Smoking Marijuana is the Gateway for Alcohol and Substance Abuse
Two studies into marijuana use have shown that those who smoke it increase their odds of developing alcohol and substance abuse disorders.
Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) Research
Researchers from Columbia University Medical Center in New York carried out this 3-year study on the effects of marijuana on alcohol use. They include: Renee Goodwin, Andrea H. Weinberger and Jonathan Platt. The results are published in the Drug and Alcohol Dependence journal.
Participants were obtained from the National Epidemiology Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, totaling more than 25,000 people. Researchers found that those who smoked marijuana had developed an alcohol abuse disorder. Tech Times reports that the participants had been “5.4 times more likely” to develop the disorder three years later due to smoking marijuana. Continued use of marijuana also led to the persistence of AUD.
The researchers therefore concluded that community-based treatment programs should integrate information on cannabis use in order to treat problematic alcohol use. Doing so will likely improve the outcome of the treatment.
Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Research
Dr. Mark Olfson, Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, led the second research into the relationship between marijuana use and substance abuse disorders. The results are published in the JAMA Psychiatry.
Over 30,000 participants were drawn from the National Epidemiology Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. According to Health Day News, about 1,300 of those interviewed confessed to using marijuana. Interviews conducted in the three-year period showed that two-thirds of those who smoked marijuana were found to have substance use disorders. Only 20-percent of those who hadn’t smoked marijuana in the previous year abused other substances.
According to Value Walk, Dr. Olson said, “This new finding raises the possibility that the recent rise in marijuana use may be contributing to the coincident rise in serious harms related to narcotics and other drugs of abuse. Those who used marijuana once or more a month had the highest rates of substance use disorders at follow-up (70.5 percent).”
Implications of the Studies
The results of these two studies may play a major role in the current push for marijuana legalization all over America. Critics have already come out to quash the validity of this research. For instance, Mitch Earleywine, a professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Albany, was quoted by Value Walk saying that he was unable to see marijuana as a gateway for abusing other substances.
Earlywine added, “There is very little to be concerned about with marijuana. There is more to be concerned about with alcohol or any of the other psychoactive drugs that the drug industry prescribes.”
Dr. Olson had already sought to clarify that association does not mean causation by saying that his study should not be taken as “proof” of marijuana leading to substance abuse disorders. Rather, he said people should realize that there was a “possibility” that marijuana led to the disorders.
He then addressed the push for marijuana legalization saying, “…the public and legislators should take into consideration the potential for marijuana use to increase the risk of developing alcohol abuse and other serious drug problems.”
It is too early to tell whether these two studies and other studies in states that have legalized marijuana will deter new states from removing the marijuana prohibitions.