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Cannabis May Reduce Use of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs

Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer

A new Canadian study shows medical marijuana may be reducing the overall use of opioid medications, alcohol, tobacco, and other illicit substances—if not replacing those habits altogether. 

The 2017 study tapped more than 2,000 federally-registered Canadian cannabis patients who self-reported their habits via an email survey, asking more than 200 questions regarding their cannabis use, as well as the use of other substances such as medications, prescription drugs, alcohol, and tobacco

The study specifically looked at the 83 percent of respondents reporting pain and mental health conditions, many of whom were treating their issues using 1.5 grams of cannabis daily. The most commonly cited substitution was for prescription drugs, 35 percent of which were opioid medications, followed by alcohol, tobacco, and other illicit substances, as well as antidepressants. Of the 610 mentions of specific opioid medications, 59 percent of patients reported total cessation of use.

This adds to the growing body of academic research suggesting that increased access to cannabis, even well-regulated, can result in a reduction in the use of—and therefore subsequent harm from—other substances such as opioids, alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. 

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