Using Marijuana to Treat Alcoholism
You’ve tried quitting cold turkey.
You’ve tried rehab, 12-step programs, and counseling.
But nothing works. You still keep picking up the bottle.
In an earlier post, we talked about how marijuana could help people who are addicted to opioid drugs.
So what about using marijuana to treat alcoholism?
Some people might argue that you’re just switching one drug for another. We disagree.
Marijuana is more than just “a drug.” As we’ve said time and time again, marijuana is a medicine.
That’s why we want to explore the idea of using marijuana to treat alcoholism. Based on studies and anecdotal evidence, we think putting down the bottle and picking up the pipe might help people on the road to recovery.
Wanting to Quit, but Still Can’t Quit
One of the first steps to beating alcoholism is knowing you have a problem.
But just because you know it’s a problem and you want to stop doesn’t make it easy to do. When you’re addicted to something, your body depends on that substance in order to function normally.
Even if that the substance is slowly killing you.
It’s not that an alcoholic doesn’t truly want to quit; it’s that they feel physically unable to.
And the withdrawal symptoms can be quite serious.
What are The Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal?
- Shaky hands
- Low-level anxiety
- Hallucinations (can usually be distinguished from reality)
What is Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome?
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is a potentially life-threatening condition. Symptoms include:
- Disorientation, confusion
- Severe anxiety
- Hallucinations (cannot be distinguished from reality)
- Heavy sweating
- High blood pressure
- Rapid and irregular heartbeat
- Severe tremors
- Low-grade fever
Marijuana May Help Reduce Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Buzzfeed writer Katie Herzog was a former alcoholic. Her drinking affected her relationships, her school life, and her ability to hold down a job.
Herzog went through the standard forms of treatment such as rehab, Alcoholics Anonymous, and talk therapy. But none of those things stopped her from relapsing.
Until she started using marijuana.
Once she switched out booze for cannabis, her life began to improve. Now she’s able to drink occasionally, but she prefers marijuana to alcohol. And that means she usually won’t have that first drink at all.
Here are more examples of people using marijuana to treat alcoholism:
- Amanda Reiman, manager of Marijuana Law and Policy at the Drug Policy Alliance, did a survey study of Berkeley cannabis patients and found that half of them were using marijuana to replace their alcohol use.
- In this Reddit thread, former alcoholics share stories of how marijuana helped them stop drinking.
- Research by economist D. Mark Anderson suggests that marijuana legalization could help reduce alcoholism. In one of his studies, he found that 19 states with legal marijuana saw an 8 to 11 percent drop in driving fatalities.
Wait a Minute! You’re Just Replacing One Bad Substance With Another, Right?
Both marijuana and alcohol alter your mind, but they affect the mind and body in different ways.
The idea that alcoholics should avoid ALL mind-altering substances is known as the abstinence model. Alcoholics Anonymous and other rehab programs use this model. It is, by far, the most well-known type of addiction treatment.
But here’s a fact that not very many people know: 12-step programs only have a 5 to 10 percent rate of success.
Of course, if you’re one of the few people who found success with these types of programs, that’s great! We’re not saying that total abstinence is bad. We’re just stating the facts: these programs don’t work for everyone
And if you’ve tried one of these programs, and it didn’t work, it doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you.
It just means you might need a different approach.
The Abstinence Model V.S. the Harm Reduction Model
There’s another approach to addiction treatment: It’s called harm reduction.
Harm reduction argues that, despite society’s best efforts, people are going to use both legal and illegal drugs. Rather than condemning or ignoring the problem, harm reduction tries instead to reduce the damage that drug users cause themselves and others.
Using cannabis to treat alcoholism falls under the harm reduction model. Because of marijuana’s unique medicinal properties, it has the potential to reduce the severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms, making it easier to quick drinking altogether.
Here’s the bottom line: alcohol can kill you. 88,000 Americans die each year because of excessive alcohol use.
Cannabis does not even come close to this level of dangerousness. Although marijuana has adverse side effects like most prescription drugs, it’s nowhere near as toxic as alcohol. There’s also no evidence that anyone has ever died from a marijuana overdose.
The gap between heavy binge drinking and total abstinence is huge. Cannabis offers alcoholics the option of reducing their drinking without fearing severe withdrawal symptoms.
Check out this video to learn more about harm reduction and how it can help people struggling with addiction.
Using Marijuana to Treat Alcoholism: Final Thoughts
- Again, we’re not saying that 12-step programs don’t work, or that you shouldn’t consider traditional forms of treatment. You should use every tool at your disposal to help you beat your addiction. All we’re saying is that cannabis may be another tool that can help.
- Cannabis is not a “magic bullet” solution. It may not work for everyone, so be sure to consult your doctor and/or therapist first. He or she needs to be able to observe your progress and warn you of any potential risks.
- Alcohol addiction doesn’t qualify you for medical marijuana use in Florida. However, many people turn to alcohol because of an underlying condition such as severe, chronic pain or PTSD. And these conditions do qualify you for medical cannabis.
If you suffer from these two conditions, or any other qualifying condition, schedule an appointment with our doctor online. If you use medical marijuana instead recreational pot, you’ll save 10 percent on every purchase. You’ll also get access to much stronger products!