Some people replace alcohol with marijuana when trying to stop drinking – a controversial practice known as marijuana conservation...
Those who support this practice argue that marijuana is far less dangerous to a person’s health than alcohol (the same argument is often used when comparing marijuana to cigarettes). Those opposed to the practice argue that the goals of sobriety are never really achieved when a person substitutes one mind altering drug for another.
Here are the pros and cons of replacing alcohol with marijuana, as well as resources to turn to when trying to quit drinking or use substances.
Potential Benefits of Marijuana Management
Proponents of marijuana management programs are often quick to point out that the evidence for the effectiveness of traditional recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is largely divided.
The results of a 2006 Cochrane review of studies showed no significant difference in the results people with AA had compared to other treatment models..In addition, even the studies that attributed benefits to the AA methodology concluded that successful sobriety was more related to meeting frequency than the 12-step model itself.
Alternative to abstinence only
For those who cannot or do not want to attend AA meetings regularly, the failure rate was high. Supporters argue that it is these people who could benefit from using marijuana management. The model recognizes that abstinence-based programs are unrealistic and out of reach for some people.
Those in favor of the practice argue that many of the negative effects of alcohol detox could be mitigated if a person is able to gradually break down alcohol while consuming marijuana.
Mitigation of harm
Proponents of marijuana management programs often argue that the drug has been demonized. Proponents of its use argue that, unlike alcohol, marijuana can be used without the risk of death from binging. They also point out that it has fewer drug interactions than alcohol, and it may have a lot less impact on long-term health...
In addition, proponents argue that marijuana may have some inherent benefits compared to alcohol. While it is currently debated whether moderate drinking might have health benefits, the effects of alcohol abuse can be catastrophic, adding to an increased risk of breast cancer, birth defects, and other health problems...
Marijuana, on the other hand, is said to have some health benefits that can make it useful in certain situations. For example, marijuana is widely used to relieve pain, stimulate appetite, and improve mood..For a person recovering from an alcohol use disorder, these traits could be beneficial.
Possible cons of marijuana management
Those who speak out against maintaining marijuana argue that not only is marijuana safer than alcohol, but it is also tacitly safe. They argue that advocating for marijuana management is unfounded and even incomprehensible as there is no evidence to support this premise.
The basis of alcohol recovery is based on the knowledge that alcohol is harmful and that a person has no control over the use of the substance..The softening of the punch naturally suggests marijuana is something that a person can have more control over. It also follows that the level of self-esteem a person is supposed to achieve during recovery can wait until they are stronger and no longer need marijuana or alcohol.
One of the major potential dangers of using marijuana as replacement therapy is the potential for addiction. Research suggests that 30% of people who use marijuana will develop a cannabis use disorder to some degree...
Negative health effects
Critics say the practice only aims to replace one habit with another, under the guise that marijuana is the less harmful alternative. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, this may not be the case..There are several concerns related to marijuana use, including:
- Marijuana can have long-term effects on a person’s health. For example, it has been linked to loss of bone density, decreased exercise tolerance, impaired memory and cognitive abilities, and an increased risk of lung disease...
- Marijuana can contribute to mental illness, which is common in people who abuse alcohol...
- Marijuana could have the potential to act as a gateway drug. In theory, this could lead to people with addictive behavior using other dangerous drugs like cocaine and heroin...
Reduced treatment effectiveness
Some evidence also suggests that marijuana use may actually interfere with efforts to quit alcohol. A 2015 study found that using marijuana at the same time made a person less likely to abstain from other drugs or heavy alcohol use...
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Authority’s National Helpline (SAMHSA) at 1-800-662-4357 Information about support and treatment facilities in your area.
Additional mental health resources can be found in our National Helpline Database.