First a disclaimer. I have never bought the story that alcohol is absolutely bad for you. That puritanical mindset, which is very similar to the anti-pot rhetoric that has been going around for decades, simply does more harm than good.
Used correctly, alcohol is not just a ton of fun (there is a reason Jesus’s first miracle was turning water into wine), but it’s actually good for your health despite the endless crusade against it. In fact, studies show that moderate drinking is associated with a wide variety of health benefits including lower rates of anxiety and depression and even a lower overall mortality rate than tee-totaling.
That being said, I recently ran into a good friend who had been on a serious binge, like for weeks, and was in such bad shape he couldn’t find his way out. The problem is that when you have been drinking for too many consecutive days, and dude was going for a world record, you can’t stop without suffering from some serious withdrawal symptoms like insomnia, anxiety and trembling – plus a brain that feels like it’s been pulverized with sledgehammers.
In fact, alcohol withdrawal can be so severe that you can even go into seizures if you stop abruptly, making it quite dangerous to those who are unprepared.
But since I had just written an article about how cannabis can be used to successfully reverse America’s opioid addiction, which included a study that shows that mama marijuana does in fact reduce the withdrawal symptoms of heroin use, I told my buddy not to worry and that I was going to come over and prepare a special chai that very evening.
We have been hearing for a long time (far too long actually) that cannabis is a gateway drug and that marijuana use is correlated with alcohol use, especially among teenagers. While it is true that people who like to party like to party, quite obviously, that is just a superficial understanding of the mighty herb known as cannabis. Beyond its recreational use lies a treasure trove of medicinal properties that make it the choice treatment for problems with alcohol and other substances when things get out of hand.
The latest study for example, out of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, found that around half of all medical cannabis users are actually substituting marijuana for alcohol, meaning that drinking actually goes down among pot users a lot of the time. This shows that the “gateway” is really much more like a “two-way street” where while some people are partying with both alcohol and weed others (and quite a lot of others) are actually using marijuana instead of alcohol and the result is the exact opposite.
“It appears that cannabis may provide an alternative for potentially more harmful substances, and as such may have a place in harm-reduction strategy.” The study states.
And harm reduction is what I was looking for. My homie was looking bad when I arrived that night, sweating not just bullets but shot gun shells and sporting a pallid demeanor that would have stood out even in the zombie apocalypse. So I hit the kitchen.
The underlying problem in alcohol withdrawal is in the changes in brain chemistry that take place during a long bout of binge drinking. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), “alcohol intoxication can alter the delicate balance among different types of neurotransmitter chemicals and can lead to drowsiness, loss of coordination, and euphoria—hallmarks of alcohol intoxication.”
When you drink continuously for days, or even weeks in my boy’s case, your brain starts to adjust to the state of inebriation. Then, the state of sobriety is the one in which your brain chemicals are off balance. And thus the withdrawal symptoms.
The NIAAA states: “To restore a balanced state, the function of certain neurotransmitters begins to change so that the brain can perform more normally in the presence of alcohol. These long-term chemical changes are believed to be responsible for the harmful effects of alcohol, such as alcohol dependence.”
And herein lies the cannabis wizardry.
Recent studies have shown that the chemical changes in the brain after long term alcohol drinking are actually mediated by cannabinoid receptors. Cannabinoids are of course the powerful active compounds in the marijuana plant that are responsible for its diverse medicinal powers. This means that cannabis is a direct treatment for alcohol withdrawal.
In fact, a 2014 study in Belgium found that cannabinoids may offer “a new therapeutic direction for treatment of the negative affective state produced by alcohol withdrawal and abstinence, which is critical for the maintenance of alcohol addiction.”
In my amigo’s case, what was needed was some serious cannabis first aid. So I whipped up a quick but potent edible on the fly by adding spices like cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg to a simple weed infused hot pot of milk. Unlike the butters and oils used for baking, there is only one step in this process – the marijuana chai can be prepared in 15-20 minutes.
I choose to go with an edible because not only is it stronger than smoking and lasts much longer, but edibles also give you much more of a body high and are more sedative. I was trying to tranquilize a wild beast.
That night my friend slept like a baby and although he still had withdrawal symptoms in the morning they were noticeably less than he had been experiencing – nothing firing up a joint couldn’t quickly tone down to bearable.
In the weeks that followed he used daily smoking along with a couple more chai therapies – for the rough bumps – to ease his withdrawal symptoms smoothly and get back on his regular routine. When it comes to alcohol, it’s not that he is never going to drink again; he just needs to slow his roll. And rolling up a fattie may be the best way to do it.
Cannabis Chai First Aid Recipe:
1 Ounce Cloves
1 Ounce Whole or Powdered Cinnamon
½ Nutmeg Seed
2-3 Tablespoons of Honey
½ Gallon Whole Milk (Skim or Lowfat simply don’t have enough fat to extract the cannabinoids)
1-2 Grams Quality Bud
Instructions: Add all ingredients to milk in a pot. Cook on stovetop at low to medium heat, never letting the concoction boil over – a low rolling boil is perfect though. After about 15-20 minutes the chai should smell nice and strong, you can use a spoon to do a taste test. Strain into cups and drink.