Study Finds a Substantial Reduction in Alcohol and Tobacco Use among Young Adults after Marijuana Legalization

Study Finds a Substantial Reduction in Alcohol and Tobacco Use among Young Adults after Marijuana Legalization

A recent study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests that marijuana legalization may have a “substitution effect” among young adults in California. The research indicates that these young adults have significantly reduced their use of alcohol and cigarettes after the cannabis reform was enacted.

The study, published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, involved surveys of people aged 18-20 living in Los Angeles before and after the state implemented adult-use marijuana legalization. One group was interviewed between 2014 and 2015, prior to legalization, while the other group was surveyed between 2019 and 2020, after legalization.

Contrary to prohibitionist arguments, the data revealed no significant increase in marijuana use among young adults who were still not of age to access retail dispensaries. However, there were interesting changes in how cannabis was consumed following the policy change. The study found a shift towards the use of edibles post-legalization.

Furthermore, researchers noticed a significant reduction in the number of days that the post-legalization cohort reported using alcohol and cigarettes compared to the pre-legalization cohort. This suggests a possible protective effect offered by cannabis or ongoing changes in norms and attitudes towards these substances.

The researchers hypothesized that the substitution effect could result from increasing access to cannabis through a medical cannabis recommendation or diversion of cannabis from medical or adult-use dispensaries. They also noted that there were no significant differences in the use of illicit and prescription drugs between pre-legalization and post-legalization cohorts.

While one limitation of this study is that people under 21 cannot legally purchase alcohol or tobacco, similar findings regarding a substitution effect have been observed in other studies conducted across different jurisdictions. For instance, legalizing medical marijuana has been associated with a lower frequency of nonprescribed pharmaceutical opioid use.

In addition, previous studies have shown that marijuana is significantly associated with reduced opioid cravings for people using them without a prescription. Moreover, legal access to CBD products has led to significant reductions in opioid prescriptions. These findings suggest that expanding access to legal cannabis could provide a safer substitute for opioids.

Another study linked medical marijuana use to lower pain levels and reduced dependence on opioids and other prescription medications. Chronic pain patients who received medical marijuana for longer than a month also saw significant reductions in prescribed opioids.

The study concludes by suggesting the need for future research to monitor whether stable rates of cannabis use and declines in alcohol and cigarette use will be sustained as participants reach legal age to access these substances for adult use. It also calls for investigations into how these trends continue or alter as participants enter later emerging adulthood.

Overall, this study adds to the growing body of evidence that suggests marijuana legalization may have a substitution effect, with young adults reducing their use of alcohol and cigarettes. It challenges the arguments made by prohibitionists and provides insights into the potential benefits of cannabis reform. Further research is needed to fully understand the long-term effects of marijuana legalization on substance use patterns among different populations.

Dr. Paul Miller, MD

Dr. Miller is committed to finding new and innovative ways to help his patients manage their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life. He has a particular interest in the therapeutic potential of medical cannabis and is passionate about educating both his colleagues and patients on its safe and effective use. He is also committed to continuing his education and staying up-to-date on the latest advances in neurology and cannabis research.

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