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Treating Alcoholism with Medical Marijuana

By January 28, 2020 February 21st, 2020 No Comments

Alcoholism is a pressing condition that has afflicted millions of people around the world and has caused the deaths of nearly 88,000 people every year, not to mention the nearly 10,000 deaths related to traffic accidents due to driving under the influence(1).

Alcoholism, otherwise known as Alcohol Use Disorder, is associated with a number of symptoms, including drinking more than intended, inability to quit despite wanting to do so, and cravings. There are medications used to treat alcoholism, such as naltrexone, disulfiram, and topiramate, but around 9% who have been diagnosed with alcoholism receive pharmaceutical interventions.

To help them reduce and quit drinking, many people have turned to medical marijuana as a substitute for alcohol. The practice is referred to as marijuana maintenance, and it is a largely controversial move with very strong advocates on each side.

Those who are very open about their support in the practice argue that marijuana and its derivatives are less harmful than alcohol and its detrimental effects on the health of a person. This is almost the same argument that cannabis supporters use when comparing smoking cigarettes to marijuana.

On the other hand, those that are opposed to the practice counter that the goal for quitting alcohol is to promote sobriety and that replacing one mind-altering substance with another doesn’t address the issue.

This article will hope to explore both sides of the argument further in hopes of informing you, readers, of the facts in hopes that you create your own opinion on the matter.

Cons of using marijuana in treating alcoholism

What triggers those who are opposed to marijuana maintenance largely stems from the fact that people deem it not only as a safer option compared to alcohol, but that it is tacitly safe.

There is very little evidence that supports this claim. Opponents of marijuana maintenance claim that not only is the practice baseless, but also unconscionable. The idea behind alcohol recovery is based around the idea that the substance is harmful, and those who fall prey to the addiction have no control over it. The idea of using marijuana as a way to quit alcohol use suggests that people have control over their use compared to alcohol.

 Detractors also argue that marijuana has its own associated concerns:

  • Marijuana may exacerbate underlying mental conditions that are present in people prone to alcohol abuse.
  • Marijuana may have an influence on a person’s overall health.
  • Marijuana is sometimes used as a gateway drug, potentially leading people to use more dangerous drugs like heroin and cocaine.

Pros of marijuana in treating alcoholism

The supporters of marijuana management have pointed out that evidence regarding the effectiveness of recovery programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, which advocates sobriety, is split. A study in 2006 concluded that there is no marked difference between the results that Alcoholics Anonymous achieved compared to other treatment programs(2). Even studies that reported AA to be beneficial in treating alcoholism attributed their findings to the frequency of the meetings than the 12-step model that the program advocates (3). Those who are unwilling or unable to attend regular meetings have high failure rates. 

Supporters claim that it is precisely these individuals who may respond positively to marijuana management. For some people, abstinence-based programs are unrealistic and unachievable. By allowing them to taper off gradually using a less invasive substance like marijuana, a lot of the effects of detoxification can be softened or avoided entirely. This includes withdrawal symptoms, anxiety, and depression.

As for safety, marijuana has been misconstrued for many years. Compared to alcohol, marijuana can be used relatively safely with minimal risk of death due to overdose. It has minimal drug interactions (4) and has far fewer long-term health effects when compared to Alcohol. Unlike alcohol, which has no health benefits, marijuana has been proven to relieve pain, increase appetite, and even enhance moods – all of which can really benefit someone recovering from alcoholism.

After all this research, it’s safe to say that the consensus regarding the use of marijuana in treating alcoholism is split. What this debate needs is further research and investigation, something that’s slowly taking place as we speak.

Know someone or suffering yourself from Alcoholism? Curious about how Medical Cannabis can help you and your symptoms? Call us toll-free at 1(877) 560-9195 to review your medical needs and how they might be met with Cannabis.

Sources

1- https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics

2- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2746426/

3-https://academic.oup.com/alcalc/article/38/5/421/143824

Dr. Singh

Dr. Singh

Dr. Mandeep Singh is a well established psychiatrist currently employed at Apollo Applied Research and holds the position of Director of wellness programs at Be Well Health Clinic in Toronto. His extensive and broad experience includes E.R/urgent care and outpatient psychiatric care at Trillium Health Partners as well as working with Veterans in Canada and the United States.

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