From the moment I first learned of High Sobriety, a recently opened West Los Angeles center that offers cannabis-inclusive treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, I knew its methods would pique the interest of Addiction Professional readers.
High Sobriety representatives declined our interview request, but the idea of using marijuana to detox as an alternative to more common medication-assisted therapy programs remained intriguing. Cali Estes, PhD, founder of The Addictions Coach in Miami, Fla., made the case for marijuana being safer in recovery than Suboxone or methadone. Kevin Sabet, a drug policy consultant who previously served as senior advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, was fervent in his disagreement, calling the practice “an affront to evidence-based treatment.”
The messages from both parties were impassioned, so it was not entirely surprising that AP readers were similarly stoked when the story was posted last week. Between comments on our website, social media and email, this feature easily has generated more feedback than any piece I’ve written since arriving at Addiction Professional last spring.
While one reader on Twitter said “giving pot in treatment is like giving alcohol,” many others were open minded about the practice.
The use of opiate-based medications “operates by keeping the light on for addicts... albeit a bit dimmer,” commenter mwelty said on our site. “For many it is only a matter of time before they give in to the teasing effect of these opiate derivatives and go back to full-blown use. For some this may result in getting ‘booted out’ of their recovery program for non-compliance… and for others it may mean going to jail.”
On Monday, I received an email from one more reader: Joe Schrank—the founder of High Sobriety in West Los Angeles—who alerted me to a blog post he and his research team crafted in response to Sabet’s characterization of their practices in our story.
The following sample from Schrank’s post is a portion of a statement made by Amanda Reiman, PhD, MSW, clinical and research advisor for High Sobriety:
“Those of us who work with people dependent on opiates see the hopelessness that comes from repeated failures to live up to the mantra of sobriety touted by the treatment centers they access. We also see the myriad of pharmaceutical drugs being given to those treating trauma with substances, including anti-psychotic, anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication. To embrace that protocol while brushing off the use of a therapeutic plant to address a very real life and death situation is inhumane.”
In addition to her role with High Sobriety, Reiman is a faculty member in the UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare and an affiliate scientist with the Alcohol Research Group. Previously, she served as manager of marijuana law and policy for the Drug Policy Alliance, a not-for-profit organization that advocates for drug policy reform and favors the legalization of marijuana.