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Weed as an Exit Drug: An Interview with Anna Symonds

“When it comes to harm reduction, I've met people who had an opioid use disorder, and they shifted to Cannabis."

It comes as no surprise that most pharmaceutical drugs have a laundry list of side effects that come along with their “cure.” Cannabis has been found to be helpful for pain relief, PTSD, sleep disorders, appetite stimulation, anxiety and depression. Why would we continue to go to hell and back with these detrimental aftereffects from pharmaceuticals, when there are plant-based medicines that have been widely available for thousands of years? 

Sadly, the answer is that over the past century, we have been misinformed and led to believe that taking lab-created pills is the only way of finding relief in our lives from our physical ailments and mental health issues. We are all familiar with the classic speech from the doctor: “Take one pill in the morning and one at night, and you’ll be feeling as good as new.” But what if we were to tell you that there are options out there that could help alleviate your symptoms, all the while providing a better quality of life which far exceeds any lifestyle that involves toxic pharmaceutical medication? 

As we are all aware, there are many other forms of drug addiction outside of pharmaceutical drug abuse. From the start, Cannabis has taken the rap for being a gateway drug, when in all reality, it could very well be a way out – a life preserver for people drowning in other forms of addiction. Here, Cannabis functions as an exit drug and an entrance into a brighter life. 

Last month, we connected with plant medicine advocate/educator Anna Symonds, gaining insight on how she sees Cannabis continuing to provide an immense amount of harm reduction with both prescription drug and illicit drug use. “Pharmaceuticals are such a problem for so many people. Our medical system is pretty broken in a lot of ways, and our model of care often involves masking symptoms instead of treating the root causes of dysfunction,” said Symonds. 

More times than not, doctors have a cookie-cutter approach to treat what you’re dealing with, whether that be pain, anxiety or a mood disorder. A large majority of these medications can leave you in a fog, ultimately taking one step forward and three steps backward. “The side effects of pharmaceuticals are so massive for some of them that they’re hard to be considered a ‘side effect.’ Cannabis is a powerful herb, but it is very gentle to the body compared to other drugs,” said Symonds. 

“When it comes to harm reduction, I’ve met people who had an opioid use disorder, and they shifted to Cannabis,” Symonds explained. “Although they might over consume Cannabis occasionally, they are now safer and healthier. Their families are safer and happier. Ideally, we want to be free from the dependence on substances and only use them as they choose, but that’s not always a reality, and life isn’t always easy. With Cannabis being an exit drug, it gives people the option to get out of a worse situation into a better one.” And with the plethora of different cannabinoid profiles and products that are currently available, there are undoubtedly plant-based options that have the potential to usher in a healthier way of living. 

As a WPL rugby player, Symonds has dealt with countless injuries, including two bulging discs and a herniated disc in her back. In addition to those, she has experienced head injuries from a couple of car accidents. 

Traditionally in the modern healthcare system, the answer would be to load a patient like Symonds with as many pills as possible, including opioids not intended for long-term usage. More often than not, these quick-fix medicines often lead to a lifetime of abuse. With an intuitive sense of her body’s needs, Anna has been able to find different products that aid in her day-to-day life and make it significantly better. “I absolutely credit Cannabis and cannabidiol (CBD) for helping me to heal both my body and brain.”

With the wide variety of brands throughout the country offering more medicinally focused products, including capsules with extended releases and highly accurate dosages, now is a great time to consult with your regional dispensary to find out how to heal your body with Cannabis and replace certain pills. With precise test results showing the exact THC or CBD content, consumers can now confidently take the perfect dosage without the worry of overdoing the amount. 

“Having more transparency and accountability is a good thing,” said Symonds. “It’s opening the door for more people to consider having a relationship with Cannabis. People who are frightened of trying Cannabis have the opportunity to experience it safely.” 

There is an abundantly bright future that awaits us all. And with the proper dosages, settings and methodologies, certain drug addictions and dependencies can hopefully be a thing of the past.

About Max Early

Max Early is the State Director of Oregon Leaf Magazine. In this role, Max looks after/coordinates/manages/leads a team providing insight into all aspects of the cannabis industry, including processing and producing knowledge. Solventless concentrates are a quintessential part of his day-to-day life and help him stay balanced. Cannabis has impacted his existence and many close loved ones in such a positive way that he can't imagine life without it!

This article was originally published in the January 2022 issue of all Leaf Magazines.

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