Concurrent use of alcohol and cannabis leads to higher levels of drinking in the longer term


Newswise — Co-existing use of alcohol and cannabis can lead to negative outcomes such as the development of a substance-use disorder, poor academic and occupational performance, and psychiatric disorders when compared to use of either drug alone. New research that examines simultaneous alcohol/cannabis use has found higher levels of drinking after 18 months. These results and others will be shared at the 46th annual scientific meeting of the Research Society on Alcohol (RSA) in Bellevue, Washington.

“The prevalence of concurrent use of alcohol and cannabis is increasingly recognized as a risk factor for experiencing a number of mental health problems,” said Eric D. Claus, associate professor of biobehavioral health. “For this study, we used data] from a larger longitudinal study on heavy drinkers [to identify 88 individuals who reported using only alcohol at baseline and 24 who reported use of alcohol and cannabis on at least 50% of drinking days at baseline.” Participants also completed neuroimaging sessions, which included a task of stress and alcohol cue reactivity and a stop signal task.

“We found that the concurrent use group had higher levels of drinking over the past month at an 18-month follow-up visit, he said. “If greater drinking intensity continues and the individuals experience more consequences, it seems reasonable to hypothesize that drinking levels could continue to exceed National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism drinking guidelines five years out, but this needs to be tested further.”

Claus will expand on his findings at the RSA meeting on Wednesday, 28 June 2023.

“Concurrent use of alcohol and cannabis may be associated with an increased response in neural circuits associated with the processing of stress compared to use of alcohol alone,” said Claus. Furthermore, he added, this finding underscores the importance of targeting prevention efforts for individuals who report concurrent alcohol and cannabis use. 

“Given the rapidly changing landscape of cannabis legislation in the U.S.,” noted Clause, “it will be particularly important to continue research in this area to better understand the risk factors that predict who is likely to engage in concurrent use of alcohol and cannabis as well as to characterize the mechanisms that lead to varying trajectories of use among individuals reporting concurrent use.”




Claus will present these findings, “Concurrent alcohol and cannabis use is associated with increased consumption of alcohol over time,” during the RSA 2023 meeting in Bellevue, Washington on Wednesday, 28 June 2022. More information can be found at RSoA on Twitter @RSAposts.


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