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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU Study Finds Marijuana Use May Stymy Drug and Alcohol Abstinence

Patients who use marijuana have lower odds of achieving abstinence from other drugs and heavy alcohol use, indicating that marijuana use merits attention from addiction-treatment clinicians, a new study by researchers from the Boston University schools of public health and medicine (BUSPH and BUSM) has found.

The study, published online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, examined the association between marijuana use and abstinence from opioid or stimulant drugs or alcohol.

The authors noted that marijuana theoretically could have a helpful or harmful influence on achieving sobriety: Substituting a less harmful drug might help to achieve abstinence from other drugs, while on the other hand, continued use of an addictive drug such as marijuana could interfere with efforts to quit other drugs, or have no impact at all. Prior studies have lent some support for each of those possibilities.

The new study — which recruited more than 500 participants with opioid, cocaine, and alcohol use disorders, primarily from an inpatient detoxification unit – found that marijuana use was associated with a 27 percent reduction in the odds of abstinence from drug and heavy alcohol use.

“While the findings may not mean addressing marijuana use during addiction treatment will improve treatment outcomes, they do suggest that possibility,” said the research team, led by Dr. Richard Saitz, chair of community health sciences at BUSPH and professor of medicine at BUSM. “It seems reasonable to address marijuana use in substance-dependent people and in their treatment.”

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