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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2010 Jan 15;106(2-3):111-8. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2009.07.027. Epub 2009 Sep 23.

Daily marijuana users with past alcohol problems increase alcohol consumption during marijuana abstinence.

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  • 1Yale University School of Medicine, The APT Foundation, One Long Wharf, New Haven, CT 06511, USA.


Drug abuse treatment programs typically recommend complete abstinence because of a fear that clients who stop use of one drug will substitute another. A within-subjects study investigated whether consumption of alcohol and other substances changes during marijuana abstinence. Twenty-eight daily marijuana users who were not trying to stop or reduce their marijuana consumption completed an 8-day baseline period in which they used marijuana and other drugs as usual, a 13-day marijuana abstinence period, and a 7-day return-to-baseline period. Participants provided self-report of substance use daily and submitted urine samples twice weekly to verify marijuana abstinence. A diagnosis of past alcohol abuse or dependence significantly moderated the alcohol increase from baseline to marijuana abstinence (p<0.01), such that individuals with this diagnosis significantly increased alcohol use (52% increase) but those without this history did not (3% increase). Increases in marijuana withdrawal discomfort scores and alcohol craving scores from baseline to marijuana abstinence significantly and positively correlated with increases in alcohol use. Increases in cigarettes, caffeine, and non-marijuana illicit drugs did not occur. This study provides empirical validation of drug substitution in a subgroup of daily marijuana users, but results need to be replicated in individuals who seek treatment for marijuana problems.

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