Whereas problem drinking impedes smoking cessation, less is known whether cannabis use affects smoking cessation outcomes and whether smoking cessation treatment leads to changes in cannabis smoking.
In a randomized clinical trial that recruited 236 heavy drinkers seeking smoking cessation treatment, we examined whether current cannabis smokers (n=57) differed from the rest of the sample in tobacco smoking and alcohol use outcomes and whether the patterns of cannabis use changed during treatment. Below are the results of smoking cannabis for addiction.
Half of the cannabis users reported smoking cannabis at least weekly (an average of 42% of possible smoking days), the other half used infrequently, an average of 5% of possible days. There were no significant differences between the cannabis use groups and non-users on smoking outcomes and cannabis use did not predict smoking lapses.
All participants made substantial reductions in weekly alcohol consumption during the trial, with weekly cannabis users reducing their drinking by 47% and at a faster rate than non-cannabis users after the 8-week follow-up. Weekly cannabis smokers also steadily decreased their cannabis use over the course of the study (at 8-, 16-, and 26-week follow-ups) by more than 24%.
These data suggest that frequent cannabis smokers may benefit from smoking cessation interventions, even when cannabis use is not explicitly discussed. These individuals do not show any more difficulty than other cigarette smokers in making efforts to reduce tobacco smoking and in fact, make meaningful changes in cannabis use and heavy drinking. Future clinical trials should examine whether smoking cessation treatment that addresses both cannabis and tobacco smoking leads to substantial reductions in cannabis use.
It’s important to note that cannabis as a form of medication still needs to be tested thoroughly as there are still many unanswered questions on its benefits and side effects.