Bufo Alvarius, a species of toad that contains 5-MeO-DMT. Photograph by H. Krisp.

Bufo Alvarius, a species of toad that contains 5-MeO-DMT. Photograph by H. Krisp.

New research into the benefits and therapeutic applications of psychedelics seems to appear every day, especially for substances like cannabis, MDMA, and psilocybin that have had a great deal of studies done in the last few years. As wonderful as this is for broadening our understanding of these powerful medicines, there’s still a great deal more that we need to learn, especially about lesser-studied psychedelics such as ibogaine and 5-MeO-DMT. Dr. Joseph Barsuglia, whom we interviewed about his first shamanic iboga experience last week, works as the Clinical Research Director at Crossroads Ibogaine Treatment Center in Mexico and spoke with us further about the research he is doing into these two very potent psychedelics which are often given in tandem during Crossroads’ treatment program.

Studying Ibogaine Treatment for Addiction

Joseph’s path into psychedelic research was a unique one. “I started off as a pastor in a Christian church, got motivated to study psychology, and then went into research and clinical assessment. About a year ago I finished a post-doc fellowship in dementia research and neuropsychology, and just through happenstance a friend introduced me to Dr. Martin Polanco, the founder of Crossroads. He offered me a great position, and I said ‘No way, this is my dream job!’”

The team at Crossroads is pursuing multiple forms of research into ibogaine and 5-MeO-DMT, and part of Joseph’s work is focused on following up with patients after their ibogaine treatment. “I work at Crossroads doing outcome research on the addiction patients that come through. It mainly consists of questionnaires and gathering information about how much and what kind of drugs they might be using, what their experience was like with the medicine, and then we follow them long term 6-12 months out to see how effective the treatment has been. There really hasn’t been a lot of research on humans because of the risk profiles and politics surrounding it, so we’re gathering outcome data retrospectively.”

The results that Joseph is seeing are incredible and almost unprecedented in terms of success for an addiction treatment program. “We just assessed 100 patients that came through our program from 4 months to 5 years out. Based off of what we are seeing, it is incomparable compared to what is currently out there in conventional treatment. It is not a magic bullet, but in about two-thirds of people, it is effective at interrupting their addiction.” Joseph hopes to take this amazing success and share it with people who need it most. “I have a background in publishing academic research, and I was really excited to jump into this area. It is very timely, especially with the magnitude of the opiate epidemic that is so bad in the northeast right now. I feel really passionately about advocating for the use of this medicine.”

Toad Medicine

Joseph’s research has also expanded into studying the effects of 5-MeO-DMT, not just at the clinic itself but through firsthand accounts shared from other facilitators who use traditional methods of extracting DMT from the venom of the native Bufo Alvarius toad. “We also do research at Crossroads on 5-MeO-DMT. Ibogaine and 5-MeO-DMT are about the two most potent psychedelics in terms of the experience as well as the healing potential. We are looking to partner with Dr. Octavio Rettig, who is a big proponent of the toad medicine. He gave us 500 testimonials of people who used the toad medicine, and we are going through people’s firsthand accounts, looking at what recurrent themes show up, what kind of experiences people are having, and so forth.”

Joseph is finding that the results from Dr. Rettig’s testimonials reinforce what they are already seeing at Crossroads in their addiction patients who undergo a 5-MeO-DMT journey after their ibogaine session. “Just reading through people’s experience, you get a kind of buzz or euphoria from it. People are talking about melting into God, being united with the universe, clearing longstanding trauma and pain that was stored in their bodies. It’s exciting. At Crossroads, we’re finding that the combination of the two is like…1+1=5, it’s just exponential.”