Medical marijuana detox: Has Aminokit Laboratories found a cure for cannabis?

The claims are sure to turn some heads, as well as ruffle some feathers: The Denver-based Aminokit Laboratories is said to offer Colorado's first medical marijuana detox program. But how does one detox off medical marijuana -- and why, exactly, would you want to?

Aminokit Laboratories has been using its novel amino acid-based treatments to help people deal with alcohol and hard drug addictions for years, says owner Tamea Sisco. But lately, Sisco says she's noticed a lot of folks coming by who are using medical marijuana to ease off of harder stuff such as heroin or prescription painkillers.

While Sisco concedes she'd rather see folks on MMJ than a lot of brain-altering substances, she says pot doesn't get to the heart of the problem. All such substances, including marijuana, artificially stimulate dopamine, a key neurotransmitter in the brain. Over time, that stimulation curtails the brain's ability to make dopamine on its own, fueling a downward spiral of addiction. "If you're smoking pot instead of heroin, great," she says. "It is still a brain-altering substance, it is still addictive. And when it's no longer strong enough, you will just go back to heroin."

That's why Sisco's Aminokit Laboratories works to repair dopamine deficiencies by intravenously injecting patients with the amino acids the body uses to create dopamine. "Once you repair the damage to the brain, there is no desire to use a brain-altering substance," she says.

Sisco notes her program has detoxed more than 3,000 people in the past fourteen years, and offers state-certified treatment programs for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Still, Aminokit Laboratories, which used to be called Excel Treatment, has its fair share of detractors. Online review sites include many comments complaining about its business practices, and one person set up a blog lambasting Sisco and including a link to state records noting her chiropractic license was revoked, as well as a link to a news article noting Sisco was part of an investigation into an illegal 2005 shipment of human growth hormone.

Sisco waves off such grievances. "After the thousands of people we have treated, the complaints are incredibly minimal compared to the great stories," she says. She also suggest medical marijuana activists think twice before criticizing her for equating marijuana with drugs like heroin. "We are just offering a solution to be healthier," she says. "Isn't that why they started using medical marijuana to begin with?"

More from our Marijuana archive: "High Times Medical Cannabis Cup in Denver: Editor Dan Skye's preview (PHOTOS, VIDEO)."

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner