Lucia Marie Terpak, MA
The University of Colorado Denver
The Phenomenology of Ibogaine-Assisted Addiction Treatment: Understanding the Role of the Psychedelic Experience in Healing
Ibogaine is a non-addictive psychoactive alkaloid which is derived primarily from the root bark of the Tabernathe iboga, a plant medicine utilized in traditional Central West African rituals of healing and rites of passage. Ibogaine has been proven to act as a powerful “addiction disrupter” by mitigating withdrawal symptoms and reducing cravings, especially in the treatment of opioid addiction. However, due to its psychedelic properties, ibogaine is illegal and unavailable for medical use in most countries, including the U.S. The majority of academic studies on ibogaine have narrowly focused on understanding the biological effects of the substance and determining whether or not ibogaine treatment reduces withdrawal symptoms and curbs drugs cravings. In contrast, this IRB-approved work of medical anthropology centers the subjective experiences of patients undergoing ibogaine treatment for opioid addiction and elucidates how the psychedelic experience produced by ibogaine facilitates healing. This research challenges the dominant biomedical understanding of addiction as a primarily brain-based biological disorder and pays attention to recent research, which highlights the link between trauma and addiction. Findings from this project show that in addition to working on a biological level, ibogaine works on emotional, psychological, and spiritual levels to heal the root causes of addiction. Data for this project was collected primarily through pre-treatment, post-treatment, and follow-up interviews with American patients who, after having little success with traditional addiction treatments, sought ibogaine treatment for opioid addiction at a detoxification clinic in Mexico, where ibogaine is unregulated.
Lucia Marie Terpak earned her B.A. in Religious Studies with a minor in Psychology from Wake Forest University in 2015. As an undergraduate, Lucia rediscovered her love for understanding and expanding her consciousness, and in the fall of 2012, Lucia spent a semester studying Buddhism and practicing daily meditation in a Burmese Buddhist monastery in Bodh Gaya, India. In 2018, Lucia received a Source Award from Source Research Foundation to support her research on ibogaine and addiction at a detoxification clinic in Mexico. In September 2019, Lucia successfully defended her master’s thesis and will graduate with an M.A. in medical anthropology from The University of Colorado Denver in December 2019. Lucia presented research at the 2017 Society for Applied Anthropology annual meetings on explanatory models and barriers to care experienced by low-income Type II diabetes patients. She currently works as a research associate and evaluator for a Colorado-based health foundation, which supports community-driven strategies to address health disparities. Lucia serves on the Source Research Foundation’s Application Review Committee, which reviews grant applications of students undertaking psychedelic research. Lucia is also a member of the Society for Psychedelic Outreach, Reform, and Education (SPORE), a Denver-based organization which is working to educate the medical community and lay-people about psilocybin and promote psilocybin decriminalization around the U.S. In her free time, Lucia enjoys spending time in the mountains.