More people using pot as substitute for pills and booze

KELOWNA — A new study by the University of British Columbia and University of Victoria suggest that more people are using marijuana as a substitute for prescription drugs and alcohol because it’s less addictive.

According to the authors of the study, it is the largest survey of medical cannabis patients to date and highlights its potential health benefits.

One of the authors is UBC Okanagan Associate Professor Zach Walsh, who says a majority of medical marijuana users are using pot as a substitute for pills.

“Our study shows that more than 80 per cent of medicinal cannabis users reported substituting cannabis for prescription drugs including opiate pain killers,” says Walsh.

“We need to compare the risks and benefits of using other substances, such as opiates or alcohol, to the risks and benefits of cannabis use to estimate the real public health consequences of cannabis use,” says Walsh. “Looking at cannabis use in isolation paints an incomplete picture.”

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The study also reveals that drinkers are putting down the bottle and picking up a joint instead.

More than half of the study’s 470 respondents reported substituting alcohol with cannabis, while a third of respondents prefer using cannabis instead of hard drugs like cocaine and crystal meth.

The authors say the study’s findings demystify the notion that marijuana is a gateway drug.

“While cannabis use can certainly be problematic for some individuals, these findings highlight the potential of cannabis to be an ‘exit drug’ to addiction rather than a gateway drug,” says Lucas, VP of Patient Research and Services for Tilray, and the lead author of the publication.

It concludes that it’s time to re-examine Canada’s laws and discuss the potential costs and benefits of creating legal access to cannabis outside of the medical system.

“If you want to make informed choices about pain control, I think use of cannabis is a right that every Canadian should have,” says Walsh. “It’s been proven to be much less harmful and addictive than opiates or substances like alcohol.”

Click here for the research paper.