The leading cause of accidental death in America is drug overdose. There were over 20,000 overdose deaths related to prescription opioids and almost 13,000 overdose deaths related to heroin in 2015 alone. These numbers are staggering and what the CDC is calling an epidemic. What’s even more disturbing is that seventy percent of people only 12 years old and up who report abusing prescription drugs were able to get them from friends, family or in many cases, coaches, and that is exactly what happened in Adam Schneidman’s case.
Adam was born and raised in New York, upper middle class with a brother and two half-sisters. He played soccer in high school and what people would call a “normal” childhood. At 15, while in high school he was drafted by a national team which is where things took a turn. “I was a goalkeeper. I had series of bad collisions. Breaking fingers and stuff like that.” Adam recalled. “They used to say, ‘Are you hurt or injured?’ and I said, ‘What’s the difference?’ They said, ‘Injured you sit on the sideline. Hurt you take whatever we give you and you get back out there.’ I had colleges and pro teams looking at me so my answer was, ‘I’m hurt.’ At 17 I was taking 3 oxy 80s before I even stepped on the field.”
Being the headstrong child that he was, not to mention the dreams of going pro, his parents couldn’t tell him anything and nobody was the wiser because coaches, trainers, and doctors were the ones overprescribing hard prescription drugs to such a young athlete. “I left everything I knew, my parents behind. All I wanted to do was play ball.” Adam explained. Eventually he was given a full ride scholarship to Winthrop University in South Carolina where the prescription drug abuse continued. “Pain killers are kind of like alcohol in the way that if you keep moving, you don’t really feel it,” Adam explained, so he never went and got the medical attention he needed. After hurting the same wrist four times, he finally went and saw a doctor.
“What happened was that each time there was a break so when they looked at it they said, ‘Oh well it’s broken.’ They set it and I would go back to playing. I never went for an MRI so by the time we had finally caught up with it, I had done so much damage that I had shattered my hand completely. I literally had one ligament and tendon holding my entire hand together. That’s where I started to realize that I had a real problem with the pain killers,” Adam revealed.
What was originally supposed to be a four hour surgery turned into a 16 hour surgery and the doctor telling him he would never play professional soccer. As a star soccer player who was told his future laid in professional soccer, his academics were never a priority. “I had tutors that came along with us when I traveled. They did homework for me. I took my SATs at my house. My coaches had them mailed directly to me because otherwise they couldn’t get me academically eligible to play NCAA.” Adam explained recalling the beginning of his spiral down his path to addiction.
After his injury he left college and eventually started looking elsewhere for something to help with the pain and somehow get back that natural high that he got while playing soccer. A search that led him to heroin. Four out of five new heroin users start out by abusing prescription painkillers, so Adam is far from alone in his unfortunate path to hard drugs. Eventually he resorted to selling heroin to pay for his drug habit which led to a series of arrests and jail time. “I had gotten to the point where I was so disgusted with myself,” Adam explained bleakly. He had been to four different rehabilitation centers. One of them court ordered and three voluntarily and each time he relapsed.
The rehabilitation centers attempted to help Adam quit his heroin habit by substituting it with methadone, another narcotic that is also habit forming. A methadone user can still overdose and it has several frightening and common side effects. “I used methadone but you can still get high off of methadone. So I would go into my methadone in the morning and two hours afterwards I would be scoring dope, so that didn’t work for me.” Adam sounded exhausted even recalling the struggle it was to break free from his addiction. He also tried suboxone, another prescription drug meant to help wean opioid addicts off the drugs. This didn’t work for him either. With four rehabs under his belt and a wife and child that had seen the good in him throughout his addiction, he knew that he needed to do something drastic. “Here are people that love me, when I hate myself.” he explained.
Adam decided that violating his probation and spending the rest of his time behind bars was the only way to get clean. While in jail he was told about a drug called Vivitrol. Vivitrol is not addictive, and only needs to be taken once a month unlike methadone and others. It blocks the effect of opiates on brain cells, blocking the opiate receptor making it so that an addict cannot get the “high.” After his release from jail, Adam and his wife moved as far away from New York as possible, to California, and started monthly Vivitrol shots. It was during his first therapy session before he got his vivitrol shot that his therapist, Dr. Rodney Collins of New Horizon Medical Group in Beverly Hills, suggested cannabis.
“He said, ‘Hey have you tried this?’ and my answer was, ‘I smoked pot as a kid but that was it really.’ It took me about two weeks to get into a regime and the next thing you know I was waking up in the mornings and instead of it taking an hour for me to be able to close my hands, it was taking like 15 minutes.” Adam explained. Adam has had arthritis since he was 21 and contracted Hepatitis C while using. Thanks to this, Advil, Tylenol etc., are no longer options because of their interaction with the liver.
Cannabis not only helps him in his struggle with heroin addiction but with pain management and his ability to focus. “My mind runs a million miles a minute. I was diagnosed as a kid with ADHD. They had me on Adderall for awhile. [On] the Adderall I didn’t say a word, didn’t eat, just focused. Marijuana gives me that exact focus but without that not talking, not eating. I can still conduct business. I can get stuff done.” Which is extremely important with a five year old son, a pregnant wife, and a brand new business.
Adam’s life has taken a completely new, healthy, happy, productive turn. “I start with about 400mgs of an edible and smoke about 2 grams throughout the day and I am a very happy man! I work, my wife is much happier with me.” Adam explained cheerfully. Outside of his cannabis regime, he sees his counselor once a month followed by a 380mg Vivitrol shot. “This is the only time that I’ve ever had this peace of mind and clarity. I can’t say that it is all the Vivitrol and I can’t say that it is all the marijuana, but I know that the two of them together for me, work.” Adam adds.
Adam and his wife Karina opened a company called Sinners Future, a 420 party and event management company and they also infuse cannabis with spirits. After 16 years of drug abuse, four rehabs and countless nights spent in jail or strung out, Adam and his family have freed themselves. When speaking with Adam, it became clear that he wanted more than to tell his story, he wanted to help others understand the benefits of cannabis in recovery so that they could improve their lives as well.
“I looked at rehabs like I looked at my soccer coaches. There are certain things you like from this person and certain things you like from that person. You put it together and you make it your style. That’s kind of my approach to recovery. In AA and NA they say, ‘You can only keep what you have by giving it away.’ As far as I’m concerned, if my story only helps one person, it absolutely succeeded.” he asserted.
States with medical marijuana show a twenty-five percent decline in opioid overdose mortality. That is astronomical. There are also a lower number of opioid prescriptions written in these states. With stories like Adam’s and sound research that proves the benefits of cannabis, it is essential that the collective “we” continues to resist the opposition and defend our plant.