This is a transcript of an interview conducted by Daniel Holeman and Roberta Walker in Sacramento, CA, during their radio show, The Conscious Cafe.
Holeman: So I’m speaking now with Eric Taub from Florida, who is a therapist and a practitioner who is speaking about the substance called ibogaine. And we’ll start off with welcoming you Eric.
Taub: Hi there.
Walker: Hi, Eric.
Holeman: Hi, and why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself just briefly and then we’ll get a little more into the details.
Taub: Okay, um, well that’s a hard question to ask me, um “Who am I?” (chuckles). Um…
Walker: Who are you in connection with ibogaine?
Taub: Well, I received a phone call, oh, about seven and a half years ago from a friend of mine who I taught how to make rings, who I met on the streets in New York City. We were both peddling our respective lines of jewelry. And he just heard from a naturopathic physician friend of his that there was a couple of doctors in town on the way to New York City and then to Washington with the purpose of seeing if they can push through ibogaine and then create a situation where it was legal. And when they got to Washington of course they came against a brick wall, but I heard about it through my friend who heard about these doctors. And I was just so intrigued at the time that there could be something available to people that were going through the agony of addiction that would enable them not to have to go through the torment of withdrawal, that I was just intrigued enough to go to my local herbarian library at the University of Florida here in Gainesville and see if I can find out more about the plant that grows in west central Africa where the alkaloid ibogaine is extracted from.
Walker: Had you heard anything about ibogaine before you ran into your friend?
Taub: No, I didn’t hear anything about it except that I was really ripe for something showing up in my life that I could really sink my teeth into as far as a project, because I recall one of my very rare sitting-up meditations about a week before I was introduced to it, and I sat up and within a minute’s time I experienced these two presences sitting directly next to me. They were smirking and laughing, and I was in one of my deeper darker moments of depression and they kept on– they were just having a much better time than I was and it seemed like something was imminent. And so I just hung in there for a few more days and when I was introduced to ibogaine I realized that this was something I really wanted to pursue, something, a project that I can, you know, do as an end and not as a means to an end but an end in itself.
Holeman: Yeah – what exactly is ibogaine?
Taub: Well, it’s an alkaloid. It’s one of thirteen alkaloids located in the plant Tabernanthe iboga.
Walker: What does that mean, “an alkaloid”?(chuckles)
Taub: Um… (chuckles, Walker joins in) I don’t know. I don’t know, actually. I know very little about the pharmacological aspect of it.
Taub: I leave that up to people who feel more inclined to delve into the scientific aspect.
Walker: But it’s something inherent in the plant?
Taub: Yes, it’s a part of a plant that’s extracted and isolated and utilized in many plants all over the world as different types of medications.
Holeman: Well it’s just like an acid is an acid an alkaloid is a thing similar to that but it’s different. Right? It’s a type of a substance.
Taub: Yes, it is definitely a type of a substance. That much I know. (Holeman and Walker laugh)
Walker: Okay, so we know what it is, and um — so go on, you have such a great story about it.
Taub: Well after reviewing some of the literature in the library and finding out where it grew, I came across a man who had been a heroin addict back in the early 60’s and took a dose of ibogaine just to get high and inadvertently 36 hours later he walked out of his bedroom not only having not had to go through the agony of withdrawal from his heroin addiction but he was no longer craving heroin.
Walker: Now you just happened to come across this man that had that experience?
Taub: No, he was written up, he’s got a small corporation in Staten Island and he was written up in some of the literature that I came across at the library.
Walker: Oh, I see.
Taub: And so when I hunted him down, finally found his telephone number out, gave him a call, he sent some transcriptions from people’s experiences to me. Some ex-addicts’ experiences, describing a 36-hour psychoactive experience where thousands of pictorial gestalts were reviewed in the person’s mind, basically the person spending all that time awake with their eyes closed, in bed, reviewing mostly pictures having to do with a unleashing of repressed memories from childhood. Also various archetypal experiences, energetic experiences, just all kinds of apparent getting in touch with unconscious data that enabled people not only to experience the alleviation and the overwhelming of the withdrawal process but also the elimination of craving, and also some people find out the reasons why they became addicted personalities in the first place. So I was completely sold after these subjective anecdotal transcriptions were in my hand.
Walker: So your next quest was to try it yourself, was that… ? That would be mine.
Taub: Well, my next act was to see if I could find a port of entry in another country since it’s illegal in only two countries in the world, one being the United States and the other Belgium. I went to Mexico with idea of interesting some doctors who did become interested. They were going to be writing up a proposal to be presented to their medical college who would in turn write up a proposal to their FDA to see if I could then fly to Africa and bring a batch of plants in to be used for a pilot study in Mexico. Well that was proceeding pretty successfully and after about 4 or 5 weeks I just happened to mention to these doctors that from what I understand ibogaine has about a seventy percent success rate in alleviating substance abuse of all kinds, even cross-addictions, from nicotine, to heroin, to alcohol, to cocaine and so on. When they found out that was the case they were immediately taken aback and they said, “I’m sorry, we can’t help you because we need to be able to maintain a comfort zone around our family and friends, and if it had a much lesser success rate then maybe we would be more comfortable about helping you out, but we don’t really feel that we’re capable of jeopardizing ourselves and our families and threatening certain individuals, particularly drug lords that use our highways, to meander up to the United States.” And they suggested that I go to a more autonomous country, perhaps Costa Rica or another country in Central America, that wouldn’t be so close to the powers that be in the United States.
Walker: So they were just afraid of drug addicts and junkies coming down, that was the big fear?
Taub: No, they were afraid of the threat that this may ensue from drug lords that might feel threatened by having a clinic available in their area that could have such a profound effect on alleviating drug abuse, especially if it were to catch on and get the attention of the American government.
Holeman: So it would put a lot of people out of business?
Taub: A lot of people. I mean, just think about, for example, Kentucky. The biggest cash crop in Kentucky — all the banks in Kentucky are basically supported by the marijuana trade. What would happen if someone —
Holeman: You mean tobacco?
Taub: I mean marijuana. (Holeman and Walker chuckle) What would happen if — not that doing anything in moderation is bad — but there are a lot of people that drink every day, that smoke pot every day. The American Medical Association, the tobacco and alcohol lobbies — you know, the so called “good guys” and the so called “bad guys” in the way of the drug lords would be threatened by this and it was just too hot to handle and politically they didn’t want to touch it with a ten foot pole.
Walker: It takes a lot of courage to be a pioneer.
Taub: Well, they told me to go elsewhere and be a pioneer. (they laugh)
Walker: So then what?
I mean, I’m talking about you. (still laughing) Not everyone else is going to join. So then what? You went to… ? Taub: It didn’t even occur to me that it needed to take courage, I just needed something to do. I was just in love with this idea, and the initial thought I had was to go to Africa to find 80,000 doses for 3 cents apiece, in the bush, to go to Needle Park in Europe where about 80,000 addicts come every week to pick up their free needles, and then call CNN and have CNN check out that the following week only one quarter of the people were there looking for their needles, and that would be the end of it.
Walker: So your impulse here is for healing, it sounds like. You wanted to go and do that and bring —
Taub: Well, I have a messianic complex and my impulse I guess to some degree was also to… yeah, to do something meaningful… for me. It’s a selfish thing.
Walker: No, it’s not, it’s really a big thing.
Taub: [lightly] Whatever…
Walker: I want to ask you, because it deals with addictions, what about the emotional addictions, to shame, to guilt, to fear – what do you feel about that?
Taub: Well those are the root emotions behind addictive behavior, and the really interesting thing about ibogaine is that it brings a person more to the center so that the mind isn’t ruling on the level of a polar extreme. People move more into a cool and warm relationship with their thought process instead of hot and cold, where guilt and anger reside, things are much more balanced.
Walker: So it’s like a more loving, non-judgmental place?
Taub: Exactly, and it all has to do with accepting yourself. And then of course people become a lot more tolerant towards others. And that, to me, is the healing of all addiction. And so there’s a lot of people that I’ve done sessions with that have gone into the session with the intention of finding out, whether it’s psychologically or energetically — when I say “finding out” I don’t necessarily mean on the conscious level — but resolving and reconciling difficulties that they’re having in relationship to themselves and overeating and food disorders or just the propensity for us to move out into the world and not in, within ourselves. And I think that, pretty much, this generation is the only one that has lacked — in this culture, the only one that has lacked — the initiatory experience. I mean, what do we have as teenagers and preteens? We have malls. And instead of groups that have rite of passage —
Holeman: We have television.
Taub: We’ve got television, we’ve got gangs… I think that all these different things are ways that people are intrinsically, generationally looking for the experience that will catapult them to a vision of their particular dharma.
Walker: M-Hm. Yeah, it’s true, we are very distracted here, very distracted. And it seems like these distractions exist to keep us from knowing who we are at a core level and our connection to the Earth.
Taub: Well it keeps the societal engine going. You know, the fact that now we’ve got two people in a household working instead of just one person, which was the case several years ago. It’s just the propensity to go out, and to move out of ourselves is culturally strong. And what ibogaine does — and other psychoactives too, but it seems like ibogaine is the granddaddy of them all — is to turn that propensity 180 degrees. And it really changes people. It changes people and not only just temporarily, but permanently.
Walker: Well can I ask you — I want to ask you a few questions about the actual experience. The first one, is this a one-time thing that you do? You know, one-time experience?
Taub: Well not necessarily, although I haven’t heard of a person, after taking it, that didn’t say that now they know why only three grams have been confiscated in the last 35 years, because this is a psychoactive that will never hit the streets because it’s not a recreational experience. It’s a profoundly arduous experience that takes a lot of courage and a lot of work to wade through.
Walker: Hm. So, um — [laughing] I was just thinking about it, I thought it must be really, on one level, a little bit scary to face your stuff, but at the same time really freeing if you’re willing to do the work.
Taub: Exactly. If we take —
Holeman: How long have you been doing this now?
Taub: If we take three percent out of ourselves it’s a tremendous amount, cause it’s so difficult for us as humans to change. But if you take a look at where a plane will be a couple of weeks after they take a three percent trajectory off the beaten path, they’ll be in a completely different place in the world. As a result, this is what I see: people come in, myself as well, with as much courage as we can possibly muster up to confront this truth serum that is in front of us, and we come out of it transformed in spite of our cowardice. [chuckles]
Walker: M-hm. Yeah. Well I find that there’s so much available if we’re willing to do our work, not just through drug form, but —
Taub: I completely agree. And that’s where the intention of the individual is much, much more significant than any of the methods out there that are being used as vehicles for transformation.
Taub: But there are some tools that seem to be more profound than others, and I do believe that ibogaine is one of them.
Holeman: Are there any disadvantages or down sides to it, that you’ve found?
Taub: Well, not that we know of. As of yet, there only seem to be positive side effects, even physically. I’ve heard of physical therapists that have done people before and after they conducted their experience, and amazingly the therapists share with me and their clients that their lymphatic systems are cleansed out. Lumps and bumps have disappeared, even though the person has had them for years. Stiff joints disappear, it seems like old and recent injuries smooth out. The thing about ibogaine, beyond the fact that it’s an organic, is that it doesn’t bypass any emotions. So there’s no particular internal organ that lodges any emotional data. For example, with MDMA the person experiences a sense of the elimination of fear, and so there’s basically nothing left in their experience except love, being that, simply, human beings have two basic emotions, fear and love. But as a result of bypassing the fear, at least temporarily, the kidneys are taxed. Very much so, so that it’s really important that if a person is going to do that drug, especially since it’s a synthetic, that they should take a really strong kidney tea because there’s an emotion being bypassed. But there doesn’t seem to be anything that’s unnatural in the process of ibogaine. The other neat thing about it is that you get an opportunity to confront and take a head-on look at your process, and if you choose to not explore a certain avenue, all you have to do is say “no” inside, and the energy will move elsewhere and give you an opportunity to explore something else. You actually create a relationship between the plant and the individual. There’s a relationship that’s created and there’s an empathy and and interconnectedness and a symbiotic kind of relationship that’s created during the session so that you feel covered, you feel secure, and yet at the same time you’re overpowered by a very powerful energy.
Walker: Hm, so it’s almost like there’s some surrender involved, you know —
Taub: Oh, yeah, surrender’s the name of the game…
Walker: [laughing] — to let it flow and to let it happen.
Taub: Well that’s really the necessity of the initiatory experience, is surrender. Because without losing control the individual does not give themself the opportunity to receive information about themselves, deep information, that they ordinarily wouldn’t receive. You gotta lose control first, that’s the door.
Walker: Right. Right, it almost — the experience reminds me of what I’ve read about in Eastern philosophy, right after you die, that period where you sort of look backward over your life, very quickly.
Taub: Exactly. This experience has been described in various scriptures, including the Tibetan Book of the Dead. It’s very similar in terms of the life review and the pictorial…
Walker: How interesting. So now, what do you currently do? What are you doing right now as far as your involvement or progress with the ibogaine?
Taub: Well, I’ve been conducting sessions for the last almost four and a half years in international waters, mostly in the Caribbean Sea, because unfortunately, as I mentioned before, the United States is one of two countries where it’s actually on the same class 1 drug list as heroin and cocaine and all the other drugs that ibogaine eliminates from a person’s system and desire.
Walker: Right. Well can you describe, let’s say, how it is done, the process? You say you do sessions. What does that mean? What if I came to you and said “okay, this is something I want to do”? What am I in for? Where do I stay?
Taub: Well, we set up a situation where I make some calls and we get out and make ourselves available right outside the borders of the United States. Logistically it’s worked out so that we meet at a certain time at a certain place, and before that time I’m usually on the phone for several hours over a period of weeks speaking about intention and the experience, and really the process begins a good few weeks before.
Walker: So you’re sort of the facilitator also?
Taub: Yeah. Although there are other facilitators, particularly for the addiction interruption work. Facilitators that have a lot more experience working with addiction. I have a psychiatrist who’s involved, as well as a nurse and some counselors. And as far as the initiatory/psychospiritual work, I tend to do those sessions. And then the ibogaine is calibrated in powder form according to body weight and the type of experience that one is looking for. There’s basically three levels of experience. One is the low-dose psycho-therapeutic experience, where the person never really has that level of let-go and surrender but they want to take a small dose to very specifically access certain behavioral situations from childhood. Then the mid-range dose is the initiatory dose, where the relationship is just between the individual and the essence energy of the plant. There’s no therapist necessary to be on hand to actively participate in helping the person access specific information. During the initiatory experience the person spends some weeks before focusing and simplifying a set of very specific intentions that they want to explore and they want to derive from the experience, and they go into this experience alone. And then they’re introduced to the Eboga energy. The higher range dose levels have more to do with the over- whelming of addiction, the overwhelming of physical withdrawal, and the elimination of craving for a specific drug or drugs. So there’s three different dose ranges that are involved.
Walker: And you said it’s a 36-hour process?
Taub: Well, it ranges from 20-50 hours. It varies very, very much according to each individual. There’s not a session I’ve done where I haven’t had a surprise. Nor, if a person does a session a second time, which some people have a year or year and a half later, the experience is as profoundly different as another person doing a first session.
Walker: Uh-huh. Now, where are you during this time? Where would a person be? What kind of… ?
Taub: In bed.
Walker: In bed. Like in a hotel or something?
Taub: Well, on a boat. A very comfortable boat.
Walker: Whoa. [laughing] What does something like this cost?
Taub: Well, it ranges, and thank goodness it’s going down price-wise, so there’s much more room for a wider sliding scale. And there are two other people in the world that we know of that are conducting sessions. They’re both located in the Caribbean in small countries, and they’re charging between $12,000-$35,000 a session. And they’re in very stringent clinical settings, and doing only addiction interruption sessions, maybe a half a dozen or so a year. At that price, I mean, how could you find too many people who could afford that much money?
Holeman: Do you see it being used more broadly in the future, in more clinics and more available to people?
Taub: We hope so. We hope to set up a situation where we can utilize both organic and synthetic technologies so we can bring and make this available to at least one percent of the 140 million addicts throughout the world. But my interest also very much lies in sharing it as an initiatory tool.
Walker: Well it sounds like you’d have to have a higher intent — well, I’d like to think that — to be so courageous to bring this out.
Holeman: Well we’re just about out of time here for this talk. We’ve enjoyed it a lot. Is there anything you’d like to say as a closing to our talk here?
Taub: No. Only thanks for having me. And I appreciated the time that you gave me.
Holeman: Yeah. Now are you interested in leaving your phone number for people to reach you if they’re interested in getting more information?
Taub: I’m certainly interested in leaving my address.
Holeman: Great, go ahead.
Taub: Okay, it’s Eric Taub, and the address is:
116 NW 13th St #152
Gainesville, FL 32601