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Ex-Heroin Addict: Marijuana an “Exit Drug” Not “Gateway Drug”

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By "Radical" Russ Belville

(AOL Opinion) I was a drug user for many years — if I could smoke, snort or inject it, I would do it. My addiction to opiates led to physical dependence and homelessness, so I am certainly familiar with the culture of AA meetings and in-patient drug rehabs. Funnily enough, none of the ex-addict drug counselors I ever talked to gave credence to the whole “gateway theory” of pot. They were addicts and placed blame for their condition strictly on “the disease” — that hazily understood mix of genetics and brain chemistry — rather than some long-ago, youthful puff on a joint.

No, the truth is that not many people who have actually smoked marijuana on a regular basis give any credence to the idea that it can lead to harder drugs. In fact, many claim that it can have the opposite effect. Seven years ago, when I was detoxing from my decade-long addiction to heroin and methadone, it was marijuana that I turned to when the depression, the insomnia and the urge to use heroin were almost unbearably strong. I certainly felt better about using something natural like marijuana for these protracted withdrawal symptoms than the hard-core antidepressants that the doctors were offering me.

The idea of an “addiction” to marijuana is laughable, too. There can be no physical dependence to weed, and when people talk about being “addicted to marijuana” this says more about the abuse of the word “addiction” in today’s world than anything about the psychopharmacology of the plant itself.

Do you agree?  I know the first drug I tried was alcohol at age 16.  By age 21 I was a beer-chugging shot-chasing alcoholic.  At age 22 I discovered cannabis and almost immediately my alcohol use declined.

But I also discovered I had been lied to regarding the effects of cannabis, so I was much more cavalier about accepting offers of other drugs.  By age 25 I was a meth addict living in a trailer.  An emergency hospital stay convinced me to kick meth, but those days when the withdrawals were the worst I found that a nice bowl of cannabis made everything OK.

What’s your story?  Have you found cannabis to be an “exit drug” from hard drugs and pharmaceuticals?  Let us know in the comments section and your story could be (anonymously) added to one of my rants on NORML SHOW LIVE.


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