Pot addicts reclaim their lives

By Abrad · Jun 9, 2006 · Updated Jun 9, 2006 · ·
  1. Abrad
    Marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug in Australia. Now a doctor is using a combination of three medicines to help addicts regain their lives.

    According to recent figures, Australia is in the grip of a marijuana epidemic. While it is often considered a 'harmless' drug, marijuana addiction can have disastrous consequences.

    More than 5.5 million people aged14 and over have smoked dope in their lives. And 1.8 million Australians, the same number of people as the population of Brisbane, have smoked in the past year - some as young as 12.

    Julia Norcott was a marijuana addict, lighting up a joint every day.

    "The more you have, the more you want," Julia said. "It's habit forming and it becomes part of your lifestyle."

    The qualified nurse first tried marijuana in her late teens and became hooked on the drug in her 20s. As a medical professional, she should have known better, but could not shake it.

    A $20 per day habit quickly became $50, then $100 eventually she lost everything: house, car, job. It seemed there was no way out of the mess.

    "I think marijuana for the long term chronic user can be very similar to someone that is a heroin addict," Julia said.

    Dr Jon Currie is the only neurologist in Australia specialising in drug and alcohol addiction. He has come up with an Australian first treatment for marijuana addiction and says it is working.

    "We treat this as a medical problem," Dr Currie said. "You have diabetes, you have asthma, you have an addiction."

    Dr Currie first formulated his radical ideas in Israel. In 1997, he accompanied Today Tonight to investigate a radical Israeli heroin treatment using rapid detox and the drug naltrexone, a drug that blocked the terrible effects of heroin.

    Back in Australia, Dr Jon Currie found the same addictive problems with marijuana and the same problem with quitting.

    "There's a physical addiction and people who try to stop get irritable, angry, depressed, aggressive," he said. "And they might want to punch people, walls, wives, bosses."

    "So most people who try to stop find it very, very difficult."

    Dr Currie's solution combines three drugs normally used to treat other diseases.

    "One of the drugs is used for craving to stop alcohol," he said. "One of the drugs is an antidepressant and the other is a very clever use of a drug that is normally used for epilepsy."

    Julia is one of 300 dope addicts now using this special treatment. So far, 200 have gone clean and stayed clean after six months.

    "I can say it's actually changed my life," Julia said. "The quality of life for me has improved incredibly."

    The treatment was said to cost $5 per day.

    "By the time you finish, it's about $250 for the cost of the medicines," Dr Currie explained.

    By comparison, addicts could spend about $300 per week on marijuana.

    The government is currently funding Dr Currie's research, making the tablets free for people who want to kick marijuana.

    But today, 300,000 Australians will light up, equivalent to the population of Hobart or Canberra. Many do not realise they are addicted.

    Dr Currie said he would not be able to cure everyone.

    "No, there is always going to be a proportion of people who will want to smoke, who will want to use drugs, or for whom it is just tooo difficult," Dr Currie said.

    "The aim is to get 80 per cent of people able to stop, 20 per cent of people with a problem that we can then help in other ways."

    More information: Dr Jon Currie, Western Area Health Service, Clinic E, Westmead Hospital. Phone (02) 9845 6445, email [email protected]

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  1. IHrtHalucingens
    Interesting, it shows that mental addiction can be as troublesome as physical addiction. Norcott said it right when she said it becomes part of your lifestyle and the more you have the more you want. SWIM can vouch for that as well. Although i would say that most people have the will power to take care of their other responsiblities before pot.
  2. old hippie 56
    When swim went to rehab, he learn that by changing portions of his lifestyle, he learn how to deal with life without dope.
    But, to spend that kind of money daily just on weed is a bit too much. Must be some good stuff.
  3. IHrtHalucingens
    For SWIM weed balances him out. When he doesnt smoke during a day, he has much restless energy and usually ends up doing something stupid ot get himself into trouble, looking to fill his boredom. But when he smokes pot at some point during the day, he is friendlier to everyone, in an overall better mood, and doesnt have urges to do other things that would get him into legal trouble.

    Staying out of jail is worth the ~$45 a day SWIM spends on weed. Its actually better for the good of the community that SWIM smokes everyday.
  4. Alicia
    Swim smokes everyday, she gets shitty when she has been smoking then stops suddenly, it disappears in three days thou. iTs just one of those thing swim wants in her life. I can agree that it has a hold over swia slightly other things she does its always something she can go back to.
  5. Forthesevenlakes
    SWIM has met a lot of people like this. In his experience some of them honestly were too violent, reckless, or unpredictable before they started smoking, and in both SWIM's perspective and their own words weed works better for them than other antidepressants (which carry their own battery of side effects, many of which could be more deleterious than pot). SWIM thought this was an interesting article, and realizes that while marijuana can be addictive, he is worried that once pharmaceutical companies get a hold of this therapy, they're going to make a real push to get pot smokers on these "acceptable" substitutes and therapies, in the guise of human interest, but in reality for their own profit margins.
  6. Senor Gribson
    it's been proven countless times that marijuana is NOT physically addictive! it is MENTALLY addictive, the lifestyle and habit are addictive not the drug itself. no fancy pills can cure that kind of addiction, not even if they're pure thc.
  7. Alicia
    $300 dollars bit excess thou, swim can make an 8th last 3-4 days. jeez and swia was worried about cancer... feel kinda silly now :eek:
  8. IHrtHalucingens
    @ forthesevenlakes- Thats exaclty the way SWIM is. He has been prescribed many ssri's and such with no positive effects, they made him feel worse than before taking them. Pot has never failed to calm him down and make him a better part of society.

    @Senor Gribson- Withdrawals from marijuana have been noted in cases. However they are very mild and are often symptoms of other everyday happenings. anything that physically changes your brain/bodily chemistry is going to have some sort of reprecusion. Although I do agree the mental addiction and the lifestyle created is much harder to overcome than the physical apsect, but it is there, no matter how insignificant.
  9. Abrad
    Here's something SWIM found on another forum which seems pertinent to this discussion;
  10. snapper
    SWIM has hypothetically been using daily for about 20 years. SWIM does get cranky without it, but SWIM was moody and unpredicatable all the time without it before starting. SWIM once quit for a whole calandar year, and accomplised nothing during that year and came close to doing SWIM in. It was when SWIM was sinking a razor into SWIMs arm that SWIM though SWIM might smoke some before bleeding to death, and decided after that it was bipolar disorder that was causing SWIM problems, and that weed was an incredible mood stabilizer that allowed SWIM to function. SWIM dropped the razor, started smoking again, and has since finished several college degrees, has a good job, and smokes all the time when not working. SWIM has weed to thank for SWIMs life. Note SWIM has tried antidepressants, etc while abstaining but none worked. SWIM was just too steeped in mood swings and depression to get anything done, and wanted to die all the time.
    SWIM has never had to spend huge amounts of money on the stuff, and weekly consumption has remained unchanged over the decades.
    There will always be people that cannot function on a certain substance. These people need to stop. However, blanketing everyone under one category it wrong. SWIM would become a total violent fuckup without weed. Everyone around SWIM knows that, and some have seen it. It is medecine, and an essential medecine at that. It is also harmless in most ways. SWIM has combatted addiction with other substances (and won), but with cannabis, SWIM thinks that those who are very habitual are treating a problem, and it may be that this treatment is very appropriate. Who's to say the mood-swings were not the problem being suppressed.
    The anti-seizure medication that the good doctor is using is probably neurontin or tegretol, and both have been used for bipolars. SWIM bets the antidepressant is buspar, since it makes smoking weed very unpleasant. SWIM also bets that his cure rate goes down fast over time. Temorarily treating people's permanent mental illnesses is not a good long term fix. However, he gets to become famous for his proprietary drug cocktail, and this necessitates making weed smoking into a scourge. This one quacks like a duck...

  11. elbow
    Hm, interesting. I believe marijuana can be addictive.
    It's just been sort of phasing out of swims life gradually and without effort...and not really feeling like there's time or a necessity to smoke grass everyday. There is always some around swim's house though, and that is a bit of a security blanket of sorts.

    White sugar is seriously my biggest addiction, and I am not being sarcastic. I get restless and pace around the house if I don't have sweets everyday. I will eat honey out of the jar if there's no cookies or candy around when I want it. It is nuts, I actually mentally struggle not to buy candy whenever I see it.
  12. bewilderment
    Swim considers herself addicted to marijuana, but doesn't consider it to be a horrible thing. As far as addictions to drugs go, it's probably the least destructive. Swim also uses marijuana for it's antidepressant properties and finds that she just enjoys life more when she is using cannabis. Swims's antidepressant medication which she is prescribed tends to give her a lot of excess nervous energy which bothers swim because she's a laid-back kind of a person and finds that cannabis helps relax her and give her a mood lift...the old "trippy" effects of marijuana have ceased for swim except when she is smoking some exceptional high-grade MJ for the first time... so even though swim smokes at various points during the day (mostly in the morning and in the evening), it doesn't make her stoned to the point where she can't function properly, it just makes her more carefree and see life's little problems as what they usually are: inconsequential. Swim didn't begin using marijuana regularly until about two years ago when she took a medical withdraw from college due to severe clinical depression (taking that withdrawal and taking care of my mental health literally saved my life). Directly after that she found that she had a wad of cash from a student loan and since no one was asking her to pay it back and she wasn't using for school, she spent the large majority on it on weed. After withdrawing from school in mid-October that year, she began taking zoloft, seeing a good psychologist, and smoking pot everyday. Usually it takes about 6months on average to recover from such a depression, but with this regimen (and simply living a stress-free lifestyle) her symptoms had virtually disappeared within about two months. She also found that the zoloft, while it has been her best treatment to date, tended to send her into a state of hypomania: lots of unnecessary spending, very very reckless behavior, and speeding (often over 120mph). The pot seemed to help calm her down and just make life more enjoyable in general. Swim also has chronic insomnia and weed helps her sleep...although, it rebounds something fierce when swim runs out of MJ, but this is typical.

    Also, swim has an addictive personality. She finds that when she doesn't smoke cannabis, she ends up turning to alcohol which is much worse for swim and leaves her feeling sick in the morning and is just something she simply doesn't enjoy much on it's own (although alcohol and marijuana are nice on occasion, but usually swim just sticks with the marijuana). Swim believes that even if she were to give up marijuana (which she doesn't see as necessary) then eventually she would end up with an addiction to something more harmful.

    I think that so long as a substance is making your life overall more enjoyable and not less and so long as it's not causing major harm to your health then use is absolutely fine.

    But, I will say that spending $300 a week is detrimental and probably constitutes a harmful addiction simply because it causes problems financially. At swim's peak, she was spending about $100 a week. But, swim has tried to be more economical and now avoids buying the high-priced strains (unless it's just a rare treat) and as much as she hates it, she's just been sticking with schwag where she usually buys half an ounce (50 bucks) which lasts about a week and a half or two if swim can restrain herself enough :)

    Also, swim no longer finds herself smoking to get really stoned. Once she's to the point of relaxation, she usually puts the pipe down. She also finds herself smoking habitually simply because she doesn't smoke anything else and likes the taste of marijuana smoke...so she sometimes ends up smoking just like it's tobacco or something in then being like "oops, I didn't mean to get stoned." But, this is just regarding day-to-day use and of course if it's a special occasion or if swim has just bought a big bag then there will be lots and lots of smoking to ensue.
  13. Nature Boy
    What a load of bullshit. Anyone who compares a marijuana habit to a heroin addiction is absolutely stupid. Pot is non-addictive physically. There's absolutely no reason why one would have to spend every penny they earn on it. Someone who does this is a clown basically. If pot is becoming too expensive just buy less and deal with it.
  14. blackbastard
    i think you just hit the nail on the head

    if you were getting thru $300AU a week you'd have to be smoking a fair few blunts or really big spliffs every day to get thru that quantity unless you were buying super-high grade uber-skunk and then if it was so good, you wouldnt be able to smoke that much of it
  15. Peace Frog
    I agree with you and with nature_boy_liam. The fact that they would even THINK of comparing a marijuana addiction to a heroin addiction...

    SWIM has seen people on the latter, and it's not pretty. He's also known a lot of people who smoke pot over the years, and many who smoke extremely large amounts. Now here's the thing, in the wide range of people he knows, he's only noticed an "addiction" in a few people, who generally:

    Are quite easily suggestable

    Are heavily over-using other drugs

    And who's life-styling seems to be taking a downfall (whether before or after their over-use of drugs.)

    Long story short, It's to the individual person as to whether they are "Addicted" to marijuana or any substance really...

    "Mom, Dad... I have to tell you something... I'm addicted..."

    "GOOD GOD! Where are the drugs? I'LL BURN THEM ALL"

    "Drugs? Oh god no... I'm addicted to.... *deep sigh*... DRAGON BALL Z"

    Seriously, some people can be addicted to things like Star Trek enough to adopt a "Klingon"-style life, I don't think they would physically become ill if you removed their head-ridges... ya know?

    So, PRAY TELL Dr Currie, how many of these "weed addicts" have you run psychological tests on, and compared them to other weed users who say they could stop at a whim? :crazy
  16. Alicia
    Im not as bad as people that go to those conventions, it seems they know all the lines, so obsessed with there character rolls they forget they even exist. Which although humorous is actually kinda sad.. speaking of sad cause im a trekke from what others say.

    All true, star trek is very addictive.. uh-oh... Alicia says looking embarrassed. Oh well it could be home and away I suppose thats some consolidation . "Screw it im happy being a trekkee stoner.." she says looking around to see if anyone heard her. nuts to the boyo, its better then star-gate sg1
  17. enquirewithin
    This looks like a clinic touting for business.

    This just bad science. Maybe people should watch "Reefer Madness" instead.

    The only way marijuana becomes addictive is when mixed withn tobacco.
  18. Alicia
    Swia has never hurt anyone when she has run out of weed, she maybe slighty irritable, obnoxious but after a day she becomes essentially normal.
  19. Peace Frog
    I agree with you Alicia.. and being a trekkie is NOT shameful at all! lol.. it's being a Trekkie to the point of going to the store in a Federation uniform and in a car you've outfitted to look like a shuttle... now THAT is just... weird...

    But i like Star Trek too, the science is actually plausible (sp?) All the technology in that show has some science behind it :p It's awesome.

    But back to weed addicts... THEY DON'T EXIST O_O The physical addicts anyway, lol
  20. Djvr16
    Screw being addicted. I believe anyone can get off of anything....that's all mental. Everyone has a choice of doing something about a bad habit, or just letting it get worse. One day they could realise, I'm losing everything so SNAP should be clean from there, or atleast cut down.
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