Medical Marijuana as Treatment for Alcoholism & Addiction

Medical marijuana is frequently in the news, and hopefully the growing awareness of the benefits of medical marijuana will lead to more sensible regulations and deeper research into why cannabis is so helpful in treating so many different conditions. Among the conditions that medical marijuana can treatis addiction, whether to drugs or alcohol.

Marijuana as a recovery treatment is controversial, not least because there is conflicting research about whether medical marijuana is or is not addictive. However, many studies have found that medical marijuana is not addictive, or as harmful, as other drugs such as alcohol and opiates. Additionally, several studies have shown that marijuana can be an effective treatment for recovery from other substances.

Medical Marijuana as a Recovery Treatment

Since marijuana has earned an undeserved negative reputation in many quarters, it is often difficult to determine what is fact and what is politics when talking about medical marijuana. However, the following three studies pointed to definite possibilities of using cannabis to overcome dependence on more harmful drugs and alcoholism:

  • A 2009 study performed by the Laboratory for Physiopathology of Diseases of the Central Nervous System found that injections of THC, the primary active chemical in cannabis, helped eliminate dependence on opiates such as morphine and heroin in test animals.
  • A survey compiling self-reported addiction treatment and relapse rates among substance users, “Cannabis as a Substitute for Alcohol and Other Drugs” that was published in the Harm Reduction Journal, found that respondents used cannabis to curb their alcohol cravings, as an alternative to previous use of prescription drugs, and even as a substitute for more potent drugs such as cocaine. Tellingly, 57.4% of respondents chose to use cannabis because it provided better symptom management as well.
  • Another study published in the Harm Reduction Journal, “Long term cannabis users seeking medical cannabis in California,” found that medical cannabis users were much less likely to use more potent drugs, and even reported less tobacco use than non-cannabis users.

Why Use Marijuana as a Recovery Treatment?

It’s clear that more effective addiction recovery treatment is needed in our country. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, depending on the addiction, up to half of individuals who begin an addiction treatment program relapse within six months. As more states move to legalize medical marijuana, it is becoming easier for scientists, doctors, and researchers to point to the benefits of marijuana as a treatment for pain relief and symptom management for many diseases. Benefits now known to the scientific community include:

  • Medical marijuana patients are able to function more fully in daily activities and work, unlike with many prescription opiates for symptom relief.
  • Medical marijuana patients report fewer unpleasant side effects with marijuana than with many traditional and stronger drug treatments.
  • Medical marijuana patients achieve more effective symptom relief using marijuana than with other alternatives.

Since withdrawal from alcohol and serious drug use often prompts the same symptoms as other medical conditions that marijuana is used to treat (anxiety, depression, pain, nausea, and sleeplessness,) it is logical that responsible use of marijuana could also help with addiction recovery.

At the same time, medical marijuana as an addiction recovery treatment is a sensitive topic. Do your research to separate marijuana fact from marijuana fiction to decide whether this might be a treatment option for you, and remember that like any other healthcare decision, this should be discussed with your doctor or other trusted medical professional.

11 thoughts on “Medical Marijuana as Treatment for Alcoholism & Addiction

  1. Our doctors in Kansas are not allowed to discuss cannibis use as a medication without the fear of losing their practice and credentials. We are relagated to the black market and the uncertainty of safe access. There is no respect for the truth anymore.

  2. Like Julia ” Butterfly” Hill said in “Hempsters – Plant the seed” , “Why is everything that’s good for our bodies, communities, and the environment called an alternative?” “Hemp is not the alternative.Its the solution!”

    • Alcoholism is a disease. Not everyone who enjoy libation intended on needing it physiologically in order to feel “normal” (not “drunk;” just able to function without symptoms of illness when going periods of time without an alcoholic drink.) Not all of us who started to suffer seek help, which gives drinkers a bad name. Actually, most of us who do are afraid to admit to it because we’re afraid of the disappointment we’d feel and refuse to seek help because we unintentionally slipped into something we thought to be far more harmless. Of course marijuana users wouldn’t understand this, though, because weed doesn’t force your body to “need” it like alcohol does. As stated in the article, some strains alleviate the physiological symptoms of alcohol withdrawal in those wanted to quit. For these reasons, I think pot is a perfect alternative (or solution) to alcoholism.

  3. I wish our government would wake to the people’s needs. I’m a alcoholic in my 50′s I would rather smoke pot than drank alcohol, but sence it’s not legal what do you do go to a government pill mills. I have relapsed so many times. It time to legalize everywhere and save lives.

  4. Marijuana can be just as addictive as alcohol if someone is prone to addiction. I have known people who smoke before work, go home at lunchtime and smoke, and smoke all evening until they pass out. I once lived with someone whose supply ran out and drove 50 miles for half a joint.

    • I have enjoyed pot daily since 1968. Before there were dispensaries open in San Jose I routinely drove 50 miles to Oaksterdam to replenish my stash. You want to talk about addiction, I credit Cannabis for helping me quit my two-pack Marlboro addiction 30 years ago. When I was diagnosed with glaucoma in 2001, it was due to my abstaining for 5 days before my ophthalmology exam, which resulted in a 25% higher IOP reading than the previous exam.
      I am probably as addicted as you can get to cannabis. I find it therapeutic. I find its *prohibition* to be an intolerable abomination and I *repudiate* it.

      I am also addicted to oxygen and food. So what?

      • Good on you Rick! We are thrilled to hear you don’t smoke cigarettes anymore and if Cannabis helps you, we applaud you!
        Kindly,
        The UPG Team

    • An ever-growing body of scientific research clearly demonstrates that Marijuana is less addictive than a cup of tea.

      http://druglibrary.org/schaffer/library/basicfax5.htm

      Dr. Jack E. Henningfield of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and Dr. Neal L. Benowitz of the University of California at San Francisco ranked six psychoactive substances on five criteria.

      Withdrawal — The severity of withdrawal symptoms produced by stopping the use of the drug.

      Reinforcement — The drug’s tendency to induce users to take it again and again.

      Tolerance — The user’s need to have ever-increasing doses to get the same effect.

      Dependence — The difficulty in quitting, or staying off the drug, the number of users who eventually become dependent

      Intoxication — The degree of intoxication produced by the drug in typical use.

      The tables listed below show the rankings given for each of the drugs. Overall, their evaluations for the drugs are very consistent. It is notable that marijuana ranks below caffeine in most addictive criteria, while alcohol and tobacco are near the top of the scale in many areas.

      The rating scale is from 1 to 6 — 1 denotes the drug with the strongest addictive tendencies, while 6 denotes the drug with the least addictive tendencies.

      HENNINGFIELD RATINGS

      Withdrawal Reinforcement Tolerance Dependence Intoxication

      Nicotine 3 4 2 1 5

      Heroin 2 2 1 2 2

      Cocaine 4 1 4 3 3

      Alcohol 1 3 3 4 1

      Caffeine 5 6 5 5 6

      Marijuana 6 5 6 6 4

      BENOWITZ RATINGS

      Withdrawal Reinforcement Tolerance Dependence Intoxication

      Nicotine 3 4 4 1 6

      Heroin 2 2 2 2 2

      Cocaine 3 1 1 3 3

      Alcohol 1 3 4 4 1

      Caffeine 4 5 3 5 5

      Marijuana 5 6 5 6 4

      • Wonderful information Malcom! We need more people like you. Thank you for passing this information on to us.
        Kind regards,
        The UPG Team

  5. If you want a support group for alcoholics/addicts using marijuana as a form of treatment search “Marijuana Maintenance Recovery” on Facebook. We are a private group, with a few awesome members. We’d love to expand and learn from other peoples experiences!

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