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Marijuana users are five times more likely to develop an alcohol abuse disorder, according to a new study.

"When it rains, It pours"

The old idiom may be familiar to many drug users who often find themselves battling more than one addiction. While previous research has shown multiple substance abuse disorders often go hand in hand, a new study suggests simply using marijuana can lead to a much higher risk of developing an alcohol use disorder.

Finding the Link

Researchers at Columbia University analyzed data from 27,461 people who had used marijuana at the time of first testing, but had no history of alcohol related disorders. When reserachers checked back three years later, they found marijuana users were five times more likely to have developed an alcohol abuse disorder.

“I think it’s important for people to be aware that there are certain behaviors that come with specific risks.”
– Dr. Renee Goodwin

Researchers said the were surprised the link wasn’t between marijuana use disorder, but simply marijuana use itself.

“I think it’s important for people to be aware that there are certain behaviors that come with specific risks” says Dr. Renee Goodwin, one of the lead researchers. “It would be particularly useful for youth.” Because youth are at a higher risk of experimenting with both drugs and alcohol, researchers said educating them about the total scope of risk is not only important, but could help curb problematic behaviors.

“Preventing or delaying the onset of marijuana use could prevent or delay the onset of alcohol use disorder,” Dr. Goodwin says. “Statiscally it should.”

Use In Treatment

For those already struggling with marijuana or alcohol use disorders, researchers said the knowledge that the two behaviors are linked could help people see the bigger picture of their addiction, and could prove useful in their journey toward recovery.

“In some ways it may seem self evident, but it may not be,” Dr.Goodwin says. “If you’re trying to quit drinking, marijuana could increase your chance of being unsuccessful.”

Zero Relationship To Mood and Anxiety Disorders

As marijuana use has increased in the U.S., which some states even voting for legalization, some have wondered what the psychological cost will be to users. To investigate the question further, other researchers at Columbia University also conducted a recent study to determine if a link exists between increased marijuana use and psychiatric disorders.

Although the results, published in the journal JAMA Phychiatry, mimicked previous researchin showing a string relationship between marijuana use and other substance abuse disorders, the finding in regards to psychiatric disorders were much different.

The study showed no relationship between marijuana use and increased instances of mood and anxiety disorders, only substance abuse disorders. But despite the lack of a connection, researchers still cautioned against public policy that could lead to increased marijuana use.

“The lack of association between more frequent cannabis use with increased risk of most mood and anxiety disorders does not diminish the important public health significance of the association between cannabis use and increased prevalence and incidence of drug and alcohol use disorder”, the authors wrote.