Alexis Jetter

The Psychedelic Cure

The New York Times Magazine - April 10, 1994

THE OLD, WHITE HOTEL SOUTH OF Amsterdam was the last stop on the junkie express, and most guests packed light. Nicola and Marcel brought only what they needed for the night: two syringes, a pink silk tourniquet, a Robert Ludlum novel and five grams of heroin. It was to be the young couple's last binge as addicts, for the next day they planned to kick drugs forever.

"I want to feel real things again, really happy or really unhappy," said Nicola, pacing nervously. "When you take opiates, you can't feel real things." Marcel ruefully eyed his bandaged wrist, broken by a drug supplier who hadn't been paid. "Dope life," he sighed, "is no life at all."

Nicola and Marcel had come to this secluded Dutch inn to try an experimental antidote to dope, an African hallucinogen called ibogaine. Banned in the United States, the bitter-tasting white powder was available only in Holland, where American ex-junkies had turned a hotel suite into a temporary clinic.