Canada: Medical Cannabis Enrollees Often Report Reductions in Alcohol Use

Victoria, Canada: Many of the patients enrolled in Canada’s medical cannabis program report reducing their alcohol intake, according to data published in The International Journal of Drug Policy.

A team of researchers with the Canadian Institute for Substance Abuse Research and the University of Victoria, School of Public Health and Social Policy surveyed nearly 1,000 federally authorized medical cannabis patients. Survey participants reported on their use of alcohol prior to and following their enrollment in the nation’s medical cannabis access program.

Investigators reported that 44 percent of respondents reported “decreases in alcohol frequency” following their participation in the cannabis access program. Of those, 85 percent reported decreasing the number of drinks they consumed per week, while 18 percent reported consuming no alcohol during the 30-day period prior to taking the survey.

Those respondents who were younger than 55 years of age and/or those who engaged in higher rates of alcohol consumption prior to their enrollment were most likely to report either reducing or ceasing their use of alcohol.

Authors concluded: “Our findings suggest that medical cannabis initiation may be associated with self-reported reductions and cessation of alcohol use among medical cannabis patients. 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 findings are consistent with those of several prior studies – such as those here, here, here, and here – reporting that many patients limit their use of alcohol following their enrollment in medical cannabis access programs. By contrast, other studies of non-patients report mixed results with respect to whether alcohol and cannabis are likely to act as either potential substitutes or complements.

Full text of the study, “Reductions in alcohol use following medical cannabis initiation: results from a large cross-sectional survey of medical cannabis patients in Canada,” appears in The International Journal of Drug Policy.