Demonstration outside the offices of The Observer

Date – Thursday 1st February 2001, 12 noon

Location – The Observer
119 Farringdon Rd
London EC1

For further details contact either Nick Sandberg or Shane Collins.
Protest handout
Protest report
Follow up

Protest Handout

[heading] Observer talking nonsense over addiction treatment

[photo] – original article

[text] – In the article to the left, which appeared in The Observer on January 7th 2001, journalist Tony Thompson so seriously misrepresents the drug ibogaine – a substance that would almost certainly revolutionise the treatment of drug addiction and alcoholism – that we, as supporters of the drug, feel we must protest the issue.

In particular, the article claimed that ibogaine had been linked to “dozens of deaths”, when medical records confirm that it has never been found to be the cause of a fatality.

The article further quoted dose and price information for a substance that is recognised as not even being ibogaine, but instead an extract that contains small quantities of the drug, along with an assortment of other psychoactive substances. The article also failed to make clear that all recognised opiate detoxification treatments are considered potentially dangerous and have been associated with fatalities in the past.

The Observer was contacted with regard to these points, and presented with the expert testimony of two scientists internationally recognised as being at the forefront of ibogaine research. The paper refused to publish a retraction, and eventually only printed a letter so severely edited the above points were not made.

As persons deeply concerned with addiction issues, we find The Observer’s attitude towards this revolutionary medication deeply concerning. The immense harm that drug and alcohol addiction cause at all strata of our society is now universally recognised, and we feel it is deplorable that The Observer should publish an article that chooses to sensationalise issues, instead of dealing in the established facts about a medication that could well end the misery of millions worldwide.

We call on The Observer to print in its next issue a retraction of the article, of similar size and prominence to the original, making clear that no deaths have been attributed to the use of ibogaine; that all detoxification medications are recognised as being potentially dangerous; and that some of the quoted comments regarding the drug would likely be refuted by any knowledgable scientific authority.

Said Chris Sanders, of the Ibogaine Project, “It seems the media is only interested in sensationalising problems, not accurately researching solutions.”

Said Nick Sandberg, an independent activist, “Ibogaine is a medication stranded in development because no-one will back it. Pharmaceutical company spokesmen have admitted this is not because of concerns over whether it is safe or effective, but because they consider it financially non-viable.”

Said Shane Collins of the Green Party Drugs Group, “Ibogaine is a plant medicine requiring extensive and serious research, offering as it does a means of curing one of the greater ills of present society and the crime associated with it”.

Full details of The Observer’s article are onlineĀ here

Protest Report – Thursday 1st Feb 2001

About 10 of us protested outside The Observer’s offices in the Farringdon Rd, London this lunchtime from 12 – 2.

We distributed about 600 handouts to workers and passers-by and had placards saying “Observer trivialising plight of addicts” and similar. 2 police in attendance. No trouble occurred and it was a very well-mannered event. Various execs showed up at the door from time to time, and myself and Shane from the Green Party drugs group had a discussion with Stephen Pritchard, the paper’s readers’ editor. He promised to get Shane’s letter published in the Sunday edition, and look into them doing a more extensive feature. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.

Many thanks to those who turned up, despite the biting cold. Present were: me, Shane Collins (Green Party), Chris Sanders, Saj (Green Party), Michael York, Richard, Rick, Richard Jacobowski, Barbra, Boris, Hans and John the photographer. Apologies if I missed anyone out.

The Big Issue, (a UK mag distributed by the homeless and with good circulation among people likely concerned about drug issues), is running an article on ibogaine in its next edition, (this Monday), and the writer just ran the text past me. It’s brief and not fantastically researched but should give the drug a fair hearing. I’ve had no other media queries about the event thus far.

Will be entering into dialogue with GlaxoSmithKline now, to try and assertain why it should be that the world’s largest pharmaceuticals company, like the rest of them, isn’t doing their utmost to bring this medication to the market.


Protest follow-up

On Sunday 4th Feb 2001, The Observer newspaper published Shane Collins’ letter, (they had agreed to publish it the week before), see below, and so we consider the matter now closed.

[from The Observer, letters page, 4th Feb 2001]

Ibogaine benefits

I would like to correct a point made in your ibogaine article (News, 14 January). Far from being dozens of deaths, there have only been three, none directly attributed to ibogaine, a new treatment for heroin addiction.

The plant can be dangerous at the high dose used by the Bwiti for a ‘once in a lifetime’ religious initiation in Gabon, but not at the far lower dosages used to break opiate and methadone addictions and eliminating the usual withdrawal symptoms. Ibogaine is a plant medicine requiring extensive research, offering as it does a means of curing one of society’s greater ills (and the crime associated with it).

Shane Collins
London SW2

By Dev