Cannabis Use Associated with Less Alcohol Consumption Among Those Seeking Treatment

A newly published study supports the idea that cannabis may help some people in their goal of alcohol cessation.
Cannabis Use Associated with Less Alcohol Consumption Among Those Seeking Treatment

There has been much debate about whether cannabis use is still acceptable for those in treatment for substance abuse, or whether those folks would be triggered by the use of cannabis. While everyone is different, there is now a new study supporting the idea that cannabis use is connected to a decrease in alcohol consumption by alcoholics. 

The study, titled “Effects of cannabis use on alcohol consumption in a sample of treatment-engaged heavy drinkers in Colorado,” and published in the Addiction journal and conducted by the University of Colorado at Boulder and Colorado State University, reveals this connection, which many have suspected, but had yet to be solidified by science.

Cannabis is commonly used among people who drink alcohol, but evidence suggests a nuanced relationship between alcohol consumption and cannabis use,” the study explained. “We aimed to test the effects of within-day cannabis use on total drinks consumed and likelihood of binge drinking on a given day across all participants and compare these relationships between males and females and between individuals who reported infrequent and frequent cannabis use.”

“Several previous studies have examined whether cannabis is more likely to act as either a substitute or as a compliment for alcohol and, thus far, they have yielded mixed results,” said NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano. “This study’s findings are an important addition to this growing body of literature and offer strong evidence that cannabis can act as an intervention for certain persons seeking to reduce their alcohol consumption.”

Cannabis and Alcohol Use By Those in Treatment

The study, which was carried out by both the University of Colorado at Boulder and Colorado State University in collaboration, looked at 96 different people who used cannabis and were also enrolled in an alcohol treatment program. Researchers found that, on days when those being surveyed consumed cannabis, they consumed less alcohol. The trend was present whether the person was a light cannabis user or a heavy user. If they used cannabis at all, they tended to consume less alcohol. 

“Across the sample, individuals drank approximately 29 percent fewer drinks and were 2.06 times less likely to have a binge-drinking episode on days that cannabis was used compared with days cannabis was not used,” the study claimed. “These patterns were observed in males, females and the infrequent and frequent cannabis use groups.”

“Heavy drinkers engaged in treatment to reduce their alcohol consumption who also use cannabis appear to increase their cannabis use on days when they reduce their alcohol consumption,” they continued. 

This same research team reported similar results back in 2020, which they presented to the Research Society on Alcoholism for further review. Also, to further support this, data from statewide trends shows that alcohol sales tend to go down in areas where cannabis has become legal. Additionally, another study, which was carried out and published by Harvard researchers and released last month, at the tail end of last year, showed that when younger people are coerced into cannabis abstinence, they are more likely to drink alcohol.

While still more research needs to be carried out, and not everyone can use substances like cannabis responsibly when they are in recovery, this data could have a huge impact on how treatment is carried out, and what type of coping mechanisms are encouraged in addicts.

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