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Marijuana Increases Risk for Alcohol Use Disorder

Marijuana Increases Risk for Alcohol Use Disorder

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  • A research team has found that excessive alcohol use that leads to alcohol use disorder is influenced by the use of marijuana.
  • There are other risk factors that include parental use of alcohol, separation of parents, influence of peers.
  • There are 4 stages in the development of alcohol disorder and the individual transitions through these stages as the consumption of alcohol increases.

An alcohol drinking problem which increases in severity over a period of time is called "alcohol use disorder" or AUD. The dependency on alcohol can lead to this disorder, though it takes a period of time, it occurs over several stages. When an individual is first initiated into drinking alcohol, it takes some time before the individual becomes increasingly dependent on alcohol.

Later as dependency on alcohol continues to increase, a "cluster" of problems that are associated with alcohol intake comprise AUD.


Marijuana Increases Risk for Alcohol Use Disorder

In the United States, a study estimated that in 2012, there were approximately 7.2 percent or 17 million adults above the age of 18 who had AUD. In this population, there were 11.2 million men with 5.7 million women. Teenagers who took up an early drinking habit have also been diagnosed with an AUD and in the same year it was estimated that 855,000 teenagers between the ages 12 and 17 had an AUD.

Criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder

There are certain guidelines that are mentioned in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) which need to be adhered to, in order to determine the condition. There are 11 criteria that are mentioned in the manual, out of which an individual should meet any two during a period of one year. There are three different levels of severity associated with AUD- mild, moderate and severe.

The different stages of AUD have not been studied thoroughly and the current study examines families at high risk for this condition, to identify the risk factors that are associated with the various stages of AUD.

Dr. Kathleem K. Bucholz and colleagues studied the 4 transitions that occurred during the development of AUD using information from teenagers as well as young adults. The 4 transitions were
  • Time to first drink
  • First drink to first problem
  • First drink to first diagnosis
  • First problem to first diagnosis
There were certain influencers that were identified in the study which included
  • Peer substance use
  • Parental AUD
  • Use of marijuana by offspring
  • Parental separation
  • Exposure to trauma
  • The differences in the psychopathologies of the individuals
The results of the study showed that the influencers affected the transition from one stage of AUD to another but the maximum influence was the psychopathologies of the individual and the use of marijuana, which increased the chance of transitioning to the next stage. Initiation of the habit was found to be associated with a peer as well as maternal influence. However, the extent of influence afforded by marijuana use lead the research team to believe that they were significant risk factors for alcohol use disorder.

Identifying Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol use disorder is diagnosed in an individual if the individual has had any two of the following situations within a year.
  • Was there a time during the year when you drank more than how much you intended to drink?
  • Did you feel like quitting more than once but could not stop?
  • Did you spend a considerable amount of time drinking and did you suffer from significant after effects?
  • Have you ever experienced a period of craving?
  • Did your drinking habit affect your ability to work or to take care of the family?
  • Did the habit cause trouble with family and friends and did you continue to drink?
  • Did you stay away from activities that you thought were once pleasurable but were now avoiding because you needed time to drink?
  • Did you ever get into dangerous situations like fighting when you were drinking?
  • Did you continue to drink even though it was aggravating your health condition or did you ever suffer from a memory blackout?
  • Do you have to drink more than normal amounts in order to get the same emotional high that you used to get earlier?
  • Did you get depressed or feel like you are missing something big when you tried to stay away from drinking?
Alcohol use disorder can affect the normal functioning of an individual and can lead to increased dependency. The most significant factor from this study is that the use of marijuana can increase the risk of AUD. In countries where this narcotic drug is commonly used, like in the U.S, the risk of developing AUD is very high. Therefore, the use of marijuana should be monitored, not only to safeguard against the addictive tendencies afforded by the narcotic drug, but also for its influence on drinking.

References :
  1. Alcohol Use Disorder - (https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol
Source: Medindia

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