Gemma Blok

Gemma Blok, PhD

Open University

“IBOGAINE TESTING NOW!” Western Ibogaine activism around 1990 in transnational perspective


Around 1990, a vocal activism became visible in both the United States and Europe advocating the wider availability of Ibogaine treatment for opiate addicts. As a growing number of experts and drug users had been arguing since the 1960s, this strong psychedelic drug was a very promising cure for heroin dependency, The Ibogaine movement gained momentum during the 1970s and 1980s, fuelled by the spread of heroin use. Widespread media-attention and a public demonstration in New York in 1991 put Ibogaine firmly on the map.

This paper analyses the transnational Ibogaine activism of this period as an ‘embodied health movement’. This is a specific type of social movement that challenges existing medical/scientific knowledge and practice by introducing the embodied experience of people with health problems into the discourse – in this case, the experience of people suffering from heroin dependency.

The focus in the paper will be on self-help initiatives within the Ibogaine movement, such as the New York based International Coalition for Addict Self-Help (ICASH) and the Dutch organisation for Addict Self Help (DASH). The personal archive of one of DASH’s founders, Nico Adriaans, as well as relevant publications, will be used to shed light on the motivations, aims and impact of experienced experts in the embodied health movement around Ibogaine of the late 1980s and early 1990s.


Gemma Blok (1970) is a specialist in the history of mental health care, social movements in mental health and the history of alcohol and drug use, with a particular expertise in Dutch history. She received her PhD in 2004 for a dissertation on the impact of the antipsychiatry movement in the Netherlands. From 2005-2009 she conducted a postdoctoral research on the history of Dutch addiction treatment. From 2009 onwards she has taught Dutch history at the University of Amsterdam, before her appointment as professor in Modern History at the Open University of the Netherlands in 2017. Her current interests focus on the social and cultural histories of alcohol and drugs in the modern period.



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