Due to the controversial nature of marijuana as an addictive substance itself, the use of marijuana as a treatment for alcoholism is still heavily disputed. Given this, many studies have found that medical marijuana is not as addictive or harmful as other drugs like alcohol or opiates. In fact, there are several references to the use of cannabis as a substitute for opiates and delirium tremens which are associated with the withdrawal of alcohol addiction.
Delirium tremens, or “the DT’s,” is caused by the heavy, repeated and prolonged abuse of alcohol followed by an abrupt halt it’s use. Symptoms associated with the DT’s include nightmares, agitation, confusion, disorientation, visual and auditory hallucinations, fever, hypertension and diaphoresis.
Alcohol withdrawal resulting in delirium tremens is most often treated with benzodiazepines such as diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), or oxazepam (Serax). These drugs tend to have more side effects, less efficacy in regard to patient perception, and many cases can lead to a new form of dependancy.
In the United States, cannabis was widely prescribed at the turn of the 19th century in the treatment of the DT’s until 1941 when the use and possession of cannabis became illegal under federal law. Fast forward over fifty years and the use of cannabis as an alternative to heavier medicines in the treatment of delirium tremens is slowly being considered by herbalists and doctors alike.
In a an article by The Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics, the use of cannabis to treat alcohol dependency was defined as, “A Harm Reduction Approach” as the article’s subtitle explains. Although total abstinence is the true goal for those afflicted by addiction, this approach considers overall improvement of functionality and reduction of alcohol intake measures of success when using cannabis as a treatment of alcoholism.
As it relates to addiction, the use of cannabis as a “replacement” for alcohol is still viewed by some to have efficacy in improving the lives of addicts. Overall, cannabis users tend to have more energy, less long term health issues, better sleep, appetite, focus, social relationships and overall functionality.
The research supporting the treatment of alcoholism with cannabis is in it’s early stages, but shows signs of improvement. As always, you should do your own research and consult your doctor to decide if medical marijuana is right for you.