Does Medical Marijuana Help to Recover from Alcoholism?

Image Credit: Pixabay

Traditional Alcoholism Recovery

Most people understand that recovery from alcoholism is an extremely difficult process. Those who are able to enter rehabilitation facilities often fail in their first few attempts and are left with a feeling of hopelessness over ever being able to overcome their disease. While the beginning of their love affair with alcohol may have been a fun and energizing time, in nightclubs or at parties, the later stages bring depression and serious physical withdrawals such as shaking, sweating, and nausea. They continue to drink and continue to chase the relief they find from alcohol consumption.

Reduced Harm Theories

Over the last few decades, there has been a constant search for new methods and techniques to help deal with the physical and mental stresses of alcohol abuse. Many abusers have learned that it is virtually impossible to abruptly stop drinking without some kind of outside assistance or professional detoxification program. Typically, those who suffer from alcoholism are told to try Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings and complete abstinence to break free from their addiction. Sobriety can only be found through 100% avoidance of alcohol with this methodology. However, other addiction theories surrounding the idea of “reduced harm” have been emerging as alternatives to the cold turkey, abstinence only way of thinking. Reduced harm theory involves replacing the bad habit with another habit that is much less harmful. For alcoholism, marijuana maintenance, or exchanging alcohol for marijuana is one option. Several studies have shown the efficacy for this type of treatment.

Dr. Amanda Ryman from the University of California in Berkeley was interviewed regarding cannabis substitution for the treatment of addiction. Dr. Ryman started studying cannabis use in the mid-2000s and discovered through talking with patients that people were using cannabis for substitutes for other, more harmful substances or prescription drugs. She has published a study in Harm Reduction Journal and found that about half of her sample were using cannabis to replace alcohol or other elicit substances. In the patient populations, she found that these people were making the choice to use cannabis as an alternative quite mindfully and were very thoughtful in making the switch.

One negative of switching to marijuana is illegal use of the drug in many areas. One option is to use hemp oil or cannabinoids (CBD) which is an extraction of one compound of cannabis. CBDs are the portion of the cannabis which provides medical properties without the psychoactive portion (THC). Many people Love Hemp oil products and do not need to worry about legal issues as a prescription is not required to obtain them.

Why Does It Work?

One theory why cannabis might work as a way to reduce alcoholism is through reduction of cravings. There have been some pre-clinical animal studies that show there are particular substances involved in a high level of craving and that cannabinoids may be helpful in reducing those cravings. Continuation of this type of study may shed light on the hypothesis that marijuana leads to stronger drug use, when it may in fact, do the opposite. If cannabis can help get through a craving to avoid using, or reducing the “addictive voice”, those suffering from addictions could make more mindful decisions. The other reason it might be so helpful is in helping with withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, nausea, difficulty sleeping, and pain. This could be especially helpful for someone going through alcohol withdrawal where there is a risk of seizures as seizures have specifically been shown to be reduced through CBD oil use.