Marijuana smokers five times more likely to develop alcohol problem: Study

Drug and alcohol dependence often go hand in hand. In other words, there are problem drinkers who also suffer from alcoholism, though the dynamics may vary. Previous studies have demonstrated how this legal substance interacts with illicit drugs, such as marijuana and cocaine, to cause problems in one’s life.

A recent study by the Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and the City University of New York suggests that people who are addicted to marijuana are five times more likely to experience an alcohol use disorder (AUD) compared with those who do not use the drug.

Study findings

As part of the study, the researchers analyzed the data of 27,461 adults enrolled in the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions and who took marijuana for the first time, even though they had no history of alcohol use disorders.

The researchers assessed the participants at two separate time points – first at the initial assessment stage and then after three years. Surprisingly, 23 percent of the population was found to be five times more likely to develop an alcohol use problem, compared with just 5 percent of those who had not used marijuana.

Highlighting the link between marijuana abuse and alcohol, Renee Goodwin, Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, said, “Our results suggest that cannabis use appears to be associated with an increased vulnerability to developing an alcohol use disorder, even among those without any history of this. Marijuana use also appears to increase the likelihood that an existing alcohol use disorder will continue over time.”

The study, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, also said that those who suffered from AUD but were not addicted to marijuana were more likely to seek rehab treatment within three years.

Goodwin said, “If future research confirms these findings, investigating whether preventing or delaying first use of marijuana might reduce the risk of developing alcohol use disorders among some segments of the population may be worthwhile.”

However, the researchers recommended further probe to understand the pathways behind the relationship and the degree to which various potentially vulnerable groups such as youth are at increased risk.

Looking for help

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States, with 17.6 million people, or one in every 12 adults, suffering from alcohol abuse or dependence, along with several million more engaged in risky, binge drinking patterns that could lead to alcohol problems.

Genetic predisposition appears to be a major predisposing factor, particularly in those looking to experience the rewarding, intensely pleasurable effects of alcohol.

Physical dependence on alcohol can take a heavy toll not only on a person’s health but also on his or her relationships and performance. Excessive alcohol use, both in the form of heavy drinking or binge drinking, can lead to numerous health problems, chronic diseases, neurological impairments and social problems.

Like other deadly diseases, drinking can also get out of control gradually. That’s why it’s important to reconsider the drinking habits. If you or your loved one is dependent on alcohol and can’t abstain from it, you must seek medical assistance. Alcohol addiction can be dangerous. The Florida Alcohol Addiction Helpline can help you achieve sobriety by finding the most effective addiction related treatment programs. Chat online with one of our experts or call at the 24/7 helpline number 866-220-5381 for assistance.