What’s the latest medical trend in the never-ending war against drug addiction? According to one West Los Angeles rehab center, the solution to drug addiction may just include a rather controversial element — marijuana! The facility bills itself as a “marijuana inclusive treatment center” — which flies in the face of most medical opinion, theory, and practice, when it comes to the treatment of serious addiction issues. In it’s brochure and on its website, the rehab center states uncategorically that is will use marijuana, under medically supervised conditions, as part of its program to detox patients from hard drugs and alcohol dependency, and that the use of cannabis will be a part of continuing patient in-house care.
This controversial treatment method is beginning to catch on with other doctors and addiction specialists on the West Coast. Doctors are beginning to realize that the so-called hard drugs, such as opioids and meth derivatives, inevitably lead to the users overall impairment and, if not interrupted, death. The same goes for alcohol — the alcoholic whose body becomes dependent on ingesting a certain amount each day cannot be deprived of alcohol without grave physiological and mental consequences — often leading to death. But cannabis, often labeled a ‘gateway drug’ is now considered by some in the medical community as an ‘exit drug’ — a way to wean patients off of the dangerous and unpredictable street drugs and the slow death of alcohol poisoning.
The leader of the West Coast cannabis-friendly medical contingent is Joe Schrank, a drug counselor and award-winning innovator of sober-living residences for recovering addicts. Mr. Schrank has been clean and sober himself for over twenty years. He says that fighting to stay sober entails using every tool in the medical toolkit and every weapon in the arsenal of science. If just one life is saved from hard drugs and/or alcohol due to the supervised use of marijuana, he claims, it is well worth the controversy and prejudice that might come with such practice.
Complete abstinence from any and all mind altering drugs, of course, has been the linchpin in addiction treatment for the past one hundred years. Whether it’s going completely cold turkey or being gradually weaned from the noxious drug or bottle, doctors and other treatment specialists have insisted that when it comes to using drugs and alcohol it’s ‘all or nothing.’ It’s a black and white proposition, with no gray areas or compromises tolerated.
But in the past twenty years or so, medical specialists in the field of addiction recovery have begun to lean away from that rigid philosophy. Rehab clinics and treatment centers that teach patients to drink in moderation, instead of simply cutting it completely out of their lives, are on the rise. Especially on both the East Coast and the West Coast. And now that marijuana is legal in over twenty states, this same medical tolerance and philosophy may also be employed in rehab centers across the country.
It’s still a very controversial and hot button issue, both in the medical community and with laymen in general. The most recent studies remain inconclusive as to how addictive marijuana can be. Most doctors today think it is mildly addictive, not in the same league as opioid or true alcohol dependency, and that patients suffering from severe addiction may benefit from the use of cannabis as an alternative to the host of pharmaceuticals used to treat withdrawal symptoms. The age old question remains: Is the cure worse than the disease?
Only time will tell.