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A New Potential For Cannabis: Treating Drug Addictions

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It’s long been known that cannabis’ main ingredient can help treat pain and lessen the effects of and sometimes even treat seizures. With more and more studies being conducted on the plant, there will likely be even more cures found.  And maybe, cannabis could help those who suffer from alcohol or drug addictions. Abstinence when recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction proves difficult, and many addicts relapse several times before becoming completely sober.  But now, maybe cannabis can help those who suffer from chemical dependency. Harm reduction is a strategy for treating addiction that begins with acceptance.  Once the addict realizes that they do have a dependency on a drug, the friendlier, and less disciplined sister of abstinence (harm reduction) could come into play.

Harm reduction is a strategy for treating addiction that begins with acceptance. Once the addict realizes that they do have a dependency on a drug, the friendlier, and less disciplined sister of abstinence (harm reduction) could come into play.  This philosophy aims to reduce the overall level of drug use among people who are unable or simply unwilling to stop. Meaning decreasing the amount of drugs or alcohol taken is a step in the right direction and toward the abstinence that would eventually generate sobriety.  So in comes the help of cannabis. What should naturally follow is a decrease in the many negative consequences of drug use.


Most European countries and Canada have embraced the idea of harm reduction, designing policies that help people with drug problems to live better, healthier lives rather than to punish them. On the front lines of addiction in the United States, some addiction specialists have also begun to work toward this end. –CNN
Joe Schrank, the program director and founder of High Sobriety says his Los Angeles-based treatment center uses medicinal cannabis as a detox and maintenance protocol for people who have more severe addictions. Although it’s effectiveness is not scientifically proven, cannabis is most definitely a less harmful substance than street drugs.
To remedy the lack of scientific evidence, the National Institute on Drug Abuse is funding projects investigating synthetic THC for treatment of substance use disorder and providing grants for other projects testing cannabidiol for the treatment of methamphetamine use disorder and relapse prevention. The institute is also looking at the endocannabinoid system as a potential therapy for alcohol use disorder and opioid withdrawal.
“It’s a harm-reduction theory,” Schrank said. “With cannabis, there is no known lethal dose; it can be helpful for certain conditions. Some say it’s hypocritical because, you know, you’re supposed to go to rehab to get off drugs,” said Schrank, who recently celebrated 20 years of sobriety from alcohol and all drugs. “And [the] cessation of drug use can be a goal for some people, but pacing is also important.”
Some patients want to gradually move into abstinence, weaning themselves off drugs over time. Others want to maintain sobriety from a drug by using a less harsh drug, such as cannabis.  While some treatment centers still preach abstinence as the most effective way to treat an addiction, harm reduction is gaining acceptance in the wider field of addiction specialists in the U.S. “In principle, what we have aimed for many years is to find interventions that would lead to complete abstinence,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In practice though, that has been very difficult to achieve with relapsing addictions. “One of the things is, we don’t have any evidence-based medication that has proven to be efficacious for the treatment of cocaine addiction,” Volkow said. The medical consequences of cocaine addiction include seizure, stroke, and bleeding within the brain.”So we currently have no medicine to intervene, and it can be a very severe addiction and actually quite dangerous.”
Marijuana “can really help people with pain management and other health issues, or it can help them be safer,” Schrank said. It can be used in lieu of more harmful drugs, and even a transfer of addiction to cannabis from cocaine is considered a step in the right direction. “We think of addiction as this light switch you can turn on and off,” he said. “What we’re learning is that for some people, it’s similar to scuba diving: You can only come up 20 feet so often or you get very, very sick.”  Cannabis can also be used in the pain management process during detox and withdrawals from drugs. 
It seems like since cannabis is a much safer substance to use than alcohol or hard street drugs,  that switching an addiction from harmful drugs or alcohol to cannabis is definitely a win.  While there are still risks, cannabis is less likely to do untold damage to the body and brain, and if it helps addicts save their lives, it makes sense to use.

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Contributed by Dawn Luger of The Daily Sheeple.

Dawn Luger is a staff writer and reporter for The Daily Sheeple. Wake the flock up – follow Dawn’s work at our Facebook or Twitter.

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