Former NHL enforcer Darren McCarty faced a lot of tough fights during his career - including the infamous "Bloody Wednesday" brawl between his Detroit Red Wings and the Colorado Avalanche. But the hardest fight of all has been his battle with alcoholism, which he says he's winning with an assist from medical marijuana.
"I haven't had a drink in over four months and it's because I properly got medicated," McCarty told FOX 2 Detroit on March 3.
The four-time Stanley Cup champion says that he tried a number of remedies, but marijuana was by far the most effective for him.
"Through my journey, a lot of stuff that I've taken from that I apply to my life today. Everybody's different - you gotta find out what your program is...My program involves medical marijuana because that's what keeps me off alcohol."
But some argue that his recovery is actually another addiction in disguise. Jeff Jay, an addiction specialist and recovering addict, told FOX that McCarty's treatment is simply, "switching around deck chairs on the Titanic." He added, "The only way I got better was because people helped me."
Counselling undoubtedly helps many people through recovery process. However, Jay may be too quick to dismiss the value of cannabis. For decades, marijuana has been dismissed as a "gateway drug" that leads people to abuse harder substances like heroin. But recent research suggests that cannabis might actually be an "exit drug," helping alcoholics and opioid abusers treat their addiction.
In April 2015, VICE interviewed Dr. Amanda Reiman, who has researched cannabis as a substitute for alcohol and other drugs. She found that using marijuana to combat addiction is common among the people she surveyed. And she suggested that marijuana could help people treat their withdrawal symptoms so that they can stay on the road to recovery.
"For someone who's trying to wean themselves off opiates or alcohol," said Dr. Reiman, "having access to cannabis actually may make it less likely that they're going to relapse, because the withdrawal symptoms won't be as severe. One of the reasons people relapse is that the withdrawals get so bad. So if they can use cannabis to help with the withdrawal symptoms, it's less likely that they're going to return to that drug that was giving them problems."
This recent change in the discussion around marijuana has inspired politicians such as Senator Elizabeth Warren to call for more research into cannabis as a potential treatment to combat America's opioid epidemic. So McCarty's marijuana regimen may be an insightful case study, not a cautionary tale.
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