Medical marijuana has been made legal in over half the country and patients are using the herb to combat various health conditions ranging from chronic pain to Alzheimer’s disease. But a new study shows that the almighty cannabis plant may also be beneficial in an area that does not receive much focus from the medical community: Preventing alcoholics from succumbing to liver damage.
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It was revealed earlier this week in Liver International journal that habitual alcohol abusers that also consumed cannabis on a regular basis were less likely to suffer from liver disease than people who only drank.
To come to this conclusion, researchers examined 320,000 adult alcoholics. Ten percent of these patients reported smoking weed. It was in this group that researchers found healthier livers.
The findings show there is a distinct possibility that marijuana may protect regular drinkers from liver damage.
“Our study revealed that among alcohol users, individuals who additionally use cannabis (dependent and non-dependent cannabis use) showed significantly lower odds of developing alcoholic steatosis (AS), steatohepatitis (AH), cirrhosis (AC) and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC),” the study reads, according to BGR. “Further, dependent users had significantly lower odds than non-dependent users for developing liver disease.”
Although the study gives us some insight into the potential of marijuana reducing liver damage brought on by years of heavy drinking, it does not give us any indication as to the science behind the process. Similar studies have shown that marijuana’s anti-inflammatory properties may have the power to keep the liver healthy while distressed at the hands of an alcoholic. But more research is needed before we truly understand this phenomenon.
It is also possible that people who use cannabis in conjunction with booze are simply drinking less than those who consume only alcohol. Separate studies have shown this concept to be within the realm of possibility. If this is the case, then it is conceivable that patients only experienced less damage to the liver because their alcohol consumption was lower than the others. Again, more research is necessary to provide definitive results.
But healthier livers could start to become more prevalent as more states move to legalize the leaf. There is evidence that consumers would prefer to throw a large chunk of their drunken budget into legal weed if given the option. Already, alcohol sales in jurisdictions with taxed and regulated marijuana markets are slightly lower than in areas of prohibition. But we will just have to wait and see what kind of overall health impact the coexistence of these two intoxicating substances has on America.