Marijuana Use Increases the Risk of Alcoholism


“Our results suggest that cannabis use appears to be associated with an increased vulnerability to developing an Alcohol Use Disorder, even among those without any history of this. Marijuana use also appears to increase the likelihood that an existing Alcohol Use Disorder will continue over time.”

~Dr. Renée Goodwin, PhD, Associate Professor of Epidemiology, Columbia University

After analyzing a survey involving almost 28,000 adult participants, researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and the City University of New York have determined that using marijuana may significantly increase a person’s likelihood of developing an Alcohol Use Disorder, i.e., alcoholism.

Adult enrollees in the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions with no personal history of AUD were assessed at two different points, three years apart, and these are the findings:

  • Among those using at both assessment points, 23% had AUD.
  • Among non-users, just 5% developed an AUD between assessments.
  • Off special relevance, participants with AUD who abstained from marijuana use were far more likely to be in successful recovery.

Why Does Marijuana Use Lead to a Drinking Problem?

It’s apples and vegetables. They’re very different drugs. It’s because of this difference that makes combining marijuana and alcohol so popular.”

~ Dr. Gary Wenk, Ohio State University

Alcohol and cannabis are the two most popular intoxicants in America. Among drinkers, weed is the most-popular drug of choice. Reciprocally,  Scientific American reports that people who use both booze AND pot are twice as likely to use them at the same time, rather than individually.

In fact there is even a term for combined usage—“cross fading”.

People typically cross fade for one of three main reasons:

  • To enhance the pleasurable effects of the first substance consumed
  • To increase the level of intoxication
  • Because they aren’t making rational decisions

As expected, the highest rates of concurrent usage are found among young adults. For example, college students who smoke pot tend to drink more than those who don’t use marijuana.

But while crossfading can lead to potentially-hazardous over-intoxication, an even greater danger is the elevated risk of alcohol dependence.  A 2007 study published in The Lancet ranked alcohol as the second-most addictive substance on the planet, behind only heroin.

These findings matter, because as Dr. Goodwin notes, “If future research confirms these findings, investigating whether preventing or delaying first use of marijuana might reduce the risk of developing AUDs among some segments of the population may be worthwhile.”

How to Get Help

It’s hard enough to recover from AUD, but that difficulty is compounded even further when other substances are thrown into the mix. Sooner than you might expect, what started as a recreational behavior becomes an out-of-control compulsion.

If you or someone you care about is mixing marijuana and alcohol and you’re worried about the possible consequences, Chapman House Treatment Centers in Orange County, California, can help. Since 1978, Chapman House has provided premium recovery services for people struggling with substance abuse and/or mental health issues.

If you need help, contact Chapman House today.


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