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How a Drug Test Killed Garrett Holman

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How a Drug Test Killed Garrett Holman

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Garrett Holman was a young man who lived in Virginia. He died from his third opioid overdose, this time on a synthetic shipped direct in the mail from China, eight days short of his 21st birthday.

While the opioid drug killed him, Garrett’s fate was sealed long before he ever touched opioids.

Garrett was a hyperactive kid. Garrett was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Like so many kids in America, Garrett was loaded up on all manner of prescription medications for his condition.

Garrett’s sister, Kristen, bravely testified before Congress yesterday in a hearing that was notable for how many Congresspeople cross-examined the acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration about the role medical marijuana can play in reducing the problems from our current opioid overdose crisis.

Garrett’s death, however, illustrates the role marijuana prohibition plays in exacerbating that crisis.

“When he became of age to make the decision to get off his medications for ADHD,” Kristen explained, “he began to self-medicate.”

Garrett discovered what I’ve heard personally from many ADHD patients – cannabis works better than prescriptions.

“It started with marijuana,” Kristen told the House Judiciary Committee. “With marijuana, Garrett was able to self-medicate his condition on his own terms. He was able to function without feeling like he was forced to take prescription medicine.”

Garrett was getting relief for his mental health condition and freeing himself from the side effects of addictive pharmaceuticals. But then the real world intruded.

“He realized that this alternative would not work when he went to get a job and realized he would be drug tested for any job he applied to,” said Kristen. “This is when he turned to more dangerous alternatives that did not show up on a drug test at the time.”

I was originally going to write this up as a rant against prohibition, but even here in Portland, Oregon, there are still plenty of employers who won’t hire you if evidence of absolutely legal marijuana use turns up in a warm cup of your piss.

It’s that economic coercion that birthed the market in dangerous synthetic cannabinoids – the “fake weed” marketed as incense under brand names like “Spice,” “Blaze,” and “K2.” People seeking a cannabis high take that stuff because it doesn’t turn up on a workplace piss test.

Kristen isn’t clear about whether these were what Garrett turned to when natural marijuana was no longer an option. But clearly it was the drug test that forced Garrett off the nontoxic herb that was improving his life and condition. Without that pressure, Garrett could have treated himself with cannabis and avoided the path that led to his death from a synthetic opioid.

(Thanks to reader T.I. for the tip!)

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