It may be counterintuitive, but what if marijuana is not a ‘gateway” drug to other more dangerous drugs at all, but rather is quite the opposite?
Made possible by the growing legalization of marijuana, rehabilitation centers like High Sobriety in Los Angeles are overseeing the use of marijuana as a substitute for more potent drugs and as a bridge to the addict’s new sober life.
Dr. Marks Wallace is the University of California San Diego’s chairman of the division of pain medicine in the Department of Anesthesia and has treated hundreds of patients with marijuana over the past five years to help in the transition off opiates. He like others do agree that more studies are needed for this specific use.
Even though a recent report from the National Academy of Sciences “found no evidence to support or refute the conclusion that cannabinoids are an effective treatment for achieving abstinence in the use of addictive substances”, the group did find strong evidence that cannabis and related compounds can be used to treat chronic pain in adults. As chronic pain is a different animal, experts remain skeptical if this applies to wean people off opioids.
Psychiatrist Dr. Mark Willenberg, who treats addicts and oversaw research at the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, calls it completely absurd! He says that it doesn’t work and it is like “trying to cure alcoholism with valium”.
The idea for this type of treatment is a result of several emerging factors in the world of addiction. There has been an explosion in the number of opiates consumed in this country and an increased death toll to go along with it. The traditional 12-Step program requiring abstinence with its prohibitive costs often leads to relapse and failure. A recent JAMA Internal Medicine study found that states with medical marijuana laws have seen lower rates of death from opiate overdose. The Schedule 1 label by the federal government has made funding for additional studies to test this hypothesis, sparse. A combination of these and other factors have led to alternative ways to treat addicts.
The national opioid epidemic will continue to encourage and necessitate the need for better options as the climate of addiction treatment struggles to find a better way.
written by VEG PayQwick