John Hardin / @ 6:42 a.m. / Op-Ed

HARDIN: Why Aren’t We Just Healing the Opioid Addicts With Weed?


We’ve done pretty well, here in Humboldt County, at keeping the big chain stores at bay. Arcata has an ordinance against them, and public outcry keeps Walmart cowering in the back of the mall. Obviously we value our local culture, and our local economy. However, our State Senator, Mike McGuire has gone ahead and invited a new big chain store to open a franchise here in Humboldt County, and he expects us to be happy about it.

At a recent “Opioid Crisis”-themed town meeting, Senator McGuire announced that Aegis Treatment Centers would be opening its 32nd drug treatment clinic here in Humboldt County. Clearly we need more drug treatment here in Humboldt County, but do we really need the “Taco Bell” of treatment centers? Has Aegis been offered incentives to locate here in Humboldt County? Were those incentives also offered to the Open Door Clinic, which has been treating everyone’s medical needs here for decades? What about our local health care districts, or Redwoods Rural Health Center? Were they offered incentives to offer drug treatment locally? Do we need a big company from out of town to suck money out of our community, just so we can have a methadone clinic in Humboldt County?

If you think I’m kidding about the “Taco Bell of treatment centers,” you should look into Aegis for yourself. Aegis pays low wages, overworks its staff and has a very high turnover rate. The employee reviews of the company that I read shared a few common themes. Nearly everyone complained of the low pay, many mentioned the high case load, and most complained about the lack of opportunity for advancement. Even employees who rated Aegis highly said that it was “a good place to start,” but not a good place to work long-term.

Patients complain of inflexibility and impersonal, constantly changing staff, and many complain that Aegis likes to keep people on methadone, because it’s more profitable to maintain someone on methadone than it is to help them quit opiates altogether. We’ve been treating narcotic addiction with methadone for decades, but it has never worked very well. I’m not sure we’ve ever had an outpatient methadone clinic in Humboldt County before, but couldn’t we do this better ourselves?

A couple of weeks ago I interviewed Dr. Amanda Reiman, who lives in Mendocino County, for my radio show, Monday Morning Magazine on KMUD (Nov 13, 8-9am archived at www.kmud.org). Dr Reiman has done some very interesting research into the therapeutic benefits of cannabis within the harm reduction drug treatment model. Dr. Reiman has found that cannabis helps people quit hard drugs, and cannabis helps people who use hard drugs use less. This is a significant breakthrough in addiction treatment, and here in Humboldt County, we should be on the cutting edge of cannabis-aided addiction treatment research. That sure won’t happen at an Aegis methadone clinic.

Dr Reiman works with a treatment clinic in southern California called “High Sobriety,” which uses cannabis alongside other forms of treatment. Why shouldn’t we have our own, homegrown, cannabis-enhanced drug treatment clinic here in Humboldt County? We need more and better drug treatment here in Humboldt County. We have plenty of people who need help. We have plenty of cannabis, and we have the peace, quiet and serenity that people need to heal.

We have an epidemic of addiction and overdose deaths here in Humboldt County that we must address, and if there’s one thing we should know by now, it is that we will never arrest and jail our way out of this problem. The people who are addicted to drugs in Humboldt County are our neighbors, our friends and our kids. We don’t need to give them criminal records, and we don’t need to farm them out to some assembly line methadone clinic for the rest of their lives.

We have a unique population, and a unique set of circumstances here in Humboldt County, and I think we need a unique, homegrown approach to drug treatment. Research into the therapeutic potential for cannabis in drug treatment should be a high priority because we desperately need more and better drug treatment options. We need every tool in the toolbox to help the people of our community recover from the War on Drugs.

If there is one thing we can learn from Aegis, that is, that there is money to be made in drug treatment here in Humboldt County. Besides that, you can bet that people who use cannabis to quit hard drugs will find that cannabis helps them stay clean, too, and people who used Humboldt Cannabis to get clean will probably use Humboldt Cannabis to stay clean. The potential for brand loyalty is enormous. This idea will make people rich. You’re welcome.

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John Hardin writes at Like You’ve Got Something Better to Do.


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