Study: Patients Report Substituting Cannabis For Booze, Prescription Drugs

Patients who possess legal access to cannabis frequently substitute it in place of alcohol and prescription drugs, according to survey data published online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review.

Investigators from the University of Victoria in British Columbia assessed the influence of medical marijuana access on other drug-taking behaviors in a cohort of 473 Canadian adults licensed to engage in cannabis therapy.

“Substituting cannabis for one or more of alcohol, illicit drugs or prescription drugs was reported by 87 percent of respondents, with 80.3 percent reporting substitution for prescription drugs, 51.7 percent for alcohol, and 32.6 percent for illicit substances,” they reported.

Rates of substitution were highest among respondents between the ages of 18 and 40. Patients using cannabis for pain were most likely to use pot as a substitute for prescription drugs.

Authors concluded, “The finding that cannabis was substituted for alcohol and illicit substances suggests that the medical use of cannabis may play a harm reduction role in the context of use of these substances, and could have implications for substance use treatment approaches requiring abstinence from cannabis in the process of reducing the use of other substances.”

Evaluations of patients enrolled in state-specific medical marijuana programs, including those in Arizona, California, and Rhode Island, yield similar results — finding that patients are particularly likely substitute cannabis for opioids. According to a recently published National Bureau of Economic Research report, states that permit qualified patients to access medical marijuana via dispensaries possess lower rates of opioid addiction and overdose deaths as compared to states that do not.

An abstract of the study, “Substituting cannabis for prescription drugs, alcohol and other substances among medical cannabis patients: The impact of contextual factors,” appears online here.

20 thoughts

  1. I wish that I could substitute Marijuana for my drinking problem. Unfortunately I can’t partake because I can be drug tested at anytime and I would never jeopardize my job. I remember the days of chilling out in the evening and taking a few hits off the bowl and I was good. I never developed a problem with alcohol until I landed my dream job and could no longer smoke. Alcohol can really come between a family and relationships, I have experienced this first hand. I never had that problem when I only smoked,life was good and my mind, body and soul were healthy… sure miss those days, maybe someday I will not have to worry about being arrested or drug tested for pot, then I will be back to where I need to be.

  2. ….feel ya anonymous! I enjoy alcohol , come from alcoholic back round and have liver issues so, for thirty two years i consumed small amounts of cannabis instead of liquor. I have found great benefit with cannabis and had zero desire to drink. I felt well rounded, inspired, active , healthy ( mind AND body ) and happy. for the last six years and seven months now , my employer of thirty eight years has been hair testing and it has made me miserable. now I drink to dull the sharp edge of the day and struggle not to over do. I wish people could understand what they are doing by keeping cannabis from people….days with herb in then were some of the best days of my life!

  3. Amen anonymous life was good then. I had to stop when I started driving a truck. I pray for the day I can shut it down for the night and relax with a toke or two and not worry about what they do the next day.

  4. They hate cannabis because it is the entering wedge for a new art and science of breeding– and single-toke inhaling– magnificent intelligence-expanding herbs, alfalfa, basil, chamomile, damiana, dandelion, eucalyptus, fo-ti-tieng, ginseng leaf, hops flower, iris, jasmine, kinnickinnick, lobelia, marjoram, OREGANO etc. INSTEAD OF tobacco $igarettes, alcohol, $ugarpop, $altfries etc.

    Within 18 months they’ll have a breed of Basil which outperforms 86% of the pot we have today, who knows what next. Consumer crapaholism is doomed.

  5. I can’t stand how companies are able to drug test and no one thinks that is not a violation of someones personal rights. If I am a livery driver or someone where I am putting others at risk maybe I can see this but there should be no reason why a person who is sitting in a cubicle does his/her job and never has any issues should have to be tested. I really hope that as legalization continues that Drug testing ends.

  6. I wonder if they are just choosing to consume cannabis over their alcohol and prescription medication use. I know cannabis has natural receptors and the others do not. Perhaps that has something to do with how they feel when they wake up in the morning.

  7. Many years ago, a close friend of mine started a new relationship with a women who hated pot. Until that time, David was a quiet successful and responsible cannabis user. Just 2 years later, he had become a problem drinker, rolled his 4×4, lost his job because he lost his driving license, and months later, was thrown out of his own house for being a loser and an alcoholic by the same women who stopped him using cannabis. I’ve seen this happen several times BTW.

  8. @ anonymous
    You can enjoy your favorite past time again with your current employer. The Remedy Is Called Quick Fix PLUS 2.0. Google it, it fucking works. I’m a living breathing example of it. I have a let’s say a transportation related job, adhering to DOT regulations, and this product has literally saved my life. I was a ragging alcoholic, once this product was introduced to me by a co worker I was hesitant but after being tested myself and passing, it’s all I can do is pass the word, drop the liquor bottle, & pick up a bong, and enjoy life and a good paycheck.

    You will not be sorry promise me, I wish I knew sooer!!!!

  9. Hang in there. My last drink and hard drug 7 January 1976. Because of pressure from AA I also stopped using Cannabis. Things got worse before they got better. After retirement I became a ‘Returner’ to a much higher(pun intended) quality of life. I suggest you list your priorities and needs and put them in proper order then apply logic. It’s all transactionable, tit for tat. Check out Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and William James’ ‘Varieties of Religious Experience” (for his view on alcohol abuse as a false religious/spiritual experience)they may help your decision making process.
    If there is such a thing as an ‘addictive personality’ I have one and I never have any problem stopping Cannabis use. You aren’t alone.

  10. If ‘transactionable’ isn’t a word it should be because in this case it makes more sense than transactional.

  11. I can confirm as well. A friend who used to use cannabis flower was in the peak of health, fit and thin, mind sharp as a knife, ran at least a mile every day, did strength exercises every other day, etc. when she used to have access to it. When she no longer had a way to get it, she turned to alcohol. She almost lost her job due to calling in one too many times due to severe hangover, sometimes two or three days in a row, and has become a paranoid recluse, almost pack-a-day cigarette smoker, and is 50 lbs overweight and technically obese now. Let’s hope her state legalizes in 2016 so she can get her health, body, and mind back.

  12. I’m a disabled veteran I can’t work anymore but I’m in need of some pain medication .if I have weed in my system my medical help will stop they will give me Motrin and that is about it. I was really messed up while in the military I won’t loose my job just my medical help. I’ve been in physical therapy for 7 months but when I was smoking thy wouldn’t send me I had to have clean piss test for two years before I got any help. Choose medical help or smoke.

  13. we should abolish the dea and leagalize all drugs .whoever is a fool to use them in the long term will be in the grave. and in this way we can end this insanity and end the war on drugs. the cops will loose their grants for drug enforsement and everybody will be better off. gerry.

  14. Wish that I had the luxury of “substituting” cannabis for booze,
    (meanwhile, I’ve Gone2PotLESSness during the past several years, to own demise).

    Don’t presently face pee-testing,
    but have had to substitute booze in lieu of pot before to pass pre-employ tests,
    only to LATER lose job anyway due to alcohol’s much worse complications…
    (Thank you Nancy and Ronny Ray-Gun for
    ENDORSING, ENFORCING alcoholism via 1980s “Just Say No” / DFWP policies!!! )

    The BEST I can currently do is
    minimize MOST of the harms and side-effects of drinking by:

    1) Choosing clear forms of alcohol, (such as vodka / Everclear),
    to minimize the incidence of congener-induced hangovers.

    2) Using light-colored REAL fruit juices as primary “mixer”,
    such as apple, pear or pineapple…
    (avoid soda, especially “diet” versions containing artificial sweeteners).

    3) Adding B-complex vitamins, (B-50 or B-100 capsule), to drink-mix,
    to minimize alcohol-induced thiamine deficiency and reduce possibility of
    Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome, (wet brain).

    4) Drinking plenty of water and / or unmixed fruit juices before and after
    partaking of alcohol-based beverages.

    5) Limiting number of drinks per day to 3 and / or limiting heavy drinking,
    (5 or more drinks / over 2.5 fl. oz. of pure alcohol), to twice a week.
    [alcohol’s dis-inhibiting effects makes limit-setting VERY difficult].

    6) Hiding car keys, hiding phone, signing out of social media / email / internet, removing breakable items, hiding away from ALL other people,
    (especially if prone to being mean / rude / “wild” when drunk).

    7) Substituting cannabis for alcohol WHENEVER possible,
    which is easier said than done, especially in presently prohib states / locales,
    considering that $10 of booze lasts MUCH longer than a $40 pin-speck of medical grade pot…!!!

  15. The Official VA policy on Medical Marijuana

    Department of Veterans Affairs VHA DIRECTIVE 2011-004
    Veterans Health Administration
    Washington, DC 20420 January 31, 2011


    My summary — They won’t help you get it, but they won’t stop treating you. If you’re a medical marijuana (MMJ) patient in a MMJ state, the VA will NOT kick you out of any VA treatment programs.

  16. The positive effects of safe, legal access to cannabis for all adults is almost incalculable. When those votes passed in Colorado and Washington at the end of 2012 the world changed and a new age for humanity began.
    Sounds over the top ? just watch the changes over the next few decades and then look back at how things used to be. Maybe that prophecy of a new age at the end of the Mayan calendar (remember that from 2 years ago ?) was correct after all – it just came in a form very few people noticed – but it has begun !
    As these posts show many people still suffer in pain and anguish because of cannabis prohibition. Pray for these people if you wish but we must all do everything we can to get safe, legal access to cannabis for us all.

  17. @ phrtao:
    WHAT “positive” changes???
    (only IF I “move”?!?!?!?!?!?!
    To someplace NOT east of the MS-River???).

    Wish I could AFFORD to ABANDON the
    dumbass part of the U.S!!!!

    (get rid of your ENDOGENOUS cannabinoids!!!
    SUFFER like deprived med-patients do!!!!)

  18. @ Malcolm Kyle,
    Your friend should have
    DITCHED that ~~~,

    I PERSONALLY, will remain SINGLE
    UNTIL I find a LIKE-MINDED Cannabian GF!!!

    She, (pot-hater), should just GTFO!!!

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