Marijuana Maintenance for Quitting Drinking

Cannabis as a Substitute for Alcohol



Studies show that medical marijuana is a highly effective treatment for alcoholism. This article summarizes the current research on this topic


The following article is an excerpt from my book How to Change Your Drinking: a Harm Reduction Guide to Alcohol .

A growing body of evidence suggests that Medical Marijuana is the single most effective cure for severe and otherwise intractable cases of Alcohol Dependence. Many late-stage heavy drinkers undergo major, life-threatening withdrawal symptoms such as seizures and withdrawal delirium after drinking even relatively small amounts of alcohol because they have undergone kindling and reverse tolerance. Others who suffer from severe Alcohol Dependence feel compelled to continue drink the morning after and may go on benders which can last anywhere from days to weeks to months. These people also often go through life-threatening withdrawals when they stop drinking, not to mention the health ravages and accidents and loss of employment or marriages which can occur during these benders.

For people with late-stage Alcohol Dependence, quitting alcohol completely is often the only viable solution; however, statistics show that abstinence-only programs such as AA or twelve step treatment programs fail to help the majority of these late stage chronic drinkers. The good news is that there has been an extremely high success rate when these late stage chronic drinkers are treated with medical marijuana.

When late-stage heavy drinkers are allowed to get high by smoking marijuana they no longer have a need to get high by drinking alcohol.

Using cannabis as a substitute for alcohol is referred to as Marijuana Maintenance. The late Dr. Tod Mikuriya, MD was one of the first pioneers in the use of Medical Marijuana to treat Alcohol Dependence. Mikuriya prescribed Medical Marijuana to ninety two patients who were suffering from severe Alcohol Dependence (Mikuriya, 2004). All ninety two patients reported major reduction in alcohol consumption and major reductions in alcohol related harm. All reported that using Medical Marijuana caused far fewer life problems than did using alcohol.

In 2009, Dr Amanda Reiman, PhD published the results of a survey of 350 users of Medical Marijuana. Forty percent of those surveyed reported that they used Medical Marijuana as a substitute for alcohol. The main reasons were that Medical Marijuana led to fewer negative outcomes and had less potential for withdrawal syndrome. Use of Medical Marijuana did not increase the likelihood that people would drink alcohol–on the contrary it helped to greatly reduce alcohol consumption among people who had previously had problems with Alcohol Abuse or Dependence.

As of the time of this writing, Medical Marijuana is available legally in fourteen states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

If you are suffering from severe Alcohol Dependence and nothing else seems to help, a Marijuana Maintenance program just may be a life saver for you.


Mikuriya TH. (2004) Cannabis as a Substitute for Alcohol: A Harm-Reduction Approach. Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics. Vol. 4(1)

The New York Times (2010, January 11). NJ Legislature Approves Medical Marijuana Bill

Reiman A. (2009). Cannabis as a Substitute for Alcohol and Other Drugs. Harm Reduction Journal. 6(35). PubMed Abstract: Free Full Text: