Recovery program in Portland uses cannabis and kratom to treat opioid addiction


Annureet Kaur

A cannabis and kratom based residential treatment recovery home is set to open in Portland in March to treat opioid addiction.

Roxanne Gullikson and her husband Ron Figarratto are opening a treatment home, Greener Pastures, for for opioid addicts using cannabis and kratom to help patients recover from their addiction. Kratom is a pain-killer or recreational drug derived from the leaves of a tree that are dried and crushed into powder form for people to purchase.

The program will cost a patient $20,000 per month with an average stay of 90 days.

While Gullikson’s treatment program might have helped many kick their opioid habit in the last four years, researchers claim there’s no proof that kratom or cannabis work to overcome opioid addiction, and could even be dangerous.

Recovery homes have faced scrutiny in the past for charging huge fees with questionable living standards. Because recovery homes are largely unregulated, states like Florida and New York have also reported cases of recovery homes ripping people off.

Gullikson claims that cannabis is far less harmful than opioids and it would be beneficial if more people switched from opioids to cannabis. While she acknowledges that there is a lack of research to be done on benefits for cannabis with opioid addiction, she also blames the FDA for classifying cannabis as a Schedule I substance, preventing researchers to do human-based research testing.

“It’s frustrating that there isn’t more research. But we’re seeing community-based evidence time and time again that this is working,” said Gullikson, who also plans to track patient outcomes at her residential recovery homes.

However, multiple studies and researchers have found that opiate-related deaths decreased by approximately 33 percent in 13 states in six years after medical cannabis was legalized.

While some experts like Dr. Noah Nesin, vice president of the Penobscot Community Health Center in Bangor, claims abstinence from any drugs and cannabis besides medication-assistment treatment might be the best option to help a patient recover from opioid addiction, others like Marc Colello, 42 and a former opioid addict, have full faith in Gullikson and her treatment plan.

“For some individuals abstinence can be successful,” Nesin told the Press Herald. “The best outcomes are to use medication-assisted treatment, using Suboxone and methadone combined with individual and group counseling.”

“When I got out of jail, I took three steps toward the methadone clinic and then just stopped and said, ‘I can’t do this anymore,’” Colello told the Press Herald. He said he used kratom for withdrawal and cannabis, and with Gullikson’s help has been clean ever since. “She was right there with me, every step of the way, in my recovery. It’s a revelation.”