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Can Cannabis Be a Substitute for Alcohol?


Cannabis is less harmful than alcohol and is helping more and more people to stop drinking. This is supported not only by anecdotal reports, but also by interesting research findings. CBD, which has become increasingly popular in recent years, appears to have a favorable effect on the treatment of alcoholism.

Brad Pitt, Colin Farrell and Daniel Radcliffe are all part of the Hollywood elite. They are world famous actors. But that’s not the only thing they have in common. All three are known for suffer from alcoholism and have spoken publicly about their issues in the past.

Addiction is insidious and easy to hide, especially with legal drugs. It is therefore all the more important that well-known personalities do not hesitate to make their struggles public. They put a face to the problem and do important work to raise awareness.

Cannabis as an alternative to alcohol

Just in the United States, almost 100,000 people die every year because of their alcohol consumption. Quitting smoking is also associated with many physical and mental difficulties. Benzodiazepines can help as a short-term treatment, but they also come with their own set of issues, in particular a high potential for addiction. Could cannabis offer an alternative?

There are many anecdotal reports of people claiming that cannabis helps them drink less or even stop drinking. Writer Kate Herzog says“Marijuana got me out of an unbreakable cycle. I have a great life now, a life I’m proud of and generally enjoy.

Normally, the only way to recover from addiction is complete abstinence. Even a glass of champagne at your daughter’s wedding can make you freak out, start a fight, throw up on the table, or cry in public. But I’m not completely sober, not even from alcohol. These days, I drink occasionally. But saying no to the second drink will always be difficult for me, so I usually say no to the first drink.

Instead, I take a pipe and inhale deeply. I know some people think marijuana ruins lives, but I also know it may have saved one.

Stories like Kate’s are many. But what does science say? Can cannabis replace alcohol? Before attempting to answer this question, it is necessary to define the situations in which a substance is capable of replacing another.

Positive search results

Meenakshi Sabina Subbaraman is considered an expert in the field of addiction research. In 2014, she published an article in the journal Alcohol and alcoholism in which she takes a closer look at all the research findings related to cannabis and alcohol addiction. She lists seven criteria to assess the suitability of an alternative drug:

  1. It should reduce alcohol consumption and associated harms.
  2. It should not be harmful or at least be less harmful than alcohol.
  3. Abuse potential should be less than alcohol.
  4. It should be able to replace alcohol and should not be used with alcohol.
  5. It should be safer than alcohol in overdose.
  6. It should not increase the effect of alcohol, especially if either substance is overdosed.
  7. It should provide significant health and economic benefits.

The research results are promising; apart from the sixth and seventh criteria, all criteria are fulfilled or partially fulfilled by the use of cannabis.

Why do people replace alcohol with cannabis?

In 2009, the Harm Reduction Journal reported on a anonymous survey conducted by the Berkeley Patient’s Group (BPG), a medical cannabis dispensary in Berkeley, California.

Of the 350 patients surveyed, 40% said they had replaced their alcohol consumption with cannabis; 65.8% had replaced their prescribed medications with cannabis; and 57.4% said they took cannabis instead of medication because it treated their symptoms better. Finally, 26% of patients report using cannabis as a substitute for illicit drugs.

Although this is only a small study among patients who have acquired their knowledge through self-medication, the number is nevertheless significant. Fortunately, research is also providing more and more evidence to confirm these results.

For example, a 2013 study was conducted based on the collaboration of several research institutions such as the universities of Kentucky and Maryland. He cautiously suggests that cannabidiol (CBD) has a favorable effect on the treatment of alcoholism.

The effect can be summarized as follows: the human brain is made up of approximately 100 billion neurons, or nerve cells, which communicate with each other. This communication facilitates various tasks such as memory retention, muscle control or the transmission of information from light receptors in the eyes.

Excessive alcohol consumption leads to neurodegeneration, which means that there is a progressive loss of the structure or the function of the neurons, even their death. This results in behavioral and thought disorders that likely contribute to chronic alcoholism and the risk of relapse.

The study revealed that CBD can restore the structure of neurons. Through this mechanism, behavioral patterns of addiction could also be reduced.

Cannabis shows potential as an alternative medicine to alcohol

In conclusion, it can be said that cannabis helps some people to reduce their alcohol consumption. According to Meenakshi Sabina Subbaraman, definitive statements can only be made after further studies in this area. She says:

“While more research and improved study designs are needed to better identify the extent and impact of cannabis substitution on those affected by AUD (alcohol use disorder), the cannabis appears to be a potential substitute for alcohol.” Subbaraman acknowledges that “cannabis is both safer and potentially less addictive than benzodiazepines and other pharmaceuticals that have been evaluated as alcohol substitutes.”

  • Warning:

    This article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult your physician or other licensed healthcare professional. Do not delay in seeking medical advice or disregard medical advice because of anything you have read on this website.



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