Kentucky is Looking to Africa for Opioid Help
Kentucky might not be the first place you picture being at the forefront of addiction treatment protocols, but maybe it should be. Heck, if the Commonwealth’s unorthodox new initiative takes hold, it will be. Especially if the treatment does what it’s long been reported to do.
Then again, with Kentucky tied with Louisiana and Tennessee in opioid overdose deaths, and behind only neighboring West Virginia, it needs a serious save. Pronto.
“Kentucky must overcome the opioid epidemic by any and all means necessary,” said Bryan Hubbard, Chairman and Executive Director of the Kentucky Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission (KYOAAC).
Just how does Kentucky plan to reach that forefront? By going back in time. And by travelling half way around the world.
We’re talkin’ Gabon, dig? That picturesque country on Central Africa’s Atlantic Coast. Among Gabon’s two million-plus people lies a diversity of wildlife few nations can fathom, let alone match. There are gorillas and hippos in the deep rainforests, whales and dolphins off the mangrove beaches. There’s also a very strict stewardship of all its natural wonders. In fact, Gabon’s national parklands make up a large part of its territory.
Gabon also has another thing – ibogaine. A naturally occurring psychoactive substance found in a variety of Iboga plants, ibogaine has long been used in Bwiti spiritual ceremonies. It’s also been found to help ease and expedite withdrawal from both opioids and cocaine.
The thing is though, ibogaine’s entry into the addiction treatment scene is as storied as it is odd. It involves New York City street junkies, Danish communes and off-shore detox centers, as well as trials and errors by the likes of NIDA and the FDA. In other words, perhaps not the easiest path to persuasion.
Yet it’s nevertheless necessary.
“As we begin the next phase in our fight against this crisis, we must explore any treatment option that demonstrates breakthrough therapeutic potential,” continued Hubbard. “Our goal is to investigate the creation of a new standard for treating opioid dependence, so we can finally end this cycle of pain in the Commonwealth.”
A Word About the Kentucky Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission
The Kentucky Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission (KYOAAC) was created by the General Assembly’s unanimous passage of House Bill 427, which Attorney General Daniel Cameron supported alongside other legislators, the Kentucky League of Cities, and the Kentucky Association of Counties. The Commission is comprised of nine voting and two non-voting members and includes stakeholders from, among others, the prevention and treatment community, law enforcement, and victims of the opioid crisis.
The Commission’s purpose is to distribute the Commonwealth’s portion of the over $842 million from settlements Attorney General Cameron secured from opioid companies back in 2022.
AG Cameron appointed Hubbard to oversee all that opioid settlement money. That makes him a very valuable point man for the Attorney General’s Office.
The KOAAC will be responsible not only for ensuring the money goes where it’s most needed, but also where it can best succeed. And that includes stakeholders of every stripe, size and circumstance. The KOAAC site says all applicants are welcome. It even provides an easy-to-follow grant application form to help expedite the process.
Add the KYOAAC meeting schedule to the equation and it’s clear this agency isn’t fooling around. The group has met 30 times since last July’s first sitdown; it’s got three more meetings on tap for this month. Throw in the recent statehouse steps presser announcing the ibogaine initiative and you’ve got a group that means business.
Healing Properties first mentioned ibogaine in May of 2021’s Psychedelic 12 Step. We revisited the subject that December after NIDA started clinical testing. As Forbes Staff Reporter Will Yakowicz’s December 7th report indicated:
A lab contracted by NIDA’s Addiction Treatment Discovery Program will conduct preclinical tests on Delix Therapeutics’ compound to evaluate its pharmacological, pharmacokinetic and toxicological properties. If the preclinical data and animal studies shows that the experimental drug could be a safe and potentially effective treatment for people with substance abuse disorders, Delix will apply to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to launch human clinical trials.
This wasn’t the first time the Feds have been persuaded to field test ibogaine. Far from it. In fact, both MIDA and the FDA took a good look at the root’s potential back in the mid-’80s. And though those results were beyond promising, problems with patents and perception brought down the trials.
This new approach is different. A new patent has apparently removed ibogaine’s inherent psychedelic properties, leaving only its propensity to bypass withdrawal. The bad news is that treatment-seekers won’t get that extra perception. The good news is that the stigma should help with approval.
Ibogaine is Still Illegal Just About Everywhere
It won’t be easy though. Not even close. According to the Global Ibogaine Therapy Alliance, ibogaine is currently only legal in New Zealand. Heck, the extract’s legality isn’t even clear in Gabon, where the Culture Ministry is in charge. We suspect that’s both because the iboga has deep cultural roots in the community, and the country probably want to avoid being seen as a haven for psycho-stimulant tourists.
Whatever the case, Wiki says ibogaine is not included on the UN International Narcotics Control Board’s Green List, or List of Psychoactive Substances under International Control. However it has been banned by the International Olympic Committee and the International Union of Cyclists because of its stimulant properties since 1989.
A letter lobbying the Rule of Law Office at the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights shows not-for-profit GITA is seeking to change all that. And we believe any organization so dedicated to supporting the sacramental and therapeutic uses of iboga deserves to be heard, loudly and clearly.
Impressed by Kentucky
Healing Properties is duly impressed by how far afield Kentucky is willing to look for an answer to its opioid problem. More treatment centers and sober homes are one thing. So is additional MAT. But to be daring to go to Gabon? Well, that’s another thing altogether.
It’s also another think. And just the kind of think that America needs right now. Whether it’s Louisiana’s Morph Device, or Kentucky’s secret African ingredient, we’ve simply got to find a way around withdrawal. Because if folks can find their way around withdrawal, they’ll be primed for recovery.
If you or someone you love is having substance abuse issues, please get in touch. We’ll help get you sorted, whatever the cause. And show you the way to long-term sobriety. Why? Because after over two decades, we know full well what sobriety can do for a person. And we’d like that person to be you.