Marijuana Maintenance: Cannabis for Alcohol Dependence





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Published on Jun 16, 2010

You might be saying to yourself, why do we need to use medical marijuana for alcohol dependence--can't we just send everybody to a 12 step program and make them quit completely? The answer to this is a simple no. Although 12 step programs are great for the people that they work for, the simple fact is that 12 step programs fail to help the majority of people with alcohol problems. According to the National Institute On Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism, only one out of every fourteen people with an Alcohol Use Disorder will ever seek treatment for it. And according to Doctor Jeffrey Brandsma and others who have researched the effectiveness of treatment programs, over two thirds of people who enroll in 12 step treatment programs will drop out without finishing them. Twelve step programs are great for the people that they work for, but something else is needed for the majority of problem drinkers who are failed by them. Fortunately, medical marijuana can fill that need for many people suffering from alcohol use disorders.

Some people might view the use of medical marijuana to treat alcohol dependence as simply substituting one addiction for another. However, when we view things from a public health perspective, we find that there is a tremendous difference in the impact of alcohol dependence when compared to marijuana use. Severe alcohol withdrawal syndrome is accompanied by seizures, hallucinations, tremors, irregular heartbeat, and spikes in blood pressure. Untreated severe alcohol withdrawal syndrome leads to death in one out of every three cases.

By way of contrast there is NO physical withdrawal from cannabis. People who are subject to alcohol withdrawal syndrome can benefit greatly by substituting medical marijuana for alcohol. The same is true for people who become violent or otherwise lose control of their behavior when drinking--pot might make you mellow but it won't make you violent. People who have suffered liver damage from alcohol abuse can also benefit from medical marijuana because cannabis is not toxic to the liver.

Some people might think that if you give medical marijuana to alcoholics they will both drink and smoke pot and have a double addiction. However, ALL of the research contradicts this assumption. In every single case where medical marijuana has been used as a treatment for alcoholism patients have reported either major reduction in alcohol consumption or complete abstinence from alcohol.

Doctor Tod Mikuriya has been prescribing medical marijuana for a number of conditions including alcoholism for many years. In 2004 he published his research on the use of medical marijuana to treat alcohol dependence. Doctor Mikuriya prescribed cannabis to 92 patients suffering from Alcohol Use Disorders. Every single one of these 92 patients reported a major reductions in alcohol consumption and alcohol related problems. Nine patients reported that they managed to abstain from alcohol completely for a year or longer. All attributed this to the effects of medical marijuana.

Research on Medical Marijuana published in 2009 by Amanda Reiman of the School of Social Welfare of the University of California, Berkeley gave similar results. Patients who were prescribed medical marijuana showed great reductions in their consumption of alcohol or other drugs as well as great reductions in drug or alcohol related harms

It all goes to show that the substitution of cannabis for alcohol or other drugs is one of the most successful harm reduction strategies ever invented.

Medical marijuana is now legal in 14 states. If nothing else works for your alcohol problem, then give medical cannabis a shot. The life you save may be your own.

For more information on cannabis for alcohol dependence and other forms of alcohol harm reduction, please visit us at hamsnetwork.org. That's hamsnetwork.org.

Thank you.


Brandsma JM, Maultsby MC, & Welsh RJ. (1980). Outpatient treatment of alcoholism: A review and comparative study. Baltimore: University Park Press.

Burns M, Price J. Lekawa ME. (2008). "Delirium Tremens: eMedicine Critical Care". emedicine.medscape.com.

Mikuriya TH. (2004) Cannabis as a Substitute for Alcohol: A Harm-Reduction Approach. Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics. Vol. 4(1)

NIAAA Five Year Strategic Plan FY07-11

Reiman A. (2009). Cannabis as a Substitute for Alcohol and Other Drugs. Harm Reduction Journal. 6(35).
PubMed Abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19...
Free Full Text: http://www.harmreductionjournal.com/c...


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