Drinking is an American sport, and its public are gladiators. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that “excessive alcohol use” accounts for the loss of 88,000 American lives per year. Drunk driving accidents only account for about 10,000 of the deaths, which means more than 70,000 deaths come from liver damage and other health complications. Through the use of cannabis, these numbers could potentially be reduced.
For a 2018 study in Liver International, researchers studied 319,000 patients with a prior or ongoing history of alcohol abuse and tracked the development of four common types of liver disease. The study separated the patients into three distinct categories—non-cannabis users, non-dependent cannabis users and dependent cannabis users—and found that cannabis smokers had lower odds of developing liver damage than their non-smoking counterparts. Surprisingly, self-described “dependent” tokers showed the least chance of developing liver disease. Why?
One of the most common side-effects of alcohol abuse is chronic liver inflammation, which can sometimes lead to fatal cirrhosis. Cannabis is widely considered an effective anti-inflammatory. Through the activation of CB2 receptors throughout the body, cannabis compounds can reduce swelling in certain organs and treat the symptoms of ailments like hepatitis and fatty-liver disease. In fact, 12 states have approved the use of medical marijuana (MMJ) for treating conditions like hepatitis C.
MMJ is good for more than just treating the side effects of alcohol abuse. Research suggests that, with targeted use, cannabis could help America address its battle with alcoholism. According to a 2014 study published in the journal Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, the terpene beta-caryophyllene (BCP) may be effective in treating alcoholism. In this study, researchers introduced BCP into alcohol-addicted animal test subjects and found that the terpene activated CB2 receptors. As a result, the animals displayed decreased alcohol consumption, bordering on alcohol aversion, suggesting that the endocannabinoid system has a larger role in “alcohol reward” than previously thought.
Now that’s a twist on the infamous cross-fade.
Michael Peña is a Los Angeles-based writer, musician and Kanye West enthusiast. He can be found on Instagram @ilooklikestevezahn.