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A woman was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to criminal negligence causing death for administering a drug to a woman she was trying to help break from her heroin addiction.

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Jessica Leigh Morrison, 45, pleaded guilty in the Superior Court of Justice in Owen Sound on Feb. 16 to administering ibogaine to Danielle Barham, 23, of Georgian Bluffs between July 14 and 18, 2017 in Gray Highlands.

Morrison administered the drug to Barham and her boyfriend, Adam Seabrook, while in a rural cottage near Flesherton, rented for that purpose, according to an agreed statement of facts in the case.

Barham stopped breathing on July 18, 2017 after receiving the drug and was taken by ambulance to Owen Sound hospital 45 minutes away. She died there two days later.

Ibogaine was designated by Health Canada in May 2017 as a prescription drug and was unauthorized for use in Canada due to several adverse events and the health risks associated with the drug, according to the statement of facts. This psychoactive alkaloid is extracted from the root bark of a West African rain forest shrub.

“There have been formal protocols written as to the administration of ibogaine but no formal medical trials have been completed,” the agreed facts said. “Ibogaine treatments whether taking place illegally in Canada or legally in other countries are still taking place.”

Morrison’s own 19-year-long drug addiction ended when she attended Liberty Root Ibogaine Clinic in British Columbia, the agreed facts said. She went on to work there as a cook, cleaner, by watching over ibogaine clients and becoming involved in patient care.

Liberty Root closed in 2016 after a man almost died due to a cardiac issue he had while taking ibogaine. He’d forged prescreening medical tests which hid a pre-existing heart condition which likely would have disqualified him from treatment, the agreed facts said.

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Seabrook, Barham’s boyfriend, met Morrison in 2016 at Liberty Clinic, where he enjoyed several months of sobriety after an ibogaine treatment before he relapsed.

In July 2017, he and Barham were “in the midst of a heavy heroin addiction and were desperate for help. . . ” Seabrook sought out Morrison to administer ibogaine to them.

Morrison was working as an addictions counsellor near Fort McMurray, Alta. at the time. She agreed to give the treatment during her vacation to Ontario. She didn’t know ibogaine had recently been made a controlled substance when she gave it to them, the agreed facts said.

She charged $ 8,500 total, which mostly covered airfare, the cottage rental, associated costs and a “modest amount” for her time, the agreed facts said.

Blood tests and an electrocardiogram were done, which in Barham’s case concerned Morrison because it showed a “somewhat prolonged” QT interval, or time between heartbeats. This made her “borderline for ibogaine treatment,” which is known to further prolong the QT interval and poses a “significant cardiac risk.”

Morrison proceeded with the treatment but recommended a “supplement protocol” to lower the QT interval and planned to follow a low-dose protocol “which Morrison understood would lower Barham’s cardiac risk.”

However, no follow-up EKG was done for Barham prior to her being administered ibogaine to see if following the supplemental protocol lowered her QT interval.

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Morrison gave Barham and Seabrook $ 440 to buy hydromorphone pills off the street in Owen Sound. Morrison used them to help stabilize and smooth withdrawal symptoms, along with Kadian morphine of unknown source.

Her notes indicated she also gave Seabrook and Barham clonazepam, which makes people drowsy, over multiple days. Only Morrison had a prescription for it. Morrison administered ibogaine given to her by Trevor Millar when he closed the Liberty Root clinic, the agreed facts said.

Legally prescribed opiates were used at the clinic, along with something to help patients sleep, the agreed facts said. The clinic had a nurse on-site and it notified a nearby hospital of the treatments, measures not taken in this case.

When Barham stopped breathing, Morrison called 911 and told the operator she thought ibogaine had lengthened Barham’s QT interval. She started CPR until paramedics arrived.

Barham’s toxicology tests found Kratom, which is used to ease withdrawal symptoms, morphine, hydromophone and fentanyl, the latter of which Barham had secretly taken but which didn’t cause her death. She suffered cardiac arrest because of ibogaine toxicity during opioid withdrawal, the agreed facts said.

Morrison also pleaded guilty to two counts of trafficking hydromorphone under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and two counts of selling a prescription drug, ibogaine, recklessly causing serious risk of injury, contrary to the Food and Drugs Act.

She had no presentence custody credit and so was taken into custody to serve her sentence. Justice Bruce Durno also issued a DNA order and weapons prohibition. Other charges were withdrawn.

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