What if addiction, whether to cocaine, heroin or alcohol, could be broken by taking a single pill?
That’s the claim behind ibogaine, an extract of an African shrub. But don’t look for it at your treatment center soon. Ibogaine is stuck in limbo. Yes, anecdotal reports of addiction breaking power go back some 30 years. There have been some intriguing animal studies and initial studies on humans. And the federal government has spent more than $2 million on preliminary ibogaine research. More than 150 papers about ibogaine have appeared in scientific journals, said Dr. Kenneth Alper, who directed a recent conference on the drug at New York University School of Medicine. “This is a drug development project in which a lot of work has already been done,” he said. But ibogaine is stuck short of the final step. Nobody has done the big, more elaborate studies that could convince mainstream addiction specialists that the stuff really works — or doesn’t. And neither the government nor the pharmaceutical industry is jumping in to take that on. Ibogaine is illegal in the United States, but it’