Marijuana use has become a highly contested topic within both the social and scientific realms. This debate centers on the rising use of the drug in recreational sectors and the push towards legalization. Many feel that this substance may be fairly innocuous but recent research suggests that its use may be implicated in ways the scientific community is just beginning to understand.
New findings by a coordinated effort between Columbia University Medical Center and the New York State Psychiatric Institute attribute an escalated risk of substance use, including alcohol, for those that use marijuana. This risk goes beyond the damage marijuana can cause physically, socially, and mentally.
Perimeters Of The Study
A study published in the JAMA Psychiatry journal documented the correlation between alcohol and marijuana use. The study utilized followed 34,653 US adults who were interviewed in two waves, three years apart in the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions.
The published results stated that the co-founders were the same in both waves and included “sociodemographic characteristics, family history of substance use disorder, disturbed family environment, childhood parental loss, low self-esteem, social deviance, education, recent trauma, past and present psychiatric disorders, and respondent’s history of divorce.”
What The Study Found
Within roughly the past decade marijuana use and abuse has nearly doubled and the study found that this boost in marijuana use may carry an increased risk of dependence on alcohol.
During the first wave, 1,279 individuals reported cannabis use and within this group, the second wave noted a 6.2-fold rise in risk for any substance abuse disorder. More specifically, there was a 2.7-fold risk for an alcohol use disorder. This is in comparison to those within the study that did not use cannabis.
Senior study author Dr. Mark Olfson elaborated, stating “patients who may be considering using cannabis should know that by using cannabis they are approximately doubling their risk of developing a drug use disorder over the next few years.”
For those that currently use cannabis, the risk of alcohol abuse climbs, while reducing or ceasing use may reduce an individual’s risk. These associations do not establish proof that marijuana use causes the inception of substance abuse disorders.
It has been a widely held belief that marijuana is not addictive and does not carry a risk of dependence or increase the risk of dependence on other substance. Unfortunately, studies have shown that marijuana dependence is possible and more probable the earlier an individual starts. And that this dependency fuels an increased risk in alcohol use.
According to the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, “one in ten people who have tried marijuana at least once in their lifetimes will become dependent” and that “if someone uses marijuana everyday, then they have a 50/50 chance of becoming dependent.”
Combine that dependency risk with the increased risk of alcohol dependency and you have the potential for a nasty cycle of abuse. Remember, both marijuana and alcohol are depressants, meaning they help enhance the effective of the other. This is a big factor in why they are so often combined.
How Does It Put Me At Risk?
In a letter posted on the NIDA website, Volkow stated that “(marijuana use) also affects brain systems that are still maturing through young adulthood, so regular use by teens may have a negative and long-lasting effect on their cognitive development, putting them at a competitive disadvantage and possibly interfering with their well-being in other ways.”
She goes on to say that “its use during adolescence may make other forms of drug abuse or addiction more likely.” For these reasons, it is especially important that marijuana use is closely monitored and addressed for teenagers and young adults.
In addition to impairing your short-term memory, marijuana can impair your judgement and distort your perception. These things may precipitate harmful behaviors such as substance and alcohol abuse. The authors of the study noted that “use of cannabis can also lead to behavioral disinhibition, which increases the likelihood of use of other substances and the risk of abuse or dependence on those substances.”
Though more research is needed to confirm this hypothesis, it is a cause for concern. Many of these symptoms may either precede, aggravate, or directly increase the risk for alcohol abuse.
Get Educated Now
If you have any questions about the situational or scientific risks associated with marijuana use and alcohol abuse, please contact us at AlcoholTreatment.net. And if you or someone your love needs help finding a rehabilitation program, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our caring and trained professionals.