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Treating Heroin Addiction with Marijuana: Trading One Problem for Another

At a clinic named High Sobriety and located in Los Angeles, the approach to rehabilitation is a rather unexpected one: those who come in addicted to heroin are encouraged to toke up on marijuana as a form of treatment. This belief is actually nothing new when compared to the "miracle cures" that have been suggested over the centuries, and that's part of the problem: the fact that this is yet another "miracle cure" goes to show how well "miracle cures" actually work.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, doctors believed that the best treatment for alcoholism was morphine, a kind of opiate. This went on up until as late as the 1960s, when researchers documented that several patients who were newly addicted to morphine started on the stuff at the recommendation of their doctors as a way to treat their alcoholism.

Even worse, at the start of the 20th century, Bayer Corp. – yes, the same company that now manufactures aspirin – brought a new product to the market that was promoted to be a "safe and non-addictive" alternative to the morphine that people were now addicted to. That "safe and non-addictive" product? Heroin.

Initially advertised as a painkiller and cough suppressant, heroin briefly enjoyed a following from doctors who thought it was a cure for alcoholism and the poor souls who were now addicted to morphine, the last "miracle cure." Historian William White pointed out that the Saint James Society – a philanthropic organization – actually handed out free samples of heroin to anyone who was addicted to morphine and wanted to be freed from his addiction.

It wasn't long before another miracle cure hit the market, and it came with some clout behind it in the form of support from Sigmund Freud. This new drug was said to cure addictions to drugs like morphine and heroin, and even alcohol and tobacco. The latest wonder drug that would make everyone supposedly feel better? Cocaine.

Of course, cocaine is addictive too, and even doctors weren't immune to its "charms," like William Halsted, the medical doctor who founded the concept of modern surgery as we know it today. Patients' experience with the latest miracle drug, and the word-of-mouth that follows, is a major influence on persuading people that the drug is, in fact, a miracle cure when it actually isn't. What's worse is that because these drugs feel so good when people first take them, they are often tricked into believing that they are feeling relief from their chronic illnesses when really, they're just fueling a future addiction.

The good thing is that for people who are suffering from heroin or opiate addiction, they do not need to rely on any treatments that have not been proven to work. There are medications on the market that have been approved by the FDA or, for those who do not want to take yet another drug, they can look into therapy or support groups that can help them manage their addiction. The government also hosts a 24-hour helpline that offers those who are seeking help with their addictions a way to access related services.