psychotropic drug called ibogaine hydrochloride, ordered from a pharmaceutical catalog. The experience was so physically and emotionally exhausting that he swore never to use ibogaine again. After 30 intense hours he was so tired he thought he'd sleep for a week, but 3 hours later awoke completely refreshed. That was the first clue something was amiss.

Howard got dressed and, famished, went downstairs. He flew out the front door and down the red brick steps of his family's working class Bergenfield, New Jersey home. As his feet hit the sidewalk he stopped dead in his tracks. He gazed at an old maple tree on the lawn, leaves rustling in the wind, then looked up at the bright blue sky and puffy cotton ball clouds -- and it suddenly struck him: he wasn't junk sick. His craving for dope had disappeared.

Howard would file this discovery away in the catacombs of his consciousness for the next decade.

I met Howard and his wife Norma Alexander in 1973 as a freshman at New York University's film school. Howard and Norma were the oldest students in our class and at 16, I was the youngest. But my youthful inhibition, some would call it assininity, and their keen intelligence and worldliness were somehow attractors, and we became instant and inseparable friends. A tall bushy-haired anglo of Russian descent, a female African American cheroot-puffing fireplug, and a short, bespeckled Asian American teen cruising the halls of NYU. Very strange indeed.

On a spring afternoon in 1974, Howard calmly related his discovery to me. I was blown away. Never did I doubt the claims of my sincere, soft spoken, gentle mad Russian of a friend. We both knew this was important but neither of us knew how to bring the news to the world. Nonetheless, in 1985 I was the first person to give Howard money to conduct library research on ibogaine. I had a deep heartfelt conviction that this project deserved every possible chance to see the light of day and to help others. I did not consider any return or riches.

Spurred on by the supportive results of his inquiry, Howard formed a corporation, NDA International, as a vehicle to raise more funds. Due to my years as an executive of my family's museum design and production business, I joined NDA's Board of Directors and was made a senior vice president.

Thus began a 15 year roller coaster ride we could not ever have imagined or been prepared for.

This blog is an intimate inside account of the international drama that exploded around ibogaine and Howard Lotsof's controversial and polarizing claims. This true story is at once uplifting, hair-raising, filled with life affirming hope tempered with despair and death, intrigue, dispute, betrayal, redemption, and love - all told by someone who lived through it.

1 comment:

Image Consultant William Cane said...

This is one of the most interesting stories I have ever read. Thank you for sharing it!