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Canadian Study Finds Medical Marijuana Reduced Alcohol Use

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Article by Richard Cowan, former NORML National Director and author of Real Tested CBD Reviews: Top 5 CBD Pet Treats.



A recent research report published in Science Direct co-authored by my old friend Philippe Lucas, a longtime Canadian marijuana reform activist, found “Reductions in alcohol use following medical cannabis initiation: results from a large cross-sectional survey of medical cannabis patients in Canada.


“Following medical cannabis initiation, 44% (n=419) of participants reported decreases in alcohol use frequency over 30 days, and 34% (n=323) decreased the number of standard drinks they had per week.


  • Younger age (<55 years old) and higher rates of alcohol use prior to medical cannabis initiation were associated with greater odds of reducing alcohol.


  • Specific intention to use medical cannabis to reduce alcohol consumption resulted in greater odds of reducing and/or ceasing use altogether.


The study also noted “how cannabis can influence the use of other psychoactive substances, including prescription medications, alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs, but very little research has examined the factors associated with these changes in substance use patterns. This paper explores the self-reported use of cannabis as a substitute for alcohol among a Canadian medical cannabis patient population.”



Our findings suggest that medical cannabis initiation may be associated with self-reported reductions and cessation of alcohol use among medical cannabis patients. Since alcohol is the most prevalent recreational substance in North America, and its use results in significant rates of criminality, morbidity and mortality, these findings may result in improved health outcomes for medical cannabis patients, as well as overall improvements in public health and safety


It is a huge problem internationally. According to the US National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse alcohol affects about 1,519 college students ages 18 to 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes. The most recent NIAAA statistics estimate that about 696,000 students ages 18 to 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking, and about 97,000 students ages 18 to 24 report experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.


ALSO SEE: Mixing Alcohol & Cannabis (CBD/THC)


According to the Lancet, the prestigious UK medical journal, Alcohol is associated with 2.8 million deaths each year worldwide.


The study reported, “Alcohol is a leading risk factor for death and disease worldwide, and is associated with nearly one in 10 deaths in people aged 15-49 years old, according to a Global Burden of Disease study published in The Lancet that estimates levels of alcohol use and health effects in 195 countries between 1990 to 2016.


Globally, drinking alcohol was the seventh leading risk factor for premature death and disease in 2016, accounting for 2.2% of deaths in women and 6.8% of deaths in men. However, in people aged 15-49 years old, alcohol was the leading risk factor in 2016, with 3.8% of deaths in women and 12.2% of deaths in men attributable to alcohol.


The main causes of alcohol-related deaths in this age group were tuberculosis (1.4% of deaths), road injuries (1.2%), and self-harm (1.1%). For people aged 50 years and older, cancers were a leading cause of alcohol-related death, constituting 27.1% of deaths in women and 18.9% of deaths in men.”


SEE: We Know Too Much About Marijuana for It To Be Illegal


Consequently, any reduction in alcohol use could significantly reduce these problems, but there are very few programs that focus on using cannabis to reduce alcohol consumption.


A 2014 Oxford University study, Can Cannabis be Considered a Substitute Medication for Alcohol? recognized that “All criteria appear either satisfied or partially satisfied, though studies relying on medical cannabis patients may be limited by selection bias and/or retrospective designs. Individual-level factors, such as severity of alcohol problems, may also moderate substitution.”


However, “Most importantly, the recommendation to prescribe alcohol-dependent individuals cannabis to help reduce drinking is premature. Future studies should use longitudinal data to better understand the consequences of cannabis substitution.”


In other words, we need more research. I’ll drink to that.


ALSO SEE: Do The House Republicans Really Think Marijuana Reform Is “Radical”?