Proponents of the failed “War on Drugs” have long characterized marijuana as a “gateway” drug, meaning it opens the doors to use of heavier, more dangerous narcotics.
But now, a new drug rehabilitation center in Los Angeles is touting cannabis as an “exit” drug – a way out of the prison of addiction. As Leafly reports, the center, called High Sobriety, does not focus on complete and total abstinence of all substances (the hard-line approach advocated by groups like Narcotics Anonymous and other 12-step model programs). Instead, participants are encouraged to rely on marijuana as a means to cope with the difficulties of withdrawals and more. Although many treatment models staunchly discourage replacing one drug for another, that’s exactly what facilitators hope to do here. Marijuana, they say, is much less threatening than the harder drugs like heroin, cocaine and prescription narcotics for which the cannabis serves as a substitute.
The facility and its treatment model are quite new, but there is a high likelihood we’ll see more of these centers crop up if there are continued success stories. Although medicinal marijuana has been available in California for those with certain debilitating medical conditions since the 1990s, those in the treatment center won’t need a prescription, so long as they are over 21, thanks to the passage of Prop. 64 last year.
Participants say they found other treatment approaches completely unmanageable. Some have been kicked out of other facilities or experienced something akin to hell on earth while detoxing. Some were reluctant to give recovery another chance. Cannabis, they say, is the only reason they agreed to come.
This is not to say that strict abstinence-only programs don’t work for some. In fact, the co-founder of this facility quit drinking nearly two decades ago with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous. Still, he said, many people can’t be totally drug-free, and may not function well in that construct. By moving them to a much milder substance – one that won’t kill them and likely could even have some positive effects. It’s a method they refer to as harm reduction, which prioritizes lowering the negative effects of using drugs, rather than demanding patients stop altogether.
It’s worth trying, say some recovery advocates, especially given reports that programs like Alcoholics Anonymous have a success rate of between 5 and 10 percent. Some refer to it as a support group rather than a legitimate treatment option – at least for a significant number of addicts. Still, some say cannabis can’t be a replacement drug when many addicts reliant on heavier drugs are already using marijuana too.
There is not much hard science that supports cannabis to control addiction, but that’s largely because as a Schedule I substance, it’s difficult for researchers to obtain permission to study it. A recent report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine say that while marijuana has been found to help treat chronic pain and nausea, there is no evidence to support or refute the notion that marijuana is effective in treating addiction. However, other studies have found it can be useful in combating emotional distress, depression and pain – all issues with which addicts in recovery grapple.
Depending on how the next year goes, owners of High Sobriety say they intend to open another facility just like it in Nevada.
Opening a marijuana business in California – no matter what the model – requires careful input from an experienced marijuana attorney to navigate the potential legal pitfalls, given the complexities of both state and federal statutes.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.
At This LA Rehab Center, Cannabis Is an ‘Exit’ Drug, Aug. 16, 2017, By Hayley Fox, Leafly
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American Legion Joins the Cannabis Cause to Improve Veterans’ Lives, Aug. 15, 2017, California Marijuana Lawyer Blog