A pro-cannabis group is pushing for the introduction of a hallucinogenic-type drug as a treatment for P addiction.
American drug law reform campaigner Dana Beal will today address a public forum at the University of Otago on the use of ibogaine, a drug which sends people into a dream-like trance for several hours.
Supporters say it reduces craving and leads drug users to confront their drug-taking behaviour after one or two doses, with the help of psychotherapy. Ibogaine has previously been used with heroin addicts and is now being promoted as a weapon against pure methamphetamine.
However the drug is banned in some countries, including the United States and Europe, because of its hallucinogenic properties.
Dr Fraser Todd, a senior lecturer at the National Addiction Centre at Christchurch Medical School, said the main problem with ibogaine was a lack of clinical trials to prove its safety and effectiveness.
It worked in a similar way to ketamine, a drug which had been tested overseas and could be trialled soon in New Zealand.
"If that drug [ibogaine] doesn't have long-lasting side effects from a one-off use and does fix addiction, that's potentially a major addition to our armoury."
But drug education campaigner Mike Sabin said the drug could be especially dangerous for the many methamphetamine users who took other medication for mental illnesses.
"There's a lot of things to be ticked off before you could say this could be safely administered."
Mr Beal, 62, a longtime marijuana legalisation supporter, has been brought to New Zealand by the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws New Zealand.
President Phil Saxby said ibogaine had some side effects on users but so did medicinal marijuana and aspirin.
"If you banned everything because it had side effects you'd never do anything."
Auckland psychotherapist Dr Tony Coates, who would like to use the drug as an addiction treatment, said he had tried it himself and found it was "everything it was cracked up to be" in personal accounts on the internet.
He said most ibogaine users remained fully awake but went into a dreamlike trance for five or six hours.
Addicts confronted vivid memories of the experiences which led to their drug taking and could discuss these afterwards with a counsellor. Ibogaine also removed craving for other drugs.
Dr Coates said ibogaine appeared to have no legal status in New Zealand but Medsafe had told him it would have to be registered as a medicine before he could give it to patients. There had been no large-scale clinical trials of the drug and he had found it difficult to interest anyone in starting one.
By Andrew Laxon
September 5, 2009
New Zealand Herald