Medical marijuana and alcoholism may not be two terms you’re used to hearing used together. However, medical scientists now believe that medical marijuana could be the future of alcohol addiction treatment. Attitudes towards medical cannabis, also known as marijuana, are undergoing a major shift at present. This isn’t just happening in the United States but across the world. The Canadian government have now legalized both recreational and medical cannabis. The United Kingdom is set to follow suit, as are other European nations.
This international movement towards cannabis is the result of a huge amount of scientific research. Researchers have investigated the many potential health benefits of the plant. They have also explored how these benefits can be harnessed to treat a wide spectrum of medical conditions. It is no secret that research now supports the long-held theories that cannabis can reduce pain and improve mood. However, few people predicted that it could be manipulated as a tool in alcohol abuse recovery. Regardless, recent studies show that this could, in fact, be true.
Alcohol addiction is not a new phenomenon. For as long as humans have been drinking alcohol, they have been suffering from the side effects of alcohol abuse. Because of this, society has been trying to limit access to alcohol for centuries.
Historians have traced the first organized attempt at prohibition back to the 18th century. In 1789 the first American Temperance Society was founded in Connecticut. The society aimed to reduce binge drinking and the adverse effects this had on individuals, families, and society as a whole. Since then, successive governments have attempted to realize this goal. President Lincoln imposed a hefty tax on alcohol during his term. Of course, the most famous attempt at this is the prohibition era.
From 1920 to 1933, the production, transportation, and sale of alcoholic drinks were outlawed entirely in the United States. Those who were in favor of the ban claimed that it served the public health and morality. They sought to eradicate binge drinking culture and alcohol abuse. Of course, this movement failed spectacularly and alcohol remains a cornerstone of American society today.
Alcohol addiction is the term given to a dependence on alcohol. Patients who suffer from this disease suffer from alcohol withdrawal when they stop drinking. Withdrawal symptoms can be very extreme and can include:
Alcoholism affects 1 in every 8 adults in America today. This staggeringly high number is representative of the extent of the problem facing American society. This is why there are now over 115,000 alcoholics anonymous groups in the country today.
Treatment programs such as this are indeed meeting a considerable need in society. Yet many organizations believe that this potentially life-threatening disease is on the rise. It seems that another option for alcohol treatment is needed.
Medical marijuana is one alternative treatment for alcohol addiction which is currently being explored. Many people are still very suspicious of medical marijuana. However, those who are in favor of its use in alcohol recovery cite the following points when making their argument.
Twelve-step recovery programs such as alcoholics anonymous can successfully help people to stop drinking in the long term. However, the statistics suggest that only a small proportion of those who participate in them will succeed. Research indicates that over two thirds of those who sign up to recovery programs drop out before completing the program. There is a huge difference between alcohol withdrawal symptoms and marijuana withdrawal symptoms. Severe alcohol withdrawal can lead to death in some cases. However, there are no recorded physical symptoms of marijuana withdrawal.
Another argument in favor of marijuana maintenance focuses on the effects of alcohol versus the effects of marijuana. Binge drinking can lead to sexual and physical violence, drunk driving and suicides. But, the psychoactive effects of marijuana cause extreme relaxation and sleepiness at most. While alcohol abuse and binge drinking cause liver failure, cannabis has been found to be non-toxic to the liver. Therefore, it poses no threat to liver health.
Many people are concerned that using marijuana as a substitute for alcohol is merely replacing one harmful addiction for another. Yet, recent studies show that this may not be the case. From a public health perspective, alcohol abuse is considered to be infinitely more detrimental than marijuana use.
Studies have shown that when given medical marijuana as a substitute for alcohol, participants have reported either a significant reduction in the amount of alcohol they consume or total abstinence from alcohol. In a 2004 study, 92 patients who were suffering from alcohol addiction were prescribed medical marijuana. Each one of the patients reported a significant reduction in alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems. Furthermore, over 10% reported zero alcohol use for twelve months or longer. These findings have been echoed in similar studies which have taken place since then.
As promising as the current research is, there is still much that we don’t know about medical marijuana. Researchers are currently investigating the varying effects of different strains of the drug. Studies are still exploring the long-term side effects of medical marijuana addiction treatment. And we’re still not entirely sure how medical marijuana interacts with other prescription drugs.
However, the current body of evidence does seem overwhelmingly encouraging and has led to a more significant number of alcoholism patients using marijuana than ever before. Only time will tell whether or not whether medical marijuana and alcoholism are a match.