Excessive alcohol consumption impacts thousands of Ohioans daily. Could cannabis and medical marijuana offer hope for those in treatment?

According to a 2017 special report by 24/7 Wall St., an estimated 19.6% of adults in the Columbus, Ohio metro area drink excessively. Findings reported by America’s Health Ratings also reveal more than 18% of adult Ohioans consume alcohol by binge drinking.

Why Do So Many Ohioans drink alcohol excessively?

For many, alcohol provides a solution to dealing with challenging social issues and health problems. The truth is, alcohol is both easily accessible and, in many settings, socially acceptable. This makes it one of the most abused substances.

Interestingly, alcohol’s rewarding effects are made possibly by the activation of mesolimbic circuits. This same system also regulates responses to food, sex, and social interactions. Often, our bodies react to a combination of these things at one time.

Excessive alcohol consumption, or binge drinking, is defined by the CDC as “consuming 4 or more drinks on an occasion for a woman or 5 or more drinks on an occasion for a man.” When this occasion becomes a daily routine, individuals who binge drink often develop an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). The treatment of AUD is quite complicated.

Complications and relapsing with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

While there are several pharmaceutical medications that can be prescribed for AUD, most patients seek help from behavioral treatments and support groups to stay sober. Studies have shown that around 25% of people with AUD who want help will seek out treatment, while the other 75% will find sobriety or settle at a moderate drinking level on their own.

The ups and downs of AUD treatment and relapsing can be traumatic for both the patient and their loved ones.

Some AUD patients are successful in treatment, but many of them relapse once or multiple times throughout their life. Relapse is a natural part of battling AUD.

The intensity of withdrawal symptoms can be enough to reactivate dependency. Common withdrawal symptoms of excessive alcohol use include mood swings, depression, nausea, insomnia, irritability, and loss of appetite. Severe withdrawal symptoms will cause fever, seizures, violence, and hallucinations. 

How Could Cannabis Help Excessive Alcohol Users?

Cannabis has become profoundly known to help ease physical and emotional pain people battle daily. As a medicine, it’s been used to help treat symptoms excessive alcohol users wish to subdue. These include stress, anxiety, pain, and muscle tension. When used as an alternative to alcohol, drinkers will find relief from the common symptoms that stem from multiple medical diseases.

Medical Marijuana (MMJ) patients have found relief from shared symptoms of glaucoma, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer as well as symptoms of mental health conditions such as depression, OCD, and PTSD.

Patients with AUD, replace cannabis with alcohol with a system referred to as Marijuana Maintenance or the Harm Reduction approach. Psychiatrist and medical marijuana activist, Tod H. Mikuriya, M.D. studied the use of MMJ and its ability to reduce harmful effects caused by alcohol addiction.

Mikuriya recognized that not every patient would find sobriety with a zero-tolerance approach.

In some cases, he believed it would be more beneficial to reduce AUD’s withdrawal symptoms and consequences of relapse by using cannabis as an alternative to alcohol. While alcohol can fuel violence and agitation, cannabis provides ease and relaxation. It also simultaneously grants relief from chronic pain and emotional anguish.

One of Mikuriya’s patients, in particular, found that he was able to ease himself off alcohol dependency and reported four months of sobriety during a follow-up visit.

Treatment for AUD varies person to person

It’s important to know that not all AUD patients have had success with the Marijuana Maintenance method. It depends on the severity of one’s addiction or their personal reaction to cannabis. Treatment needs of people who abuse alcohol differ from person to person. While some may need to abstain from all substances, others may find that cannabis will give relief from painful symptoms.

With how demanding and challenging our lives can be, one should never feel shameful for wanting to relieve mental and physical pain through recreational or medicinal substances. However, if you feel that your relationship with alcohol adds more harm than good, you may want to consider cannabis as an alternative to alcohol.

If you’re concerned about you or your loved one is excessively using alcohol, or has experienced trouble controlling the amount you drink, speak with a doctor right away.

If the excessive alcohol use is due to PTSD, chronic or intractable pain, or one of these other qualifying conditions, you or your loved one may consider medical marijuana as an alternative treatment in Ohio. Need help finding a medical marijuana doctor in your area? Reach out to us at medicateOH@gmail.com for a confidential referral.

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