A recent Australian study found stimulant use is associated with excessive drinking, while cannabis use is not. While not a surprise for anyone that knows anything about partying, this study creates an important foothold for legalization efforts, which need to prove that legal recreational marijuana won’t negatively impact public health. What’s more, legal weed has the power to reduce the damage done by an existing public health problem: alcohol.
The online study took 1,994 Australians ages 18-30 that had drunk alcohol in the past year, and divided them into three groups: past-year ecstasy use, past-year cannabis use (but not ecstasy), and an alcohol-only group. They then asked if the participants drank five or more drinks (the definition of binge drinking) last Saturday night, and whether or not they took either a stimulant (ecstasy, cocaine, speed, or meth) or cannabis the same night.
They found that poly drug users of ecstasy and stimulants drank more than those who took ecstasy. Those who took ecstasy and smoked pot drank less, while marijuana-only users drank even less. The group that was least likely to binge drink was the alcohol-only group, curiously enough.
This proves the association between stimulants and binge drinking, but falls short on proving marijuana makes drinkers drink less. It shouldn’t be hard to design a study that focuses on exactly that, without a complicated pooling of poly drug users. A look into the binge drinking on a college campus should do the trick. Researchers will likely find that drinkers, who get high before or during their night partying, drink less compared to their peers in the same crowd.
The liquor and beer industries don’t need these studies to know that legal weed will hurt their sales; it’s just as obvious to them as it is to us. It’s the legislators that still think marijuana is dangerous that need to be shown that not only is it mostly harmless, it reduces the damage done by a legally existing public health issue.