Study: Impact of Cannabis on Alcohol

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

As of 2015, about 22 million individuals in the United States reported using cannabis / marijuana in the last month (1). In 2011, almost 70 million Americans reported binge drinking in the last month ( binge drinking defined by the survey as 5 or more drinks on one occasion) (2).

Some individuals may consider marijuana use as they are reducing alcohol use. A recent study looked at how cannabis use might impact alcohol use.

What was the study? (3)

1,383 newly abstinent alcohol dependent individuals were  participating in a multi-site randomized control trial for treatment options of alcohol use disorder in the landmark COMBINE study (4-5).

Researchers compared alcohol use among those who used cannabis versus those who did not use cannabis.

What were the study results?

The authors (3) found that compared to no cannabis use, ANY cannabis use during treatment for alcohol use disorder was related to LESS alcohol abstinence at end of treatment.

They found that each additional day of cannabis use was associated with approximately 4–5 fewer days of abstinence from alcohol (3).

In this study, cannabis use impacted how often the participants drank, but not how many drinks they had (3).

Further study in this area is needed.

What does this mean?

This study suggests that it may not be a good idea to use cannabis if you are trying to abstain from alcohol.

What are some useful resources regarding cannabis?

Drug treatment group at OSU Office of Student Life Counseling and Consultation Service.

Treatment Facilities Here in Columbus


Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.


  1. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 16-4984, NSDUH Series H-51). 2016.
  2. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. Behavioral health trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 15-4927, NSDUH Series H-50); 2015.
  3. Subbaraman, M. S., Metrik, J., Patterson, D., and Swift, R. (2016) Cannabis use during treatment for alcohol use disorders predicts alcohol treatment outcomes. Addiction, doi: 10.1111/add.13693.
  4. Anton R. F., O’Malley S. S., Ciraulo D. A., Cisler R. A., Couper D., Donovan D. al. Combined pharmacotherapies and behavioral interventions for alcohol dependence: the COMBINE study: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA 2006; 295: 20032017.
  5. Combine Study Research Group. Testing combined pharmacotherapies and behavioral interventions in alcohol dependence: rationale and methods. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 2003; 27: 11071122.