Cannabis and Alcoholism: Can Cannabis Help with Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder?

Fact-checked by Alexandra Arnett, MS

Medically reviewed by Dr. Brian Kessler, MD

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Alcoholism is a disease categorized under the condition of Alcohol Use Disorder or AUD. Alcohol use disorder is characterized by the inability to stop or control the use of alcohol despite the adverse social, health, or occupational consequences. It is estimated that 28.6 million individuals 18 and older suffered from alcohol use disorder in 2021.

Alcohol Use Disorder ranges from mild to severe, with alcoholism considered to be on the severe side. Alcohol misuse: binge or heavy drinking can increase the risk of alcoholism. Experts typically measure heavy drinking as more than four drinks per day, fourteen drinks per week for men, and more than three drinks per day and seven drinks per week. Binge drinking is defined as having five or more drinks for men and four or more for women in two hours.

People who have alcohol use disorder have a compulsive, uncontrollable need to drink. Their drinking can lead to problems that harm themselves, their relationships, and others. Alcoholism makes it difficult to stop the impulse to drink, and extended use can cause various other mental and physical health issues. In some cases, it can lead to death.

The first description of alcoholism was recorded by Benjamin Rush in 1784 and added to the list of Standard Classified Nomenclature of Diseases in 1933.1 In 1956, the American Medical Association recognized it as a "major medical problem." Since then, alcohol has developed into the fourth leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States.

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What Causes Alcoholism?

The causes of alcoholism are unclear but appear to result from one or a mixture of genetics, environment, psychological issues, and lifestyle choices. Binge and heavy drinking are not always associated with alcoholism but can be risk factors for developing AUD, along with: 

  • Starting to drink at an early age
  • A family history of alcohol abuse or addiction
  • Trauma
  • Social and Cultural factors
  • Weight loss surgery
  • Low self-esteem
  • Stress
  • Relationship issues
  • Age

Alcoholism is often the result of a variety of other internal and external factors. Conditions often associated as a precursor for alcoholism include:

  • Genetics – There have been several genetic links to an individual's likelihood of suffering from alcoholism, particularly the genes related to the metabolism of alcohol. However, more research is needed.2
  • Mental health conditions – Depression and anxiety can put someone at risk for developing alcoholism, and drinking can worsen the symptoms of both.
  • Stress - Stress and trauma can increase the risk of heavy drinking and the development of alcoholism.

Alcoholism Signs & Symptoms

People who have alcohol use disorder may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Inability to limit, control, or quit alcohol intake
  • Inability to fulfill life obligations
  • Mental health and behavioral issues
  • A disproportionate amount of time is spent drinking and recovering
  • Strong impulses to drink
  • Continuing to drink despite it causing problems in life
  • High alcohol tolerance

Withdrawal symptoms include:3

In some cases, alcohol use disorder and alcoholism can lead to death.

Can Cannabis Help You Recover from Alcoholism or Withdrawal?

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Cannabis and alcohol are two of the most popular substances used in the US. The consumption of both has been studied to determine how they influence an individual's behavior. The results are mixed and linked to a wide variety of internal and external factors.

The co-use of cannabis and alcohol can result in adverse side effects and worsened impairment, as well as increase the risk of developing alcoholism or cannabis use disorder.4

Cannabidiol, or CBD, has been looked at for its potential ability to help people recover from alcoholism. A 2019 review suggests CBD may act against alcohol use disorder through its neuroprotectant, anti-relapse, and anti-convulsant properties.5 When added to the traditional medication used to treat alcoholism, naltrexone CBD use was linked to a higher reduction in alcohol consumption.6 Another review from 2019 found evidence that suggests CBD acts as a possible neuroprotective against brain damage from alcohol abuse and protects the liver from alcohol-related issues.7,8

Further research is needed to examine the factors contributing to the healthy or unhealthy relationship between alcohol, cannabis, and the individual.

Legality and Doctor’s Recommendation

To determine if your state considers Alcoholism to be a qualifying condition for medical marijuana, check out our Laws & Regulations section for the medical cannabis rules for your state.

If you find that your state recognizes Alcoholism or its symptoms as a qualifying medical condition, you can seek a doctor’s recommendation to get your medical cannabis card in your state.

How NuggMD Can Help

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NuggMD is the nation's leading medical marijuana technology platform, serving patients in 28 states and growing. We’ve connected over 1,300,000 patients with their new medical marijuana doctors face-to-face via our state-of-the-art telemedicine platform. 

We believe that every human being has the right to explore the benefits of medical cannabis and are fully committed to helping each patient explore all their options in their journey to wellness. For further information on whether you qualify for medical cannabis, select your state.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Cannabis & Alcoholism

Is cannabis good or bad to use if you have alcohol use disorder?

Current research results are mixed. Depending on the individual, cannabis use may be harmful or helpful to combine with alcohol or use in the recovery from alcoholism. It is best to consult with an AUD specialist, physician, or both before using cannabis if you have alcohol use disorder.

What kinds/symptoms of alcoholism can cannabis help with?

One symptom of alcoholism is the inability to stop drinking. Some individuals attempt to use marijuana to quit drinking, and some have successfully switched from alcohol to weed. Cannabis may enhance the effects of alcohol and cause individuals to drink more. Some use cannabis to help reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms, like nausea, sleep issues, or anxiety, but it may also enhance these symptoms.

Speak with an AUD specialist or doctor before using cannabis to aid with symptoms of alcoholism.

Does THC help with alcohol withdrawal?

THC is the “intoxicating” cannabinoid responsible for the “high,” while CBD is “non-intoxicating” and may have a plethora of health benefits without a “high.” This may be why more research finds CBD is more often beneficial in cases of alcoholism than when THC is studied. 

While individuals have self-reported success with THC-dominant cannabis, research results are mixed on whether it reduces or increases alcohol consumption. CBD has been linked to more successful outcomes in reducing alcohol consumption.

What strains/cultivars are good if you have alcoholism?

If you and a medical professional have decided that consuming cannabis would benefit your individual treatment plan for alcohol use disorder, selecting strains rich in CBD may have the best results. Ringo’s Gift and ACDC are two more common CBD cultivar options.


  1. Mann K. One Hundred Years Of Alcoholism: The Twentieth Century. Alcohol and Alcoholism. 2000;35(1):10-15. doi:
  2. Tawa EA, Hall SD, Lohoff FW. Overview of the Genetics of Alcohol Use Disorder. Alcohol and Alcoholism. 2016;51(5):507-514. doi:
  3. Saitz R. Introduction to alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol Health Res World. 1998;22(1):5-12.
  4. Yurasek AM, Aston ER, Metrik J. Co-use of Alcohol and Cannabis: A Review. Curr Addict Rep. 2017;4(2):184-193. doi:10.1007/s40429-017-0149-8
  5. Turna J, Syan SK, Frey BN, et al. Cannabidiol as a Novel Candidate Alcohol Use Disorder Pharmacotherapy: A Systematic Review. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2019;43(4):550-563. doi:10.1111/acer.13964
  6. Viudez-Martínez A, García-Gutiérrez MS, Fraguas-Sánchez AI, Torres-Suárez AI, Manzanares J. Effects of cannabidiol plus naltrexone on motivation and ethanol consumption [published correction appears in Br J Pharmacol. 2019 Jan;176(2):334]. Br J Pharmacol. 2018;175(16):3369-3378. doi:10.1111/bph.14380
  7. De Ternay J, Naassila M, Nourredine M, et al. Therapeutic Prospects of Cannabidiol for Alcohol Use Disorder and Alcohol-Related Damages on the Liver and the Brain. Front Pharmacol. 2019;10:627. doi:10.3389/fphar.2019.00627
  8. Wang Y, Mukhopadhyay P, Cao Z, et al. Cannabidiol attenuates alcohol-induced liver steatosis, metabolic dysregulation, inflammation and neutrophil-mediated injury. Scientific Reports. 2017;7(1). doi:

The information in this article and any included images or charts are for educational purposes only. This information is neither a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional legal advice or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about laws, regulations, or your health, you should always consult with an attorney, physician or other licensed professional.

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