Cannabis as a substitute for alcohol

A new study by a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, USA, is pointing to cannabis substitution in place of more harmful drugs as a way of combating substance misuse.

Amanda Reiman from the University carried out the study at Berkeley Patient's Group, a medical cannabis dispensary. The study is published on BioMed Central's open access Harm Reduction Journal and the press release details the results of Reiman's work.

The research found that 65% of people reported using cannabis as a substitute because it has less adverse side effects than alcohol, illicit or prescription drugs, 34% because it has less withdrawal potential and 57.4% because cannabis provides better symptom management.

According to the article, this research suggests that through various patterns, individuals are making personal decisions about alcohol and drug substitution. Forty percent of the people in the sample have used cannabis as a substitute for alcohol, 26% as a substitute for illicit drugs and 66% as a substitute for prescription drugs.

As Reiman said, "This brings up two important points. First, self-determination, the right of an individual to decide which treatment or substance is most effective and least harmful for them. Secondly, the recognition that substitution might be a viable alternative to abstinence for those who can't or won't completely stop using psychoactive substances".

The results of the study prompted Reiman to suggest that substituting cannabis as a 'radical alcohol treatment protocol' is an approach  that 'could be used to address heavy alcohol use in the British Isles - people might substitute cannabis, a potentially safer drug than alcohol with less negative side-effects, if it were socially acceptable and available'.

The conclusion of the study calls for more research on the possibilities for substitution in the field of addiction and Reiman believes that the public support for legalisation of recreational use as well for medicinal purposes will mean increased support to this end and 'the removal of current barriers to conducting such research, such as the Schedule I/Class B status of marijuana'.