BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Maryland law could soon be lighting a path toward addiction recovery.
Lawmakers are considering a bill that would open opportunities to study ibogaine, a drug that interrupts opioid addictions.
Right now, addicts can only find ibogaine treatments in Mexico and Canada, but researchers believe it could solve a crisis right here in Maryland.
Not a cure for heroin addition, but a breakthrough weapon in the national battle against it.
Maryland legislators are weighing a bill that would open the door for a four year study of ibogaine as a treatment for drug abusers.
"Ibogaine is very effective in blocking the signs and symptoms of opiate withdrawal," said ibogaine researcher Dr. Deborah Mash. "It diminishes drug craving and improves mood."
Testifying at a committee hearing Tuesday, Dr. Mash — the leading expert on ibogaine — told legislators the psychedelic, natural drug re-wires the brain and interrupts the cycle of addiction.
In Maryland, heroin abuse has reached crisis levels. More than 2,000 people lost their lives to overdose in 2016 alone.
It's the leading cause of death of young people nationwide.
"I don't think we in Maryland need to stand by and allow our citizens to continue to potentially suffer when there may be a cure near at hand," said Maryland Delegate Terri Hill.
If signed into law, Maryland would be the leader in fast tracking ibogaine, which has been used in other countries but banned in the U.S. for years.
This would possibly help the state get a grip on a crisis that's killing thousands.
"Ibogaine offers people a true transition to sobriety. We need this. We need it today. We need to make a change and to help millions of people who are suffering," Dr. Mash said.
Several other states have introduced similar bills, but sponsors are hoping traction in Maryland could lead the way for other states.
If passed, the state would select one or more medical centers to participate in the program.
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