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.

27 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.

      • I am an alcoholic.My father was an alcoholic.I have had countless OWI’s and can not drive because of it.The last time I drank was 2012.My girls were 4 and 7 at the time.I’ve never been in an accident, thank God. When I drank I would mostly be in a black out.I was that bad.I have been to many of the prisons in this state because of my behavior when drunk.Five years ago I applyed for a job and quit smoking pot for two months to do it.It didn’t bother me to do so.I was feeling some depression and had a hard time sleeping at night.I had a goal in mind and knew I could smoke once I had the job.All the time I was employed there(the plant closed)I smoked pot just about every day after work.The way I treated smoking it was similar to how to someone who has a drink after work.I felt no urge to start drinking again.I started drinking when I was nine. I worked there untill they closed the doors.I was one of their better workers.I was the highest level there,for production,and also a team leader. I never went to work high.There were a few people I smelt alcohol on though.It’s hard to miss after drinking for so many years.There is such a thing as getting to stoned to drive.The difference here though is I knew the difference.I could get as high as I wanted to and still knew better.Not when I drank.When I drank all my reasoning went out the window.It’s almost like alcohol took my senses away.Now I’m not just saying this stuff just because I believe weed should be legal.I’m saying this because it’s the truth.Now I’m laid off and once again not smoking weed.I’m also depressed and having a hard time sleeping.I heard in AA once that being an alcoholic made you special.I think that’s a load of crap.I think it’s a chemical imbalance of some kind.All I know is that a little bit of thc helps me get through the hard times.Everyone has their crutch.Let me have mine.Alcohol is legal but if I go back to drinking I might as well kiss my family and freedom goodbye.Enough ranting on.It’s 1 in the morning and I just can’t sleep,even if I did get up at 7 am. Thanks for listening or reading or whatever.Godbless.

        • Hi, I’m desperately seeking help for my brother, he’s an alcoholic our family has done everything to help him out but nothing sticks. How did you receive the help with hemp? Can you give me some tips please?

          • Hi Issac,
            Sorry to hear about your brother.
            So we can properly direct you, where do you live? Is it a legal state?
            If you prefer to email us, please do at
            Mary Ann
            United Patients Group

        • I just want to one up this. Post. I really get where you are coming from. And you are right in the imbalances. You are a little special. You’re genetically different. It’s unfortunately what causes those imbalances. You’re typically depressed, and you don’t naturally produce enough good-mood chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. People think it is willpower, but the source of the difference is emotions, and our emotions are neurochemicals. People like us tend to self medicate. Both marijuana and alcohol (the most common) stimulate dopamine production. We use it like a crutch. Because it helps adjust us. But there are consequences. However, we see the consequences of alcohol, and the consequences of marijuana. Alcohol destroys families and people. I haven’t seen anyone lose their family only from smoking weed and my smoke buddies are mostly successful people who just want to get high after work. For people like us, we don’t need to be high every hour. Just doping up in our R&R time helps, and we hurt no one. In fact, we have a lot of fun! So, why do we keep being told that’s not okay?

      • I am solely a weed smoker, and I understand this. In fact, it is why I chose to smoke weed instead of drinking.

        Some of us stoners had alcoholic fathers. :p

        And before the foreseeable reply comes about hypothetical weed addiction: No. It really is different. I can and have gone spans of time were for some reason I had to just stop cold turkey for a while. Other than really wanting to smoke weed, there are no side effects that I’ve experienced (except an awkward appetite and sleep habit for a few days). It isn’t the same as having a visceral reaction to suddenly not drinking ethanol. It’s nearly the difference of being well fed but really wanting to eat a delicious cake and the painful hunger of starvation. Want vs. Need.

  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?

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

      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.


      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


      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!

  6. I want to recommend someone this information and will seek the person to try for a 2 month time. The person is not alcohol addict but needs 4 pegs of drink every night before dinner and then goes to sleep. The person is about 60 years old and have other medication for blood pressure, sugar level and other common medications.
    Should during the observation period of the person without allowing to drink the common medications be stopped or be given as per prescription. Because the fear is whether mixing of common medications and marijuana in blood will do any harmful effect. Even though todays pills are specific spectrum and not that broad, but suggestion is required. Thank you.

    • Hello Subhendu, While we are not doctors here at UPG, we do pass on creadible information. It sounds like your friend has a multitude of conditions and a doctor in the Cannabis field should be your first call. Multiple medications need to be monitored carefully by an MD. If you would like to discuss finding a doctor in your area, feel free to contact us at
      Kind regards,
      The UPG Team

      • Doctors here don’t practice the properties of marijuana, it is some kind of policy to restrict the doctors doing study in this field publicly as seen in many other countries too. But many users know smoking weed initially increases the bp level but later help in remaining calm which in string helps reducing body pain and some for other disorders also. .
        I think medically using marijuana will help cutting down to take those pills. But it is only logically speaking, expertise opinion are required. If your state has any kind of open rule/legacy to talk to a doctor regarding this, then your group should take an initiative and pass the message to the rest .

        • Subhendu, Here in California we have MD’s who choose to work solely in the Medical Cannabis realm. We have a certification process to do this. There are quite a few educational systems set up for all doctors and nurses who are interested. One, which is taking place in Portland Oregon May 9th and 10th, is a purely medical based conference and is certified for CE (continued education credit). Many experts, MD’s and researchers speak of their findings at this conference. I have attached the agenda below so that you can see what is offered to medical professionals as well as anyone whom would be interested in learning the entire medical value of this plant.

  7. If you want to get high, just get high! You don’t have to come up with a disingenuous excuse
    to smoke weed. You people are like a bunch of teenagers!

  8. I can attest to this. By age 16 I was diagnosed as poly substance Dependant. I was a methamphetamine and heroin by age 18. I quite both cold turkey and immediately switched to marijuana at 19. Its really the only thing I’ve ever found to help me with drug dependency. My quality of life has increased exponentially. Medical marijuana can save lives :)

  9. Pingback: Cannabis Classroom: A Look Into Mental Health and Medical Marijuana | Central Florida Farmacy

  10. I’ve honestly thought about moving to where it’s legal just so I know that I won’t feel the urge to drink.I live in Iowa with my wife and two daughters.This would not be fair to them or me.Simply put it needs to be legal and regulated just like alcohol.It’s ok by the state if I drink my self into a stupor and smoke cigarettes untill my lungs turn black but I can’t smoke weed in my own home?Whats wrong with that picture?

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