August 1999

Subject: Iboga in the Cameroun
Date: Tue, 7 Sep 1999 08:32:04 EDT
From: Nick Sandberg
Reply-To: [email protected]
To: Multiple recipients of list

Posting a brief account of recent 2 week trip to the Cameroun to both do Bwiti initiation and research iboga further.

Left London for Yaounde, the Cameroun capital, on Tues Aug 10th. Overall journey time was about 12 hours, including stops at Paris and Douala, (Cameroun’s second city). The flight was Air France and cost about UKĀ£850 return. Air fares to Central Africa from Europe are invariably about US$1,500 return, which seems fairly pricey to me.

Yaounde was cooler than I’d been told. We went straight to the Bwiti chapel, which I believe was called Assumpta Ening, or something similar. The chapel was conveniently located about 10 minutes drive from central Yaounde.

We sat in on Bwiti rituals that night which went on until sunrise. They were quite well carried out in my opinion. The same Wednesday night, with a lot of fairly spectacular fire rituals. There were about 20 Bwiti initiates present of varying ages. Nearly all looked under 40. Many under 20.

On the Thursday we were asked to write a “confession”, detailing all our various transgressions from our previous years. Later in the day, the confession is to be read out in front of two large harps (!!), then later symbolically burnt.

The initiation ritual started quite late on Thursday evening. It was conducted by a guy called the Abbe Bessala. There was a bit of ritual washing outside the temple followed by a few blessings and similar. There were five in total to be initiated. Three locals, (two girls aged about 10 years and a young man of about 15), and two of us Westerners. In addition, a young Swiss heroin addict was treated the day after.

We started eating the prepared iboga which was foul as ever. I had noted earlier in the day while observing an old woman preparing the stuff that she discarded the outer rootbark. I asked her why this was and she explained it was unhygenic. After a fair bit of eating, it was evident to me that the iboga was not particularly strong, no doubt partly because of the way the part of it where active ingredients were most concentrated was discarded. There was some “automatique”, (an alcohol/water extract of iboga rootbark), around which I decided to move onto. It was foul, but not as bad as the rootbark powder. Everyone else was vomiting merrily, but I managed to hold out. I must have drunk numerous glasses of the “automatique”, prior to passing out.

After this I don’t remember a great deal for about 6 days! I did a fair bit of dreaming over that time and had no real idea of who I was or where I was. I seemed to be spending a fair bit of time in some kind of multidimensional environment which is pretty difficult to describe save to say that the extra dimensions were represented in my mind by specific feelings. I’m fairly certain I encountered a character who I later recognised as Njoya – an early 20th century Sultan of a central kingdom of the Cameroun, renowned for his wisdom and occult activities.

[Bits are coming back to me slowly as the months pass. During one approx 36 hour solid REM dreamstate I experienced at least a couple of interesting life histories seemingly set around 1850-1920, one maybe US, the other likely UK. Don’t know whether they were my own, but the central characters seemed familiar. My opinion of ibogaine visuals in general is that they are frequently a “mish-mash” of emotional memories, cognitive memories and possible past-life, archetypal or future experiences. I had a strong vision of the “forging of nations” circa 1000AD in Scotland, a lot of which came back to me whilst North of the Border with Dr Mash in November 1999. In the dreamstate I could feel the texture of stone as though it were alive.]

On the sixth and seventh days after consuming the iboga, I began to remember who I was and similar useful pieces of information. And on the seventh I left the chapel and its surrounding buildings and went to stay in a hotel room in Yaounde.

Overall I can’t really say much about my session with iboga as I consumed so much of the stuff, I simply can’t really remember. I think it’s generally better to take iboga or ibogaine, for spiritual or psychological reasons, in a more controlled environment. I guess I must have consumed something in the order of about 10g of ibogaine, regardless of the other actives present in the rootbark, though this is just an estimate based on what I recall and how long I was out of it for afterward.

Back in Yaounde, the young Swiss drug addict who’d taken iboga the day after seemed much recovered. Though I’d only met him briefly prior to his treatment, he’d seemed to me a fairly typical young male European h addict, (if such a term has validity). He now appeared notably more mature. And told me he was experiencing no desire to use.

My overall opinion of treatment in Cameroun, bar one consideration, is that it is particularly suited to the treatment of drug addiction. Especially for those addicts who’ve had little success with other treatment modalities. It seemed to me one particularly significant consideration here is the so-called “pilgrimage factor”.

By this I mean the pschological effect on the addict once they’ve booked their ticket to this remote environment. They can see themselves travelling to a place far detached from the West, taking part in a bizarre ritual involving a life-changing psychoactive substance, and thence commence upon a new life – one free from hard drug usage.

This is a very significant factor in trying to achieve long-term drug abstinence, in my opinion.

For those seeking some kind of spiritual experience, or relief from psychological maladies, I’d say it’s better to experiment with iboga, in whatever form, nearer to home prior to trying something like this.

There is one negative factor to be mentioned when discussing treatment in the Cameroun.

This concerns security, on both a local and national level. Cameroun, in common with much of Central Africa, is both an extremely corrupt country and also not a particularly safe one. The people I was with did not like walking around alone in Yaounde at any time. And whilst I personally felt quite safe during the daylight, once dusk falls it’s a generally accepted wisdom that wandering the unlit streets is a definite “no-no” for non-Camerounaises.

There are also concerns with pilfering, which seems endemic and is an issue which needs to be addressed prior to departure. Cash and valuables will disappear from pretty much any place. Carrying travellers’ cheques seems a good idea – until you try and cash them! If you succeed in finding a bank which will accept them, you are unlikely to be much impressed by the rate. (Ffr 1,000 in banknotes typically gains about CFA 97,000. In T/C the same sum gains about CFA 65,000!!)

One idea to counter problems of this nature would be to arrive a day or two earlier in Yaounde, check into a halfway decent hotel, and leave your valuables in the safe. Alternately, American Express or DHL offices may offer safe-keeping facilities.

Anyway, to sum up, treatment in Cameroon is reasonable value at about FFr 7,500, (~US$1250), especially when compared to other options. (Though flight costs to this region are high). And, for addicts especially, Central Africa scores high on the “pilgrimage factor” scale. Unless you’re used to travelling in Third World countries, Westerners would be advised to go accompanied, either by another addict or a friend. Some considerations as to how you’re going to keep your money safe during your trip should be taken prior to leaving. A guide book, such as Lonely Planet’s Central Africa, is also a good idea.

Happy to answer any questions anyone might have.



Re: of iboga and Gabon
Date: Tue, 07 Dec 1999 12:40:30 +0000
From: Nick Sandberg
To: [email protected]

HSL wrote:

How do you own memories of Gabon sit with you now Nick?

Hi Howard,

My memories of Gabon are somewhat limited, as I have never been there! I recall going to Cameroon, however. Which was interesting for a number of reasons. I participated in a Bwiti “initiation” ritual, which was fairly well conducted, in my opinion, though not in the opinion of other Westerners who attended.

Much of the preparation resembled that for Primal Therapy, the regressive psychotherapeutic technique pioneered by Dr Arthur Janov in the 60’s and occasionally still enjoying bursts of popularity. Notably, the lack of sleep allowed prior to commencement, the writing of the confession of one’s misdoings and the general atmosphere of abuse and maltreatment – all of which serve to break down the body and mind’s defences and potentially allow the release and reintegration of early “deferred” pain, (ie. pain resulting from experiences deemed too traumatic by the body to be felt at the time of experience and so held within the system awaiting a safer time for release).

The problem for me was that as the iboga came on and the constant exhortations to eat more, (comment tu vas voyager si tu ne mange pas d’iboga?), started to seriously get on my nerves, I decided I was going to consume a truly monumental dose of the “automatique” – the less foul tasting and more concentrated iboga brew – and proceeded to do just that.

I lost consciousness and when I came around could not recall who or where I was. I was actively very hostile to the people around me, who I seemed to recall were not my friends, and spent the next six and half days, lying on a mattress in a side room, drifting in and out of periods of intense REM activity sometimes for days at a time, bits of which occasionally return to me. Around the morning of the seventh day, I started to recall who and where I was.

My experiences while I was “away” were very similar to those described by people doing Grof’s Holotropic Breathwork. That’s to say, there appears to be a lot of apparently “past-life” material, which arises and is slowly reintegrated into the psyche, mostly, in my case, apparently set in late 19th C USA and early 20th C London. Also some older stuff relating to the “cleaving and forming of nations” around 1000AD in Scotland – some of which came back whilst I spent time visiting Stirling Castle with Dr Mash, (as did some NDE type stuff as she endeavoured to negotiate roundabouts in a hired Skoda), in which I could feel the rock as living texture slowly rending with time.

There were also a whole host of truly weird multi-D experiences I couldn’t begin to realistically put into words.

My opinion now would be that the experience was quite interesting, but that dose levels of this magnitude with iboga are pointless. I believe the brain on becoming aware of the impending psychedelic onslaught simply directs the flow of energy up and away from the parts of the psyche where deferred pain is held, and into some kind of mystical land of weirdness. There may be some level of symbolic interaction with the trauma, but I doubt if permanent abreaction and resolution of trauma can occur like this, the effect being more like the sense of temporary calm we have after a deep dreaming session.

My best experience with ibogaine was with the HCl. I took 750mg and had a painful and very visceral journey into the tortured mind. This is what you need. Actual cognitive, emotional and bodily release of pain. Journeys into the Spiritual Land of Oz may calm the troubled mind and boost self-esteem, but they don’t actually deal with the problem. Spiritual experiences are in some ways the body’s means of copping out, of saying the pain is too intense to be dealt with yet and opening up another channel that we may view it differently. Just as the mind seems to know what experiences need to be deferred for fear of causing excess damage to the psyche, so it also seems to know the time and place when this stuff can be safely released. In short, you need to gently tweak those receptors just right, not flood them, or you’ll be talking hippy nonsense for the rest of your life, which may be considerably shortened, should the health issues surrounding trauma not be being addressed.

Anyway, that’s my opinion for what it’s worth. Avoid high doses. Work up. Use other methodologies in between ibogaine sessions to help soften up the subconscious. Don’t keep hacking away with ibogaine if it’s not giving you a result. And don’t go thinking you’re the next new-age prophet just because you’ve been jettisoned into the land of mystical weirdness for a few hours – it’s just your body’s way of telling you you’re not ready yet.

Best wishes


By Dev