Medical Marijuana and Alcohol Abuse

Can cannabis help alcohol addictionThere have been numerous reports of marijuana being used to ‘cure’ alcohol abuse but, as any alcoholic would tell you, this is simply the substitution of one addiction with another.

BUT (I do like buts – it means that nobody knows everything!), according to information gleaned from HAMS: Harm Reduction for Alcohol, there is evidence to support these claims.

When the late doctor Tod Mikuriya studied 92 patients using cannabis to treat their alcohol dependence, he found:

  • All reported that they’d found it “very effective” (45) or “effective” (38)
  • Two patients did not make follow-up visits but had reported efficacy at the initial interview
  • Nine patients reported that they had practiced total abstinence from alcohol for more than a year and attributed their success to cannabis. Their years in sobriety: 19, 18, 16, 10, 7, 6, 4 (2), and 2.

What might be more telling are patient reports when cannabis was discontinued:

  • “I started drinking a lot more.”
  • “More anxiety, less happiness.”
  • “Use alcohol when cannabis isn’t available.”
  • “If I don’t have anything to smoke, I usually drink a lot more.”
  • “I quit using cannabis while I was in the army and my drinking doubled. I was also involved in several violent incidents due to alcohol.
  • “My caretaker got arrested and I lived too far from the city to purchase at a club, and I started doing heroin again and almost killed myself and some of my friends.”
  • “Stress level becomes higher, become more uptight. Went back to drinking in the 1970s.”–A female patient with 19 years of sobriety. Several patients specifically noted that cannabis use reduced the craving for alcohol:
  • “I crave alcohol when I can’t smoke marijuana.”
  • “Had to quit drinking at 48 yrs. old. Found cannabis helped stop the urge to drink.”–A 69-year-old commercial fisherman.

Sadly, three patients reported that, when they stopped using cannabis in preparation for drug tests, they fell off the wagon completely.

In the UK, Dr B G Charlton advocates drug substitution as the only rational solution to the extremely rapid increases in binge drinking which are taking place in the United Kingdom today:

“Since hundreds of thousands of people in the UK and Ireland regularly get drunk during their leisure hours, it is clear that a lifestyle drug that induces a state of euphoric release is needed, and alcohol is currently the only legal and available intoxicating agent. Marijuana is probably a safer and less antisocial alternative to high-dose alcohol.7 There seems to be a broad consensus that marijuana intoxication is less medically harmful than high-dose alcohol bingeing, and (if hippies are any guide) intermittent marijuana usage largely avoids the social problems of aggression and violence typical of drunkenness. It would make sense for governments of Northern European countries to promote marijuana intoxication as a socially-preferable alternative to binge drinking.”

Controversial stuff but new thinking is always controversial.

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  1. They can do blood tests and there’s other tell-tale signs of alcohol abuse visible to the naked eye.They can absolutely tell, and they don’t do liver transplants for alcoholics.

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