Treating Drug Addicts – with Pot?!

Watch This and Call Me in the Morning: Treating Drug Addicts – with Pot?!

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About a year ago, I was asked to be on the daytime talk show “The Doctors” to discuss a program I was launching in L.A. that used medical cannabis to help set people free from self-harming drug use. They called the segment “Treating Drug Addicts – with Pot?!”.

The experience showcased the shame in which we still live. After I participated in an extensive interview with a young producer, she confided in me that she was a cannabis user. I said, “Good. There are 1,800 deaths in the 18- to 25-year-old age group annually attributed to alcohol consumption. There are zero with cannabis. You’re safer using cannabis.”

It was the typical double-edged sword of aligning with youth, smashing some shame, and giving them facts — but not loving that I’m giving them permission to smoke weed. I’d still prefer that young people avoid intoxication altogether. But that’s just not realistic, so I go with “safety first” and avoiding drug shaming. What’s the point of regurgitating stale platitudes about drug use? The producer was bright, articulate, and competent. As near as I can tell, her drug use hadn’t caused any impairment to her life, so who am I to judge or shame?

After “The Doctors” Aired

The show went well. There was a nay-saying 12-step advocate, as is standard practice for the media, but he didn’t hold his position very well. He spouted the typical mantra that drugs are bad and that Alcoholic Anonymous is a blameless and holy institution, all peppered with what people “should” do. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know.

The show is an ensemble group of doctors save for one. I guess her job is being awesome. One of the producers mentioned her; when I asked what her area of medicine was, the response was: “She’s not a doctor, but she’s really awesome.” She managed an awesomely judgmental comment followed by a tearful account of her nephew, who was helped by cannabis while battling cancer. It seemed to represent the conflict of America itself.

One of the doctors was opposed, and seemed to know a lot about addiction but definitely not because he’s addicted to facial surgery. He seemed judgmental. The lead doctor, Travis, who looks like the lead in a soap opera, was the most open-minded about the idea that cannabis can help people who are dependent on other substances.

He let me know that just a few years ago I would have been “thrown out of the building.” I think I held my own. I stated my case clearly and left it for the individual to consider. When I got off stage I was like a hero to the backstage crew. “You were right!” Of course I love being a hero — however, it’s not being right but doing what is right. It’s right to give facts to people instead of morality. It’s right to give options, do no harm, and honor the human dignity of right to self-determine. We solved nothing, but maybe we started a dialogue. That’s part of our mission at Remedy Recovery.

Check out the video here: Treating Drug Addicts – with Pot?!

About Joe Schrank

Totally abstinent from all intoxicating substances for nearly 20 years, Joe Schrank is a clinical social worker, journalist, public speaker, and policy advocate. As a young man at the University of Southern California, Joe medicated his depression with alcohol and avoidance. His road to stable mental health led to a social work program at Iona College, then a master’s degree program at the University of Illinois. From there, Joe worked as a residential therapist at Promises in Malibu, California. In 2004, Joe returned to New York City where he opened the first transitional living facility. Frustrated with the lack of media coverage about addiction and mental health, he founded in 2010. Joe is a founding member of “Sobriety, Learning and Motivation” which established the first recovery program in a New York City public school. He has facilitated countless interventions, managed innumerable crises, and successfully navigated many court entanglements. Joe has had many positive outcomes with his “1:1 in vivo” treatment protocol. He is a frequent contributor to Salon, the Daily Beast, the Huffington Post, and Fox News. He believes addiction is the health crisis of the modern age. Joe lives in Brooklyn with his two boys who have never seen him drink. With more than 20 years experience as a social worker in the addiction and mental health space, Joe can help with any situation that arises.