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Harris, Shana Lisa

Grant Type
Post-Ph.D. Research Grant
Insitutional Affiliation
Central Florida, U. of
Active Grant
Approve Date
Project Title
Harris, Dr. Shana L., U. of Central Florida, Orlando, FL - To aid research on 'The Last Resort: Medical Travel and Drug Treatment with Ibogaine in Mexico'

Preliminary abstract: In US, the options available to those seeking drug treatment are limited primarily to 12-step programs, therapeutic communities, and opiate replacement therapies, such as methadone and Suboxone. Yet many drug users in the US find little or no long-term success with such mainstream modalities, and some look for drug treatment abroad. This research project is an ethnographic study of one such important alternative drug treatment program that utilizes a psychedelic substance called ibogaine. Derived from a Central African plant, ibogaine produces dream-like visions that last up to 24 hours. For over a century, scientists and health professionals have examined the therapeutic potential of ibogaine, including its use for drug treatment. In fact, it is known as an 'addiction interrupter' because it purportedly greatly reduces or eliminates drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms after one dose. It is used simultaneously as a tool for introspection that allows for self-reflection about one's addiction and the path out of it. In 1967, however, ibogaine became illegal in the US. As a result, drug treatment centers offering ibogaine have proliferated in Mexico, where it is unregulated and therefore not illegal. These centers capitalize on their proximity to the US in order to attract a primarily American clientele that wants to be treated with ibogaine legally. This project examines the use of ibogaine at a treatment center in Baja California, Mexico, a region known for its cross-border healthcare industry, in order to understand how this treatment is pursued, provided, and experienced. Such an exploration highlights the multiplicity of experiences associated with using ibogaine to treat addiction, the role of medical travel in seeking and offering this treatment outside of the US, and the social and structural factors that affect drug users seeking treatment and the provision of this alternative form of care.