NEW YORK (MainStreet) Pot proponents like to say that drug rehabilitation centers are opposed to legalization, because they profit from drug prohibition. Of course, that is a little like saying the hot dog concession at the baseball game loses money when there is a sellout crowd.
"We project we will see more business with legalization, so I do not concur with that at all," said Kate Osmundson, spokesperson for Arapahoe House, an addiction and rehabilitation center - the largest in Colorado.
She bases this projection on alcohol usage.
"We know from alcohol that increased access leads to increased use," she said. "Alcohol is the U.S. and Colorado's number one drug problem. What we are seeing now - with marijuana admissions in our detox units - is our staff doing more education. Our staff is currently seeing an increase in marijuana related DUI's."
She said that marijuana is not like other drugs in that the addiction can be gradual. It can take place over a long period of time. Meth addiction, on the other hand, happens quickly.
Osmundson noted that Arapahoe has seen a 53% increase in marijuana as a secondary drug from 2008 to 2013. This was during the years following medical marijuana legalization.
She also cited a chilling fact: "Marijuana is the number one drug of choice for our teen clients."
There's something of a contradiction of marijuana legalization advocates complaining about rehab centers' losing money from legalization, according to Kevin Sabet, an assistant professor of Psychiatry at the University of Florida and the director of the Drug Policy Institute there.
"It is ironic that marijuana legalization proponents think the rehab industry is behind 'the war on drugs' since they would in fact benefit from new users and problems," Sabet said. "The best evidence I can say is that as we have become looser as a country on marijuana, admissions to treatment have been rising. Also we know that the Netherlands is the 2nd biggest consumer of treatment in Europe."
Rehabilitation centers are not the only source of help. Some jurisdictions are being proactive in their approach.
Dee Reed had a promising career in football. He was a quarterback for the University of Maryland from 1992 to 1994. But now he is a drug court ambassador in the Tampa Bay, Fla. area.
The ambassador program started three years ago, after a now famous video of a young woman high on pot made an obscene gesture to a judge and was without remorse. The ambassadors are those who have successfully completed the drug court program and tour the area speaking to youths.
Reed is unequivocal about the addictiveness of marijuana and that help is needed to kick the habit.
It is better not to use it in the first place.
"I say marijuana is addictive. I used other drugs but marijuana was my first," said Reed in a telephone interview. "I found myself being unable to do without it."
Reed said his addiction was so bad that he found himself not wanting to eat without smoking marijuana. He also mentioned that sometimes people who use marijuana become very aggressive.
"Do not let anyone think marijuana does not hurt anyone," Reed elaborated. "I was an athlete. I lost my scholarship."
He finds youths are using pot at a younger age. He attributes this to the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana.
"It will increase usage by young people," he claims. "Now that you have something that is legal they will experiment with it. Legalization removes the barriers to obtain marijuana. So just like alcohol, more kids will use it because it will be easier to get."
Reed thinks his efforts and those of his fellow drug court ambassadors will help steer people - especially the young - away from drugs including marijuana. Those who are considering using it, who are using it and who are addicted to it should listen to Reed's tale.
Treatment, prevention and rehabilitation programs -- like Michael's House, an addiction treatment center in Palm Springs, Calif. -- do what they can to warn people of the dangers of marijuana addiction, unlike the politicians who will benefit from it.
Michael's House cautions people on its website about marijuana addiction.
"The idea is that marijuana abuse is nonthreatening and that marijuana addiction doesn't exist," it says. "The fact is that marijuana abusers are often subject to harm as a result of their addiction. One study of over 1,000 trauma patients admitted to a shock trauma unit showed that 33% of them had marijuana in their blood."
--Written by Michael P. Tremoglie for MainStreet