A rehab clinic in Los Angeles is offering an alternative treatment to traditional 12-step programs. High Sobriety, which opened its doors in January, is offering an alternative “cannabis inclusive” drug rehab program to area addicts. Some say it works while critics question the validity of the clinic’s practices.
The argument for a drug rehabilitation program that includes the use of some drugs is two-fold, according to a recent article from Leafly. The clinic’s co-founder Joe Schrank says the idea is to “[trade] drugs that will kill people for a drug that will not kill people.”
Schrank is himself a recovering alcoholic and an experienced addiction therapist and social worker. He says that more options should be available to addicts than just the faith-based abstinence put forward by Alcoholics Anonymous.
“One of the dark secrets about rehab that nobody wants to say is there are some people who should not be totally abstinent,” Schrank says. “They’re not pleasant people if they are. They don’t function well—if they do.”
But some addiction specialists are calling bullshit on High Sobriety’s methods. Dr. Mark Willenberg, an addiction psychiatrist, is a vocal critic of Alcoholics Anonymous, believing its treatment methods are not scientific. “There’s no reason for us to be treating substance abuse with prayer,” he told Leafly. “That’s what you do when you don’t have a treatment, you use prayer.”
But he doesn’t think weed is any more scientifically proven to treat addiction than prayer. Willenberg says High Sobriety’s treatment plan is “asinine” and “a really stupid idea.” He argues that cannabis cannot be used as a replacement drug for opiates because they interact with the body in vastly different ways. Cannabis simply will not affect the opioid receptors in the body while it’s going through withdrawal problems. Willenberg noted that if pot really were a cure for opiate addiction, then most of his patients would be cured already, since they already use marijuana.
The other argument for using cannabis during addiction recovery is that it will treat the symptoms of withdrawal rather than the withdrawal itself. Weed is sometimes used to help patients undergoing chemotherapy with problems like nausea, bone pain, and insomnia. Those suffering from opiate withdrawal can exhibit some of the same symptoms, so perhaps marijuana can ease them as well.
It may work for some. So far, High Sobriety has housed and treated more than 30 patients.
Photo via Flickr user Heath Alseike