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Perspectives on Medical Marijuana and Alcoholism (Alcohol Use Disorder)

Oct 26th 2023

Perspectives on Medical Marijuana and Alcoholism (Alcohol Use Disorder)

Compassionate Clinics of America stands as a beacon of support and understanding for individuals seeking alternatives to traditional treatments for various health conditions.

Over the years, we’ve witnessed a profound transformation in the way medical cannabis is perceived and utilized by patients, including how some people are using medical marijuana as a substitute for alcohol when living with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).

In this article, we delve deeper into the life-altering potential of medical cannabis in the context of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), shedding light on its growing popularity as a means of breaking free from the cycle of alcohol dependence, and reducing the negative consequences that AUD may have on the body and mental health.

When Alcohol Consumption Leads to Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), commonly known as alcoholism, affects 28.6 million adults ages 18 and older, or 11.3% of adults, according to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Alcohol Use Disorder, or AUD, is a chronic, relapsing brain disorder characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.

marijuana and alcoholism

Traditional Treatments for Alcohol Use Disorder

Traditional treatment methods for AUD encompass psychotherapy and medication options, such as disulfiram and naltrexone. Millions find support in 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which requires complete abstinence from alcohol and drug use.

While these approaches have been successful for many individuals in regaining control over their drinking habits, the challenge of alcohol relapse remains a persistent concern. The road to recovery is not always straightforward and can vary greatly from one person to another.

In recent years, the movement advocating for cannabis consumption as an alternative to alcohol for addressing AUD has gained considerable momentum, and more people are getting their medical cannabis card as a method to help reduce alcohol use or combat Alcohol Use Disorder.

Medical Marijuana and Alcoholism: Harm Reduction

The approach of cannabis substitution aligns with the harm reduction philosophy, which acknowledges that individuals grappling with AUD have unique reasons for seeking alternatives to conventional treatments. It resonates deeply with those who have witnessed the harsh realities of alcoholism and are in search of a gentler path to recovery.

An example of a harm reduction program that uses cannabis substitution is called the Marijuana Maintenance Program, an approach that uses cannabis as a tool to manage the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal symptoms that come with alcohol abstinence and other substance abuse issues.

marijuana and alcoholism

A 2009 study published in the Harm Reduction Journal discovered that 40% of the participants with AUD had engaged in marijuana consumption as a substitute for alcohol. Their reasons ranged from experiencing fewer adverse side effects to improved symptom management and reduced potential for withdrawal. As an interesting aside, using cannabis in place of alcohol has become known as “California Sober” within the cannabis community.

It’s important to note that while many are in favor of marijuana as a strategy to reduce alcohol cravings, there is another side that argues that substituting cannabis for alcohol is simply trading one addiction for another.

Cannabis for Addiction, Alcohol Dependence, and Drug Abuse: Academic Perspectives

While research is limited, more scholars are looking at the relationship between marijuana and alcoholism, and the potential that the plant has to treat not only the condition of AUD, but also alcohol-related harms on the body and mental health.

In his publication titled “Taming THC: Unraveling the Potential Synergy of Cannabis and the Entourage Effects of Phytocannabinoids and Terpenoids,” Dr. Ethan Russo, whose research has been prominently featured in our patient education series, highlights the significance of specific terpenes, such as beta-caryophyllene, myrcene, and pinene, which function as CB2 agonists. These terpenes play a vital role in how the addicted brain responds to various substances.

Dr. Russo underscores the pivotal role of CBD as a crucial cannabinoid for addiction treatment, emphasizing its value over THC.

Other research is supporting that CBD may be more beneficial than THC for treating AUD. In 2018 a study involving rats with a history of self-administering alcohol and cocaine who received transdermal CBD was conducted, concluding that CBD may hold promise in relapse prevention in terms of drug-seeking behaviors, reducing anxiety, and reducing impulsive behavior.

A 2019 study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology suggests that CBD has the capacity to alleviate alcohol-induced steatosis in the liver (aka. fatty liver) and reduce alcohol-related brain damage, suggesting that CBD may help reduce the health risks associated with prolonged alcohol consumption in alcohol-dependent individuals.

marijuana and alcoholism

Consider Quitting Alcohol with Medical Cannabis

At Compassionate Clinics of America, we’ve witnessed firsthand the positive impact of medical cannabis on individuals grappling with Alcohol Use Disorder. We understand that the road to recovery is unique for each person and believe in the power of choice.

Choosing medical cannabis as a tool to address AUD can lead to a journey marked by healing, hope, and a healthier, more fulfilling life, and we are happy to see that more research is being conducted to examine the effectiveness of this approach to living a life free of alcohol addiction.

We see a future where medical cannabis plays an even more prominent role in helping individuals break free from the cycle of alcohol dependence, offering a brighter and more promising tomorrow.

If you are living with Alcohol Use Disorder, consider reaching out to Compassionate Clinics of America to obtain your medical cannabis card. You will meet with one of our knowledgeable, understanding, and compassionate physicians who will discuss your history with AUD and help you assess whether medical cannabis is right for you on your road to recovery.

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