In order to determine the association between marijuana and alcohol use disorders and how that relationship plays out over time the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) sponsored a study in 2010 called Monitoring the Future. This study compiled longitudinal data collected from adults in the U.S. to look at the link between their cannabis use and the risk of onset and persistent AUDs after three years.

Marijuana and Alcohol Use Disorders Statistics

The study showed that 28.5 million people in the U.S., 12 years of age or older, reported they had abused marijuana in 2009 at least once, the year before they were surveyed. Looking a little closer, 34.8% of 12th grade students, 27.5% of 10th graders and 13.7% of 8th graders said they had abused marijuana on one or more occasions in the previous year. Marijuana is known to be the most commonly used and abused illicit drug in the U.S. with alcohol being the most commonly used and abused legal substance.

Potential for Addiction

Long-term marijuana use and abuse can lead to an addiction, defined as the compulsive quest for drugs and abuse despite their well known harmful consequences having to do with the user’s ability to function in work, at school, within the family and during recreational activities. Research estimates that around 9% of marijuana users end up addicted and this percentage rises to about 17% for people who start using marijuana at a young age and to 25% to 50% among those who use marijuana on a daily basis.

Marijuana abusers who’ve been using long term report they suffer symptoms of withdrawal when they try to quit, which are: anxiety, craving the drug, decreased appetite, irritability and sleeplessness, which makes it difficult for them to remain clean. The symptoms start within 1 day of being abstinence and peak at 2 to 3 days, but start subsiding within 1 week or 2 after quitting.

Marijuana Use & Mental Health

Several research studies indicate a link between chronically using marijuana and higher rates of mental health issues like anxiety, depression and even schizophrenia. Despite the high rates of co-occurring marijuana and mental health disorders, at the current time there is no clear evidence that using marijuana causes mental health problems or even makes them worse or that marijuana use represents an attempt at self-medicating already existing symptoms.

Co-occurring Marijuana and Alcohol Use Disorders

Researchers conducting this study analyzed the data derived from 27,461 adults participating in the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol & Related Conditions. The participants being surveyed first tried marijuana when they had no history of lifetime alcohol use disorders. These people were assessed at two different points in time.

Consistent with other studies of marijuana and alcohol we have reported on, participants who’d used marijuana when they were first assessed and used again during the subsequent three years, which were 23%, were 5 times more apt to develop a problem with alcohol use as opposed to participants who hadn’t used marijuana, which was 5%. Adults who had a drinking problem who didn’t use marijuana were significantly more apt to be recovering from alcohol use disorder three years later.

Results of the study suggest that marijuana use seems to be linked with an increased propensity for developing an alcohol use disorder, even among people with no history of abusing alcohol. Marijuana use also seems to increase the chances than an existing alcohol use disorder will continue on over time. This all means that the co-occurring marijuana and alcohol use disorders are more apt to complicate recovery of one or the other and therefore should be treated simultaneously and together.

If you or a loved one are suffering from either marijuana and alcohol use disorders, or both, please call us today.

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