MARIJUANA AND HEROIN ADDICTION
I am a fifty-nine year old man who first started to use heroin as a student at a Connecticut prep school in 1955. My father planned for me to attend Yale University and Yale Law School, but I always took the easiest way out in those years, becoming addicted to heroin at sixteen and leaving school at seventeen to live on the streets of Harlem. In 1960 I first used marijuana, during a period when no heroin was available. I suffered severe withdrawal symptoms, and learned that marijuana provided significant relief from the pain, nausea, and other symptoms. At the suggestion of a friend, I smoked six high-grade rolled marijuana cigarettes throughout the immediate withdrawal period, which lasted three to five days. The marijuana greatly ameliorated the sweating, yawning, and restlessness, but the worst was yet to come. At eighteen hours after my last dose of heroin, I began to have muscle twitches, loss of strength and energy, profuse sweating, diarrhea, agitation, and an overall feeling of agony. These symptoms peaked on the third day and subsided rapidly over the next week. However, after the peak I was able to eat and sleep. This fact is crucial, because I am certain that only a few people have ever eaten after a heroin withdrawal peak. Eating and the ability to sleep increased my strength while the symptoms subsided.
In 1967, I successfully completed the Dole/Nyswander pioneer Methadone Research Program as a member of their first control study groups. I began a normal life, first by getting my family back together, and then by working as a photojournalist In 1970 I went to work for the Bucks County Department of Corrections, starting the first drug abuse treatment program in a local detention setting in Pennsylvania. I progressed through the ranks and served the director as his departmental operations officer. My duties included insuring compliance to the directors policies, procedures and special directives, as well as monitoring federal, state and private grant projects. I did not use marijuana during this period, mainly due to the effect it would have on my employment. Marijuana was illegal and that was it. I was maintained on sixty milligrams of methadone per day throughout this period.
In 1973 I took a job in New York where I supervised the largest private methadone clinic in New York City. I did this for one year and then returned to the Bucks County Department of Corrections. In 1977 my director, a nationally known pioneer in corrections, resigned, and I felt that I could not serve in Bucks County under any possible new leadership. I relocated to Florida and applied for a position in Broward County Corrections. I was tested, interviewed at length, and considered for a senior management position, but at the final stage I was eliminated because of a Florida law prohibiting state employment while being maintained on methadone. After two years of fruitless job search, I decided to detoxify from methadone. It was a long and agonizing task that took several monthsten times as hard as heroin withdrawal. All the symptoms are similar, but the process can last six to nine months. I used seven rolled marijuana cigarettes per day throughout my withdrawal. The marijuana helped me to sleep and eat and provided strength to continue detoxification. With the help of marijuana, I weaned myself off methadone in about four months. To this day I have continued to smoke marijuana, about three cigarettes per day and have never felt the desire to return to either heroin or methadone. My conclusion, based on this experience, is that marijuana is a potent medicine in the treatment of withdrawal from both heroin and methadone.
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