Alcoholism and Medical Marijuana

Alcoholism is the most severe form of alcohol abuse, being classified as a psychological and physical addiction to alcohol. A person who suffers from alcoholism is unable to manage her drinking habits what causes many harmful side effects like vomiting with aspiration, slowed heart rate, life-threatening respiratory depression, lack of pupillary response to light and death in some cases.

Alcohol is a Central Nervous System (CNS) depressant, which consequently slows down mental and physical processes, affecting all parts of the body. Alcohol most commonly affects the brain, liver, pancreas, heart and immune system. The consequences of alcohol in a person’s body may result in mental illness, increased risk of cancer, liver failure, an irregular heartbeat, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, vision damage and other diseases.

Alcoholism is also known as alcohol use disorder, and it is organized into three categories: mild, moderate and severe. The warning signs of a person with alcoholism usually are:

  • Drinking large amounts of alcohol for an extended period
  • Presents difficulties in cutting down
  • A strong desire for alcohol when not drinking
  • Alcohol intolerance with use
  • Feeling like never wanting to stop drinking
  • Being unable to control how much alcohol you are consuming
  • Putting drinking as a priority in your life
  • A significant number of studies have shown how cannabis can help with many different diseases and conditions, and alcoholism is among them. According to a study published in 2016, substituting marijuana for alcohol may reduce drinking problems and related problems among alcoholics. The method used was analyzing literature on alcohol and cannabis, and of the 39 studies reviewed, 16 supported substitutions, 10 supported complementarity, 12 support neither, and 1 supports both alternatives.

A different study made in 2012 pointed that among 404 patients recruited from 4 dispensaries in Canada, 41% of them used cannabis as a substitute for alcohol, 36.1% use as a substitute for other illegal substances and 67.8% used cannabis as a substitute for prescription drugs. The main reasons for this substitution are “less withdrawal” with 67.7%, “fewer side effects” with 60.4%.

In 2009, there was also a study with similar patterns showing that 40% of 350 analyzed patients from a dispensary in Berkley, CA have used cannabis as a substitute for alcohol, 26% as a substitute for illicit drugs and 66% as a substitute for prescription drugs. The main reasons for substitutions were “less adverse side effects” with 65% of the patients, “better symptom management” with 57% and “less withdrawal potential” with cannabis of 34%.

Some practitioners in states where they are allowed to recommend medical marijuana if they judge necessary are recommending cannabis to their patients in order to reduce their drinking problems. Although a study published in 2014 by Oxford Journals said that there is no clear pattern of outcomes related to cannabis substitution and all recommendation of cannabis to reduce drinking problems are premature for lack of studies, all criteria appeared to be either satisfied or partially satisfied.

Whether they have concrete proofs or not if cannabis reduces drinking problems, many patients have testified in favor of substituting marijuana for alcohol, claiming that they had a significant decrease in the quantity of alcohol that they used to ingest before.