By David Graham Scott
Article/Interview by Adriana Rubio
Photographs by David Gillanders
“I’d been a Methadone Ghost for many years”
David Graham Scott is a well known Scottish documentary filmmaker and appealing speaker on addiction subjects. David graduated in Film Theory and Art History, and he is also a well known trained film archivist. He is the author of many documentaries that have been aired across the BBC networks locally and nationally. Among his films background are “Beyond the Highlands”, “Wire Burners”, “The Dirty Digger”, “Detox or Die”, “Arcadia” and “The New Ten Commandments”. The greatest of David Graham Scott documentaries by far is entitled “Detox or Die”. It deals with his own detox.
David was a heroin addict for many years. He had tried lots of treatments and the latest healing effort he had done was a Methadone Maintenance Program which hooked him up on for several years.
“I was a long-term user of methadone. I found it impossible to deal with the hellish withdrawal symptoms experienced in trying to come off. I hoped that Ibogaine might break my habit once and for all”.
Due to David’s filmmaking career, he became a great researcher over the years, so he found what it would cure his addiction without suffering the horrible withdrawal symptoms: Ibogaine.
David studied the Ibogaine subject for weeks and decided to go ahead with the treatment in a little apartment in London under the supervision of a specialist in this field, Edward. But prior to this, he prepared himself physically and emotionally. David would drink lots of water, natural juices and eat vegetables and season fruits. As for the emotional part he went to visit his mother to tell her about his decision of quitting Methadone Maintenance with Ibogaine and that he was determined to film it. A film that, according to some articles published by newspapers in the UK before David’s treatment might have documented his own death.
I interviewed David almost six years after his Ibogaine experience. I’d watched his “Detox or Die” documentary three times before contacting him. David was travelling and attending some film festivals so we e-mailed each other for like a month before getting on the phone and talk.
Our phone conversation was set up for a Sunday afternoon my time. I had had a complicated day and couldn’t be at home in time to call him, so I e-mailed him to say sorry and get the call arranged for another day because it was midnight his time! He wrote back saying it was okay, and it was so funny that we e-mailed each other back and forth for like 30 minutes... until he said “I’m still up. You could have called me NOW!” I laughed and called him. It was an amazing conversation. David’s voice sounded calm in every word and was very polite.
Although I was probably asking the same questions he is answering since “Detox or Die” came out in 2004, he thanked me for calling him many times during the interview which turned into a very pleasant conversation. However, I could feel the sadness coming out from his voice, the grief of a very talented human being who dealt with one of the most horrible addictions for 20 years: Heroin & Methadone Maintenance.
“I’m a very sensitive person for this crazy world”
Those words made me remember interviews I had before with other former heroin addicts who expressed the same sentiments. For some reason they all feel emotionally fragile and desperately in need of something else that can help them walk through the constant pain of life. Heroin keeps users busy every day like going to work in a different world, and they know it is a non-stop job. If they stop, they get sick... agonizingly sick.
David had quitted heroin, but he was tired of having to take Methadone to not get sick. Methadone had ruled his life for many years and wanted to stop the stigma of drug dependency. Here is how he did it, an unforgettable experience that ended 20 years of heavy opiate addiction:
“On the Thursday night (August 21st, 2003) I took a test dose of Ibogaine hydrochloride. Edward (my guide) said it was roughly 200mg. After 35-40 minutes I could feel the drug start to take effect. It was really a very emotional experience but I was apprehensive as regards taking the full dose the next day. I felt taking 7 or 8 times this dose could kill me but, according to my body weight, that’s what it was going to take to end my methadone addiction. My withdrawal symptoms from methadone had however temporarily abated”.
“I prepared myself the next day for the experience. I was starting to get bad withdrawal from the methadone. I wore a white robe and painted myself ritualistically for the treatment. This was to be a statement of my methadone addiction; after all I’d been a ‘methadone ghost’ for so many years. As the face paint fell away over the next few hours the methadone addiction would also fade away (This was also a tribute to the Bwiti cult of Gabon who use the drug in spiritual ceremonies)”.
“I took the ibogaine at 10:20am on the Friday. I took four capsules to begin with. The fifth I’d take later. After about 40 minutes I felt a heavy emotional trauma come over me. I grew very apprehensive re the dose and feared that I may die. Edward reassured me. I lay down to let the ibogaine work. Light and sound were being affected. The yellow painted wall opposite me glowed with a burning intensity. I knew that this was going to be a strong experience. The noise of the underground trains became amplified into the sound of a thousand bombers flying over me. I felt the approach of something huge, something menacing perhaps. I called out Bwiti 3 times. The words appeared in my head in large green slimy letters”.
“The first visions that I experienced when closing my eyes were yellow grids stretching into the empty darkness of space. These stellar grids then took me into another dark and ominous landscape with a particularly eerie resonance. A strange sound permeated the atmosphere…it was like a thousand million aircraft drifting overhead. The hum or resonance permeated the whole experience and I understood this to be an essential component of existence, a binding force that was always there but the ibogaine helped me recognize it”.
“I then felt I was on board a strange spacecraft viewing the landscape before me. Small portraits drifted by of myself as a child. They stopped when I contracted a hellish skin condition at age 17. This was where my development was seriously affected and I journeyed into heavy depression and low self-esteem. Next a figure that had haunted me for years appeared. It was the Chinese torture victim from Georges Bataille’s Tears of Eros. This photograph of a young man being systematically sliced to pieces was the most disturbing image I’d ever seen. The text mentioned that a large dose of opium had been administered to the victim prior to the torture. A curiously beatified expression was on the guy’s face. In my trance state the figure flew towards me in an inset box. He was glowing silver, completely transcended from the torture he was undergoing. The beauty outweighed the horror. I realised then that I too had been a torture victim. I had been torturing myself with opiate addiction”.
“I then experienced a complete atomic breakdown. I was viewing myself at a molecular level. The molecules of my existence had information imprinted within. The information was all to do with evolution. I experienced life in the primordial swamp, viewing ancient life forms that I had once been. A cycle of death and rebirth appeared. A lizard popped out of a hole and jumped down another. Next an animal skull popped out of the first hole went down the next and the whole cycle continued with the lizard again”.
“I was a little sick and went to bed. I didn’t feel great but it wasn’t withdrawal at least. I felt I was being cured of my addiction. It took me about 3 days to start walking properly again. I did have residual withdrawal symptoms but it was nothing I couldn’t handle. I’d say it cleared 85% of the rattling. There was no way I’d feel this good if I’d tried to come straight off methadone. I didn’t have much strength over the following 2 weeks but it’s gradually coming back. Ibogaine has ended my addiction”.
Eight months after the Ibogaine treatment David got drug test lab results which he proudly read on camera. David Graham Scott was completely clean, no opiate residues in his system anymore. Ibogaine helped him to end Methadone Maintenance. Now, six years have passed since then and David is still drug free.
“I had been dreadfully unhappy prior to taking the treatment. I am a much happier person now. The anguish of depression has been vanquished … I am whole again!
To learn more about David or if you want to purchase his “Detox or Die” documentary please feel free to visit his website at: