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The Pros and Cons of Substituting Marijuana for Alcohol

Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Diverse Images / UIG / Getty Images

Some people choose to substitute marijuana for alcohol if they are trying to stop drinking—a controversial practice referred to as marijuana maintenance.  

Those who support the practice argue that marijuana is far less hazardous to a person’s health than alcohol (the same argument is often used when comparing marijuana to cigarettes). Those who are opposed to the practice argue that the goals of sobriety are never truly achieved if a person replaces one mind-altering drug with another.

Here are the pros and cons of replacing alcohol with marijuana, as well as resources you can turn to if you are trying to quit drinking or using substances.

Potential Pros of Marijuana Management

Supporters of marijuana management programs are often quick to point out that the evidence on the effectiveness of traditional recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is largely split.

The findings from a 2006 Cochrane review of studies demonstrated no significant difference in the results achieved by people in AA compared to other treatment models.   Furthermore, even the studies that attributed benefits to the AA methodology concluded that successful sobriety was more associated with the frequency of meeting attendance than the 12-step model itself.

Alternative to Abstinence-Only

For those who are unable or unwilling to regularly attend AA meetings, the rate of failure was high. Supporters argue that it is these individuals who might benefit from using marijuana management. The model recognizes that for some people, abstinence-based programs are unrealistic and unachievable.

Those who are in favor of the practice argue that many of the ill-effects of alcohol detoxification might be softened if a person is able to taper off alcohol gradually while using marijuana.

Harm Reduction

Supporters of marijuana management programs often argue that the drug has been demonized. Those in favor 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 possibly has much less of an impact on one’s long-term health.  

Health Benefits

Additionally, proponents argue that marijuana might have some inherent benefits compared to alcohol. While there is ongoing debate about whether moderate drinking has possible health benefits, the effects of alcohol misuse can be catastrophic, contributing to an increased risk for breast cancer, birth defects, and other health issues.  

Marijuana, on the other hand, is purported to have some health benefits that can make it useful in certain situations. For example, marijuana is frequently used to alleviate pain, stimulate appetite, and enhance moods.   For an individual who is recovering from alcohol use disorder, these properties could be beneficial.

Potential Cons of Marijuana Management

Those who are opposed to marijuana maintenance argue that it is founded on the premise that marijuana is not only safer than alcohol but that it is tacitly safe. They argue that because there is no evidence to support that premise, it is unfounded and even unconscionable to advocate for marijuana management.

Marijuana Dependence

The foundation of alcohol recovery is based on recognizing that alcohol is harmful and that a person has no control over their use of the substance.   Softening the blow inherently suggests that marijuana is something over which a person can have greater control. It also infers that the self-awareness a person is meant to achieve during recovery can wait until they are stronger and no longer need marijuana or alcohol.

One of the most significant potential pitfalls of using marijuana as a replacement therapy is the possibility of dependence. Research suggests that 30% of people who use marijuana develop cannabis use disorder to some degree.  

Negative Health Effects

Detractors say that 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 associated with marijuana use, including:

  • Marijuana can have a long-term impact on a person’s health. For example, it has been associated with bone density loss, reduction of exercise tolerance, impairment of memory and cognitive skills, and an increased risk of lung conditions.  
  • Marijuana might contribute to underlying mental health conditions that are common in people who misuse alcohol.  
  • Marijuana might have the potential to act as a gateway drug. In theory, it could lead people with addictive behaviors to use other dangerous drugs like cocaine and heroin.  

Reduced Treatment Effectiveness

Some evidence also suggests that marijuana use can actually interfere with efforts to stop using alcohol. One 2015 study found that concurrent marijuana use lowers a person’s odds of achieving abstinence from other drug or heavy alcohol use.  

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Learn about the pros and cons of substituting marijuana for alcohol and why some people in recovery use the controversial practice.

Marijuana Alternatives: Legal Substitutes To Smoking Weed

Evidence Based
One of the main uses for medical marijuana is for pain relief, and with so many factors that can cause us pain in the world, using medical marijuana is a welcome alternative to some. It’s safer than the most commonly used options, which are either highly addictive opioids or anti-inflammatory medication that can cause problems if used long term. Fortunately, there are effective and safe marijuana alternatives that allow you to experience the medical benefits of cannabis without smoking or getting “high”. Here are the best marijuana alternatives.

Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana has no risk of addiction or any overdose effects, it is safe and now a relativity legal way to remove your chronic pain. Cannabis as a natural remedy has been used throughout the world and its history. Starting out in 2700 BC, the pain-relieving nature of the plant was documented, and it’s been praised and studied ever since (1). We at Hypothesis Journal see the benefits of using strains of marijuana to relieve chronic pain.

Using Weed For Pain, Stress, etc

Using the entire cannabis plant and getting all of the natural chemicals and strains (including CBD and THC) can allow for the most benefit. Using either pure CBD or THC separately can give different results when relieving your pain. THC can contribute to the feeling of being high, but taking CBD along with it can help to lessen the effect.

In addition, the CBD strain helps the THC last longer, to further extend the effects of your pain relief. Who doesn’t want that?

Medical marijuana can also help ease stress, pain, anxiety and so much more, but only in the correct dosage. The proper dosage is important to receive the full benefit.

But at Hypothesis Journal, we can already see the question forming in your head. You know about all this and the benefits, but you still have to ask: “what if I don’t want to smoke weed?”

The best marijuana alternative: CBD

If you don’t want to run the risk of ingesting THC and getting high, then you can use CBD oil extracted from hemp. Hemp is a close cousin to marijuana but doesn’t produce the psychoactive THC inherent in marijuana. This means you won’t get high, won’t feel lazy and won’t have bloodshot red eyes like you do when smoking marijuana.

What are the alternatives to smoking medical marijuana?

CBD oil can stop both chronic pains as well as nerve pain when taken in the correct dosage (and it also comes with many other benefits), and there are various oils and lotions available that still give that natural remedy. While the oil on its own hasn’t had the same level of scientific research as medical marijuana to support claims that it defeats pain, many tests are showing the benefit, which is highly promising.

CBD is especially beneficial for people needing pain relief, which is very hard to treat because it is not treated by traditional painkillers. CBD oil attaches to the receptors in your brain and then activates its painkilling effects, and can be used as a nerve pain treatment.

If you aren’t a big fan of smoking or vaping and want to get some effective pain relief, then the Hypothesis Journal team can assure you that taking CBD oil is the way to go. It’s safe, effective and doesn’t come with any worrying negative side effects.

Our recommended CBD brand: cbdMD

If you like transparency and effective pain relief then cbdMD’s CBD oil is the product for you.

The company uses the effective CO2 extraction process to get the CBD oil out of the hemp plant without any by-products or contaminates, and their hemp is clean and well grown to produce a fine organic product. Each compound is full spectrum, with high-quality oil to give the complete entourage effect and further reduce your pain.

You don’t have to worry about any chemicals or fertilizers getting into the plant or the product, it’s all completely pure.

Whether you are dealing with headaches, muscle pain, inflammation or stress, taking cbdMD’s CBD oil may help you relieve the pain with no smoking required.

Finally, we know you are waiting for this and it’s one of the main reasons why the Hypothesis Journal team loves this product. Affordability.

It’s affordable because high quality doesn’t translate to high pricing. It’s full spectrum, organically grown, and totally transparent. Yet, you can still afford the oil and get all the benefits for a very competitive price. If you end up not liking it after all, then you have a 30-day money back guarantee, so there’s nothing holding you back from getting the results that you need.

Get 15% off your order. Use coupon code: HERBMIGHTY

Why CBD Oils?

For those who don’t want to smoke medical marijuana, CBD oil is one of several alternatives that can provide the same medicinal effects as smoking weed, as well as treat other health problems including anxiety and depression. The oil can also reduce the side effects of cancer treatments such as nausea and vomiting that come from chemotherapy (although, we have to be clear: CBD does not guarantee to cure, prevent or diagnose medical conditions).

Using CBD oil can also reduce an old teenage woe – acne. CBD oil stops your face from producing the excess oils that eventually cause acne, and it also works as an anti-inflammatory agent on your skin. It can even work to prevent seizures in both adults/young children and help treat addiction.

Takeaway

If you want to reap all the painkilling benefits and stress relief of marijuana without ever lifting a smoke to your lips, then using CBD oil is the right call. And if you want to get the most high-quality oils and have total transparency in what it is made out of, then the CBD oil offered by cbdMD will always have your back.

Not everyone likes the idea of smoking weed. However, there are now alternatives to smoking marijuana that are completely safe and allow you to experience the medical benefits of cannabis.