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Remedy Recovery: Cannabis as an Exit Drug

Heather Ritchie
Written by Heather Ritchie

Drug and alcohol addiction claims thousands of lives every year. In 2017, approximately 72,000 people died from drug overdoses alone. It’s a deadly problem with few solutions. However, one man has found an answer to reducing the number of alcohol and drug fatalities,and that’s cannabis. Joe Schrank founded Remedy Recovery as a comprehensive alternative solution to complete abstinence from drugs and alcohol.

Per Schrank, statistics illustrate that 120 people die from opiate overdoses every day.When addicts are maintained with the proper medication and/or cannabis is available, those figures decrease.Some people believe that the ideal solution is complete abstinence from drugs and that addicted friends and family members are going to love Alcoholics Anonymous. They may also subscribe to the notion that clinics like Betty Ford are the best options because soon the addict in their life will be sober.

A Need for Alternative Treatment Options

The problem is that everyone is unique and responds to treatment differently. Joe has been sober for 25 years and didn’t use cannabis, but people like him may be an exception to the rules. Yelling at addicts and telling them that they can never use drugs again doesn’t help. Nor does misinformation regarding cannabis.

As a young man studying at the University of Southern California, Joe treated his depression with avoidance and alcohol like many people do. He returned to academia once he was sober and studied social work at Iona College. Schrank furthered his education in a Master’s program at the University of Illinois studying college athletes suffering from alcohol abuse and depression. Afterward, Schrank worked as a residential therapist at Promises in Malibu, California.

He compares telling an addict that they can never do drugs again to telling someone overweight that they have to run a marathon or lose 100 pounds in a few days. If the person loses 50 pounds we don’t tell them that they failed, we praise them for how far they’ve come. This is how treating addicts with cannabis compares.

Cannabis as a Medicinal Treatment

If an addict stops using heroin and takes cannabis medically at prescribed times and doses, then a life has been saved. Schrank says that the outcome for those on medication-assisted programs is much better than traditional rehab. Cannabis is very effective for young men who are more likely to abuse medications used as a substitute for street drugs used to dull the mental or physical pain that they experience. To break the cycle of addiction, we need to change our points of view.

Teaching people that drug abuse begins with cannabis use simply isn’t true, says Schrank, and most other educated people. Many people try it and don’t like it, so they never use it again. The first exposure to drug use for most people is caffeine, alcohol and/or cigarettes ,and no one seems to callthemgateway drugs.Joe knows that it’s time to try something else.

Remedy Recovery

Schrank founded Remedy Recovery in San Francisco as a comprehensive solution using medication and traditional therapies, including cannabis, under the care of a doctor. The program helps people all of all ages, but many of Schrank’s patients are men in their early 20s. He knows that expecting a drug-free America is about as realistic as a gun-free America. Why not utilize a proven medicinal treatment in a structured environment to combat the opiate problem?

Also, one of the core principals of therapy in social work is the right to self-determine. It empowers the person to make their own choices. Schrank compared addiction to other diseases such as diabetes. He advised that sometimes it requires lifestyle changes and medical intervention. Many will never be off of medication, yet we don’t often look at that as problematic.

Thus, we need to reframe our diagnosis of success. There’s more to it than being abstinent from drugs. Is the person living a healthier life? Schrank said that people still don’t understand why he supplies addicts with drugs and tell him all the time, “but you want them using drugs!” He said his response is, “no I want them to play sports and go to school.” Sometimes being successful is taking things one step at  a time and using cannabis helps people regain productive lives.

Schrank explained that they’re working with Dr. Amanda Reiman, of the Drug Policy Allianceon outcome studies to quantify his program’s results. Together, they are redefining success by asking questions like, ? Can you hold a job? Success is much more than a clean urine test.

Part of what makes Schrank’s program so successful is it takes away the stigma of using drugs. As a matter of fact, if your loved one leaves Betty Ford, they’re probably coming out of the program on valium and other drugs.

Remedy Recovery is a mix of inpatient and outpatient therapy and a maintenance plan. They work with the patient’s desires and goals instead of forcing them to do something that they don’t want to do thus sabotaging therapy from the beginning. They’ve had numerous success stories.

The current drug policy is too narrowly focused. People should have the right to choose cannabis as an alternative option for treatment, especially given that deaths related to opiate overdoses have declined around 25% in states with medical cannabis. For treatment to work, people must be accepting of the diversity of the human experience. No one experiences life equivalently to someone else.

Cannabis isn’t a gateway drug;it’s a potentially life-saving exit drug.And after all, isn’t that the end goal for therapeutic substance abuse solutions.

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Heather Ritchie

Heather Ritchie

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