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05-03 Marijuana use increases risk for substance use disorders

Marijuana use increases risk for substance use disorders

A new study breaks down data on close to 35,000 participants of the longitudinal National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions and substantiates tandem marijuana use links to greater danger of other substance use disorders.

The study

The study was conducted in two waves, 2001-2002 and 2004-2005, initially to examine associations of marijuana use with different mental health outcomes.

Surprisingly, however, what study authors found were significant links between marijuana use and substance use disorders: alcohol use, cigarette dependence, cannabis use disorder to name a few. No mood or anxiety disorders corresponded with marijuana use across participants the way substance use disorders did so consistently.

What is substance use and how does it differ from abuse or dependency?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “Alcohol and drug use occurs along a continuum, and not everyone who uses substances abuses or is dependent on them. Levels of use are generally identified as use, abuse, and dependence.”

SAMHSA further explains the difference between the three levels of partaking in substances, which are often incorrectly used interchangeably.

  • Use governs one’s senses and social interactions.
  • Abuse effects obligations and creates legal and interpersonal problems.
  • Dependence overwhelms the psyche, develops into tolerance and leaves a debilitating trail of withdrawal symptoms.

Essentially the study illustrates those who partake in cannabis variants likely don’t have a problem also using other substances. Alcohol use and drug use are additionally practiced by marijuana users to socialize and experience further high effects. Use perhaps doesn’t seem abusive and may not lead to dependence, but for an adolescent, mind altering substance use in the formative years can interrupt brain development – often with permanent damage.

Marijuana combined with other drugs

Australia’s National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre (NCPIC) explores why people use marijuana with other substances and the respective dangers of particular combinations. NCPIC explains adding drugs, alcohol or prescription medication to the mix is Russian roulette in that effects are unpredictable and can put one in the hospital, depending on the scenario.

For example, mixing alcohol with cannabis can tack on nausea, vomiting and psychosis – paranoia, sudden fear or anxiety – to the experience. This is known as “greening out.”

Medications like antidepressants, when combined with marijuana, usually exacerbate prescription side effects including nausea, rapid heartbeat, dizziness and anxiety.

The Sovereign Health Group in Rancho San Diego is focused on teens aged 12-17. We are a nationwide leader in cutting-edge treatment and holistic modalities for rehabilitation from any stage of drug or mental health issues, or a dual diagnosis of both. Sovereign uses modern and alternative therapies for eating disorders, substance abuse and dual diagnosis of mental health and addiction. Call our 24/7 helpline for enrollment details.

About the author

Sovereign Health Group staff writer Kristin Currin-Sheehan is a mindful spirit swimming in metaphysical pools with faith as her compass. Her cover: a 30s-something Cinderella breadwinner of an all-sport blended family. Her repertoire includes writing poetry, lifestyle articles and TV news; editing, radio production and on-camera reporting. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author at

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