At This LA Rehab Center, Cannabis Is an ‘Exit’ Drug

Article by Hayley Fox, Leafly

At This LA Rehab Center, Cannabis Is an 'Exit' Drug

By Mac Kirk’s own count, he’s already attended more than 30 drug rehabilitation programs. With a propensity for heroin, Xanax, and “pretty much everything under the sun,” the 20-year-old musician moved from New York to the West Coast in April to get clean. Bouncing between recovery facilities and sober living centers, Kirk overdosed twice this year.

Then he found High Sobriety.

The concept behind the Los Angeles-based recovery center is relatively simple: Instead of demanding complete drug abstinence—which has been the reigning method of treatment in Alcoholics Anonymous and offshoot programs based on the 12-step model—High Sobriety promotes a “cannabis-inclusive” model that uses marijuana as a means to smooth withdrawal’s rough edges and replace other, more life threatening drugs. Cannabis isn’t just tolerated, it’s provided as part of the program.

High Sobriety opened its doors in January and has so far housed about 30 patients. From the sidewalk on Venice Boulevard, it looks like a block of newly renovated condos. On a recent morning, on the large deck of one of the residential units, a group of tired-eyed young men lounged in the mild morning sunshine. One resident, Vince Sercia, took puffs of pot from a pocket-sized vape pen.

Sercia, 21, has used everything from black tar heroin to designer benzodiazepines, he tells me. High Sobriety is his third rehab facility, and after the “worst 30 days” of his life detoxing through another program, Sercia was reluctant to give recovery another shot.

“I just wouldn’t have gone to treatment if it wasn’t for this place,” he says. “This is the only reason I went to treatment, is because of the cannabis.”

High Sobriety co-founder Joe Schrank is himself 20 years sober and successfully used Alcoholics Anonymous to quit drinking. But while it worked for him, he said he’s learned that AA’s strict parameters, emphasis on complete abstinence, and faith-based curriculum aren’t a good fit for everybody.

“One of the dark secrets about rehab that nobody wants to say is there are some people who should not be totally abstinent,” he says. “They’re not pleasant people if they are. They don’t function well—if they do.”

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