Marijuana Use Can Increase the Risks for Alcohol Use Disorders

Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug in the United States. Marijuana has been approved for medical use in over half of US states, and 5 states have legalized it for recreational use in individuals over 21.

Legal or not, marijuana continues to be at the center of controversy. Of major concern is an increasing body of evidence that suggests marijuana use puts individuals at risk for other substance abuse disorders, namely alcohol abuse.

Alcohol Use Disorders

Alcohol Use Disorders (AUDs) develop over time and in specific stages. After the initiation of drinking, vulnerable individuals progress to problem drinking which then develops into a set of specific symptoms characteristic of AUD. This includes experiencing withdrawal symptoms, drinking more or longer than intended, wanting to cut back but not being able to, and drinking interfering with everyday activities and relationships.

A new study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research examined high-risk individuals and their families in an attempt to understand underlying influences in the stages of AUD development.

AUD and Marijuana Use: A Compelling Connection

Facts About Alcohol Use DisordersIn the study, research scrutinized four major transitions in the development of AUD by using data relating to adolescents and young adults in high-risk families. These transitions were age of first drink, first episode of problem drinking, first drink to the first diagnosis, and first problem to the first diagnosis. The team identified potential influencers: parental AUD, parental divorce or separation, substance abuse among peers, use of marijuana, trauma exposure, and the psychopathology across the transition to each stage.

The results of the study were interesting. They identified significant influencers that were consistent across transitions, but the use of marijuana seemed to increase the likelihood that adolescents would transition to the next stage of AUD. While peer and parental influences were strongly linked to the initiation of drinking, marijuana use made it more likely that the AUD progressed to a larger problem.

Permissive Attitudes Toward Marijuana and Further Research

These findings, combined with the increase in permissive attitudes surrounding marijuana, provide the foundation for the need to conduct further research. In order to properly protect teens and young adults, researchers must work to uncover the exact mechanisms that fuel AUD, marijuana use, and addiction. With further research, we can pinpoint when an adolescent is most vulnerable and effectively intervene. These findings should also inform public policy, creating more stringent regulations in states that allow recreational use of marijuana.

Contact The Treatment Center for Help with Addiction

The Treatment Center operates on a mission to restore hope to individuals and families that have been affected by addiction. We offer treatment for marijuana addiction, alcohol addiction, and more. We create individualized treatment plans and help those suffering from addiction step into a journey of lifelong recovery.

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