Addiction Specialists Ponder a Potential Aid: Pot

Article by Matt Richel, New York Times

Nikolas Michaud, 27, lighting a joint at High Sobriety in Los Angeles during treatment for heroin addiction.

Nine days after Nikolas Michaud’s latest heroin relapse, the skinny 27-year-old sat on a roof deck at a new drug rehabilitation clinic here. He picked up a bong, filled it with a pinch of marijuana, lit the leaves and inhaled.

All this took place in plain view of the clinic’s director.

“The rules here are a little lax,” Mr. Michaud said.

In almost any other rehab setting in the country, smoking pot would be a major infraction and a likely cause for being booted out. But here at High Sobriety — the clinic with a name that sounds like the title of a Cheech and Chong comeback movie — it is not just permitted, but part of the treatment.

The new clinic is experimenting with a concept made possible by the growing legalization of marijuana: that pot, rather than being a gateway into drugs, could be a gateway out.

A small but growing number of pain doctors and addiction specialists are overseeing the use of marijuana as a substitute for more potent and dangerous drugs. Dr. Mark Wallace, chairman of the division of pain medicine in the department of anesthesia at the University of California, San Diego, said over the last five years he has used marijuana to help several hundred patients transition off opiates.

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