High Sobriety, a “marijuana-friendly” rehab center in Los Angeles where cannabis was both a tool and a reward for people struggling with addictions to opiates, alcohol and other drugs, has recently faced challenges and undergone quite a shake-up.
Joe Schrank, High Sobriety’s founder, has left the rehab center and relocated to San Francisco, where he’s opened a similar facility that he’s named Remedy Recovery. High Sobriety now has a new director with a new philosophy that contradicts its founding principles, which originally asserted that cannabis is an “exit” and not a gateway drug.
“Harm reduction” is the practice of allowing someone prone to abuse substances to do so — as long as the substances in question are less harmful. Think of the classic trope of an Alcoholics Anonymous attendee chain-smoking cigarettes while slurping his sixth cup of coffee.
High Sobriety’s initial promise was that patients struggling with heroin or alcohol problems would be allowed to consume cannabis — and apparently, as much cannabis as they wanted.
Until recently, visits to High Sobriety’s campus involved “walking into a cloud of smoke,” according to Sherry Yafai, a licensed physician and member of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, who recently took over as the facility’s director of research and development, in an interview with Business Insider.
They were, in a few words, too high — too high to communicate, too high to deal with underlying issues like depression or trauma that led to their substance-abuse problem in the first place, too high to function. Yafai has put an end to this excess.
Now, someone paying up to $40,000 a month for one of the 24 beds at High Sobriety’s Culver City location has to go through 30 days completely substance-free.
Only after that 30-day detox period can they use cannabis oil, topicals or edibles — no smoked marijuana allowed, ever — and only that after a consultation and written recommendation from Yafai.
In the meantime, it appears Schrank is holding fast to the theory of marijuana-friendly rehab. Remedy Recovery, his new “boutique facility” in San Francisco’s South of Market district — a turbulent place, with high-end condos and startups taking up warehouse space next to single-room occupancy hotels, homeless encampments and shelters, and the city’s Skid Row — has the same philosophy once in place at High Sobriety: “Come here and get baked for a while, and see what happens.”
In an interview with Freedom Leaf, Schrank reiterated his commitment to alternative rehab therapy that strays away from traditional “abstinence-first” substance-abuse treatment routines. Here, he’s in accord with Yafai, who, after watching patients cycle through addiction-sobriety-addiction endlessly, realized that there “had to be a better way to help patients achieve and maintain their sobriety.” But here’s the schism: Schrank believes that if someone addicted to heroin wants to dab all day instead, you should let them.
“As recovery professionals, we’re supposed to be non-judgmental and compassionate, to believe in progress, not perfection,” he told Freedom Leaf. “In my view, giving up heroin for cannabis is a progression.”
Remedy Recovery currently has six patients who live in an apartment complex near the company’s new headquarters in San Francisco. For now, he said, they, too, will be allowed to get stoned all day long should they so choose. But he has instituted at least one innovation: Remedy Recovery will now have a licensed physician on-site writing recommendations, something that High Sobriety lacked until Yafai came on board.
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