The Shaman Will See You Now

New York's most radical rehab counselor is still standing after a duel with the DEA

"How much money was spent on this?" he wonders. "How many thousands of dollars? How many beds could we have opened up for addicts with that money? And not just for iboga, but for other forms of treatment, too."

Now he is considering a lawsuit to challenge restrictions on ibogaine use in Bwiti ceremonies. He has formally established a religious organization, the Universalist Bwiti Society of New York, and is consulting with a law firm that specializes in religious civil liberties cases. They hope to sue under a precedent set by a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court case (Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal) that allows a New Mexico church to use hallucinogenic ayahuasca tea in their services. Mugianis says he's raising funds to cover legal fees.

He earns a modest living from his harm reduction work and has vowed not to administer ibogaine in the United States until it is legal. Still, he continues to offer his services at IbogaLife, a rehab center in Costa Rica. There, the shaman doesn't have to shock clients with a warning about how he might be forced to abandon their corpse in a hotel room.

Dimitri "Mobengo" Mugianis practices Bwiti, an African religion that involves elaborate rituals and ibogaine, a potent hallucinogen that some say helps cure opiate addiction.
Willie Davis
Dimitri "Mobengo" Mugianis practices Bwiti, an African religion that involves elaborate rituals and ibogaine, a potent hallucinogen that some say helps cure opiate addiction.
Mugianis and his assistant, Michael "Kombi" McKenna, perform a ceremony that makes offerings to "the mother of the forest" (represented by the tree).
Willie Davis
Mugianis and his assistant, Michael "Kombi" McKenna, perform a ceremony that makes offerings to "the mother of the forest" (represented by the tree).

"I used to say that for people to realize the gravity of the situation," he says. "We have such reverence with dead bodies in this country and really don't give a shit about living people. I'd never leave a living body behind, but I'd leave a dead body. Besides, what would I do with a dead body? They'd be out of trouble, and I'd be in it."

Keegan Hamilton wrote about ibogaine in a feature published in the Village Voice in 2010: bit.ly/ibogaine1

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