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Patients Report Substituting Marijuana For Booze, Prescription Drugs


strawberry satori panacea portland medical marijuana greenwise gardens 2By Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

Patients who possess legal access to cannabis frequently substitute it in place of alcohol and prescription drugs, according to survey data published online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review.

Investigators from the University of Victoria in British Columbia assessed the influence of medical marijuana access on other drug-taking behaviors in a cohort of 473 Canadian adults licensed to engage in cannabis therapy.

“Substituting cannabis for one or more of alcohol, illicit drugs or prescription drugs was reported by 87 percent of respondents, with 80.3 percent reporting substitution for prescription drugs, 51.7 percent for alcohol, and 32.6 percent for illicit substances,” they reported.

Rates of substitution were highest among respondents between the ages of 18 and 40. Patients using cannabis for pain were most likely to use pot as a substitute for prescription drugs.

Authors concluded, “The finding that cannabis was substituted for alcohol and illicit substances suggests that the medical use of cannabis may play a harm reduction role in the context of use of these substances, and could have implications for substance use treatment approaches requiring abstinence from cannabis in the process of reducing the use of other substances.”

Evaluations of patients enrolled in state-specific medical marijuana programs, including those in Arizona, California, and Rhode Island, yield similar results — finding that patients are particularly likely substitute cannabis for opioids. According to a recently published National Bureau of Economic Research report, states that permit qualified patients to access medical marijuana via dispensaries possess lower rates of opioid addiction and overdose deaths as compared to states that do not.

An abstract of the study, “Substituting cannabis for prescription drugs, alcohol and other substances among medical cannabis patients: The impact of contextual factors,” appears online here.

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Johnny Green


  1. saynotohypocrisy on

    It is infuriating to read personal testimonies like yours and Kajira’s over and over and over again. Not to excuse the Democrats who are being pigs about this, like Cuomo (I don’t know whether to call Obama a pig or a turkey or a political coward and fool for refusing to reschedule cannabis), but the war on medicinal marijuana fits in perfectly with the Republican war on inconvenient science.

  2. saynotohypocrisy on

    Medical marijuana has such overwhelming public support, it could be time for a march in Washington.

    How can we make the politicians who refuse to get real on cannabis end their stonewalling of honest debate? I’l like to see MMJ reformers have a presence at the primary debates that are going on now, reminding people of what is at stake with medicinal marijuana, and how barbaric and dictatorial the contenders are being, especially the Republicans, flagrantly ignoring public opinion, science and most of all, compassion.

  3. Medical and recreational marijuana strains 816 384 7475 patients and smoker consume marijuana for depression and other issues like cancer ,brain tumor and others!

  4. That’s one of the saddest things of all. Call the Whitehouse comment line at (202) 456-1111 and email the President at whiteouse.gov by clicking on “contact us”

    Paul, if you read these comments, please organize a march on washington about this issue.

    Americans are suffering and dying — needlessly.

  5. We need action at the federal level. Medical Marijuana has a unmatched safety profile and has helped countless people, including Ray Charles and Whoppi Goldberg get off of hard drugs and has helped countless others stop using Alcohol. It may very well be the answer to America’s national Opiate epidemic, and when combined with the new anti-cocaine vaccine may help crack and cocaine addicts stop using cocaine as well. The vaccine stops crack and cocaine addicts form having any high from using those dugs.

  6. I wish I knew how to do this to get off my medication. But I’m on a contract with my pain management clinic and am forbidden from using cannabis…in California. Let that sink in. I’m drug tested every couple of months and since my medication is schedule 2, you can’t get refills and have to go in every month. This has made it impossible to even try. If I get caught with cannabis in my system, they will stop prescribing any medications.

  7. I know I did! It saved my LIFE! I was taking over 1000 mg of Morphine per day! Medical Cannabis has allowed me to drop not only my Opiate intake drastically. I’ve been able to cut out TOTALLY, at least 14 other DIFFERENT R/x’s I was taking.

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