Medical Cannabis And Its Impact On Alcohol Use

medical cannabis and alcohol use

Canadian researchers have found medical cannabis seems to be having an impact on alcohol use among patients.

A large cross-sectional survey of patients in Canada indicates significant reductions in alcohol use following commencement of medical cannabis. The study drew on data from a survey of 2,102 patients enrolled in the country’s medical cannabis program and included 973 who reported using alcohol on at least 10 occasions over a 12 month period prior to starting use of cannabis.

The top line results:

  • 419 (44%) reported decreases in alcohol usage frequency over 30 days
  • 323 (34%) had decreased the number of standard drinks consumed per week
  • 76 (8%) reported no alcohol use at all in the 30 days prior to the survey taking place.

The researchers note being below 55 years of age and higher rates of alcohol consumption in the pre-cannabis period were both associated with greater odds of reducing alcohol use. Unsurprisingly, an intention to use medical cannabis specifically to reduce alcohol consumption was associated with significantly greater odds of both reducing alcohol use – or ceasing it altogether.

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The researchers concluded:

“Since alcohol is the most prevalent recreational substance in North America, and its use results in significant rates of criminality, morbidity and mortality, these findings may result in improved health outcomes for medical cannabis patients, as well as overall improvements in public health and safety.”

The study has been published in the International Journal of Drug Policy.

According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction, at least 20% of drinkers consume above Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines. There were around 77,000 hospitalisations in the country “entirely caused” by alcohol in 2015–2016, compared to 75,000 hospitalisations for heart attacks in the same year.

The Guidelines advise a limit of two drinks per occasion for women and three drinks per occasion for men; and a limit of 10 drinks a week for women and 15 drinks a week for men.

The Centre notes in 2015–2016, individuals 15 years of age and over drank an average of 8.2 litres of pure alcohol per year.