Treating Addiction to Alcohol With Weed – Is It Possible?

Despite the rise of psychological treatment services, there are still many people in the United States who suffer from stress, depression, and mental health issues. Unfortunately, the most common way they follow to cope with these disorders is by using weed and alcohol.

According to the 2022 report given by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, over 29 million Americans suffer from alcohol use disorder (AUD). The males and females aged 12 and older are struggling to limit their drinking despite the negative toll it takes on their health. With alcohol addiction rates rising year after year, many alcohol abusers are desperately seeking alternative treatments that can help them regain control.

Treating Addiction to Alcohol With Weed – Is It Possible?

An unconventional option that has recently captured public attention is smoking marijuana as a substitute for alcohol as a harm reduction strategy. Though controversial, some studies show that cannabis consumption allows people to wean off drinking without experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms.

This article focuses on the potential of medical marijuana as a treatment for AUD. We will examine scientific evidence on its effects, patient testimonies, and expert opinions on its therapeutic viability.

The Dangers of Alcohol Addiction

Medics define alcohol use disorder or alcohol addiction as an inability to stop or control drinking despite negative consequences. As dependence grows, dopamine levels drop and drinkers increase consumption trying to replenish them, leading to tolerance and withdrawal symptoms like nausea, anxiety, tremors, and seizures.

Alcohol addiction can severely affect both physical and mental health. People who suffer from AUD have higher risks of developing liver disease, heart problems, chronic depression, and even suicide intentions. Currently, some of the common treatments for alcoholism focus on behavioral modification therapy, teaching coping strategies to prevent relapse, and providing social support.

What Medications Help to Overcome AUD?

Disulfiram and naltrexone are FDA-approved medications that produce unpleasant symptoms if the individual drinks. Support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous also offer a structured, abstinence-based peer-support model as a vital recovery resource for many. However, for some alcoholics, these evidence-based treatments prove ineffective over the long term. This has prompted interest in alternative treatment options, including medical marijuana.

Does Marijuana Help Coping with Alcohol Addiction?

While medical marijuana legalization is a relatively new thing, cannabis has a long history of medicine use dating back thousands of years. However, the prohibition laws started in the 1930s, banning both medical and recreational cannabis use. Scientists were restricted from studying marijuana, stunting our understanding of its therapeutic potential.

Now as prohibition is reversed, researchers are re-exploring cannabis for treating everything from chronic pain to neurological conditions. When it comes to alcohol addiction, there is compelling evidence that cannabis could provide an alternative treatment option. Unlike alcohol, marijuana does not cause respiratory depression or severe organ damage.

Though cannabis impairs coordination and working memory, it does not damage emotional control, impulse inhibition, or perceptual reasoning like alcohol can. A growing body of research highlights that marijuana has significantly fewer negative health effects than alcohol and may provide medical benefits for some conditions. This suggests cannabis could offer alcohol-dependent patients a safer substitution option to wean themselves off drinking without experiencing dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

Does Weed Help Alcohol Withdrawals – The Scientific Research

Recent studies indicate that medical cannabis may offer an effective and safer treatment option for alcohol dependence. The 2024 study published by the National Library of Medicine proves that cannabis use significantly mitigated alcohol withdrawal symptoms for patients with AUD who were seeking treatment. The researchers theorize this is due to marijuana’s impact on dopamine receptors and stress circuits in the brain which are disrupted by alcohol withdrawal.

Additionally, another 2022 clinical review posted by PubMed highlighted that the cannabinoids THC and CBD help to relieve a range of withdrawal symptoms including cravings, anxiety, insomnia, and reduced appetite. If to compare alcohol vs weed, THC binds to CB1 receptors, reducing the hyperexcitability caused by alcohol abstinence, while CBD enhances GABA neurotransmitter pathways, inducing calm and normalizing dysregulated brain regions.

Numerous scientific theoretical reports and practical healthcare experience combined prove cannabis offers several physiological mechanisms that could significantly curb the severity of AUD withdrawal symptoms. Using medical marijuana in controlled doses can actually prevent alcohol relapse in a more effective way than most benzodiazepines do.

Using CBD for Alcohol Withdrawal – Legal and Ethical Considerations

Though medical marijuana is legal in 37 states, it remains illegal at the level of federal law. Also, it is not approved by the FDA, creating barriers to research and insurance coverage. However, a handful of states, including New York, Illinois, and New Jersey, already recommend cannabis for auxiliary AUD treatment strictly on the terms of medical marijuana conditions or as a part of state Medicaid programs.

Additionally, public health agencies and nonprofit organizations like the NIH and Drug Policy Alliance have called for expanding access to medical marijuana as a part of treatment programs for opioid and alcohol users given the numerous evidence of its benefits.

Still, many healthcare providers worry about such a treatment approach’s liability, lack of dosing guidelines, and medication interactions. Ethicists also caution that more data is required on the long-term effects and addiction potential before recommending cannabis for AUD treatment all over the United States.

Marijuana And Alcohol Replacements

While medical cannabis shows positive results for treating alcohol addiction, it’s not the only substance that can be used for replacement therapy. The already FDA-approved medications like Naltrexone and Acamprosate can effectively curb the cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Behavioral therapies also help people to resist drinking urges and build healthier habits.

Additionally, promoting non-alcoholic beverage alternatives helps satisfy the desire for drinks in social situations without intoxication. However, these traditional treatments often fall short for patients struggling with severe AUD.

Unlike other pharmaceutical replacements, marijuana positively engages the brain’s reward pathways disrupted by alcohol dependence, allowing patients to wean off drinking without agonizing withdrawal symptoms or life-threatening health impacts that frequently lead to relapse.

How to Wean Off Alcohol Addiction With Harm Reduction?

Harm reduction is a treatment philosophy focused on decreasing the side effects of substance use rather than demanding full abstinence right away. This method allows patients to improve their health without mental abuse. Patients diagnosed with severe alcohol use disorder and failed at traditional rehab programs may find the harm reduction approach helps to reduce drinking levels until they can eventually quit more safely.

Is Weed or Alcohol Worse?

If patients choose to replace alcohol with cannabis use, they can avoid the most dangerous physical consequences of AUD – liver damage, seizures, brain impairment, or even death risks related to the overdose or withdrawal. Additionally, the mellowing effects of marijuana can enable reducing alcohol consumption without agonizing cravings and relapse. The critics of this approach argue that such substitution simply trades one addiction for another.

Is weed better than alcohol? Many clinical studies prove the vast majority of cannabis users do not become easily addicted. And if they do develop the cannabis use disorder after all, the marijuana addiction disorder causes far less physical, social, and economic harm for both individuals and society compared to alcoholism. Allowing people diagnosed with AUD to transition to less risky substances aligns with the harm reduction’s pragmatic and more compassionate approach.

Fighting The Adjoining Mental Illnesses With Marijuana

Frequently those individuals who are battling alcoholism suffer from co-occurring mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and trauma. Unfortunately, alcohol abuse tends to exacerbate these issues. Simultaneously treating both substance abuse and mental illness leads to better patient outcomes. Surely, mixing alcohol and weed is a bad idea. The latest clinical trials indicate marijuana could play an essential role for patients with these co-occurring disorders.

Cannabinoids like CBD offer anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects. In such a way, people can significantly reduce drinking alcohol with fewer mental health consequences.

The treatment models that integrate the use of medical marijuana along with the therapy for mental health management, and harm reduction method show promising results. For example, the current treatment programs at LA Cheyenne Center and Oregon Recovers provide a coordinated personalized approach based on all these methods. Such a person-centered approach can drastically change the lifestyle and health perspectives of AUD patients with complex, co-occurring behavioral health challenges.


As alcohol addiction rates continue to climb, medics continue to look for new ways to cope with its horrible consequences. It was scientifically proven that the use of marijuana treatment could reduce the substantial harm of alcohol withdrawal symptoms. This evidence indicates cannabis is less toxic, safer in overdose, and alleviates distressing withdrawal effects for people with severe AUD.

While more research is still required, medical marijuana substitution combined with psychological therapy and social support within a harm reduction framework gives tremendous promise for improving the results of AUD treatment.

Of course, each person’s requirements are unique as well as the recovery paths which include the vital role of personalized pharmacological treatment when addressing addiction. However, for some users cannabis may offer a lifeline finally capable of delivering freedom from the alcohol’s deadly grip.

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