Drinkers who also smoke cannabis may be protected from liver diseases
Heavy alcohol drinkers who also smoke cannabis ‘may slash their odds of getting killer liver diseases such as cirrhosis by up to 55%’
- Researchers analysed data on almost 320,000 heavy drinkers in the study
- Those who smoked cannabis had a 45% lower chance of fatty liver disease
- It’s unclear why the drug has this effect, but it is known to be anti-inflammatory
Binge drinkers may be protected from potentially deadly liver diseases, if they also smoke cannabis, a study suggests.
Heavy drinkers who smoked marijuana had ‘significantly lower odds’ of developing serious problems with their liver, including cirrhosis and a common form of cancer.
Cannabis has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties and its compounds are currently the subject of hundreds of studies.
However, scientists said they are not currently sure why it’s beneficial for the liver in combination with alcohol. They called for further trials.
Binge drinkers may be protected from liver disease if they also smoke cannabis, a study suggests
The study was led by Dr Adeyinka Charles Adejumo of North Shore Medical Center, Massachusetts.
Of the 320,000 people they studied who had a history of alcohol abuse, 90 per cent had never smoked cannabis.
Around eight per cent smoked it now and again and two per cent were dependent on it, meaning they felt withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug.
Both dependent and non-dependent smokers had a 45 per cent lower risk of getting alcoholic steatosis, or ‘fatty liver disease’.
They had a 55 per cent lower chance of developing of cirrhosis – scarring of the liver which can lead to liver failure.
Their odds of steatohepatitis (AH), a type of fatty liver disease, were also 43 per cent lower.
And they had 38 per cent lower odds of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) – the most common form of liver cancer.
Dependent users had lower odds than non‐dependent users for getting liver disease generally, the researchers said.
WHAT IS LIVER DISEASE?
There are more than 100 types of liver disease.
Around 2million Britons and 4.5million Americans are affected by a form of the disease.
The main causes are:
- Alcohol abuse
- An undiagnosed hepatitis infection
Symptoms are rare until the disease is advanced.
It may then cause weight loss, reduced appetite and jaundice.
Medication is available, however, a transplant may be necessary in severe cases.
Source: NHS Choices
They wrote in the journal Liver International: ‘While cannabis has demonstrated anti‐inflammatory properties, its combined use with alcohol and the development of liver disease remain unclear.’
Previous work by the same team, on five million people who did not abuse alcohol, found lower rates of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in cannabis smokers.
The team noted receptors in the body which respond to compounds in cannabis have the ability to suppress the collection of fat on the liver, therefore protecting it from disease.
Previous research has already found cannabinoid receptors in the liver are potential targets for the treatment of liver disease.
However, it is not clear in either of the studies which part of the cannabis plant may be protective.
Dr Terence Bukong, of University of Massachusetts, who co-authored the research, told Healthline: ‘Our studies could not ascertain which cannabis strains were used.
‘So we couldn’t determine the cannabinoid content of what each individual ingested.
‘We also couldn’t ascertain the dosage or modes of use, although it’s most likely through smoking.’
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychoactive compound that creates a ‘high’. But there are hundreds more compounds in cannabis plants.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is thought to help reduce anxiety and inflammation and has taken the health market by storm.
It’s sold in dispensaries, pharmacies and entire cafes have cropped up to peddle CBD, advertising it for everything from anxiety to acne and menstrual cramps.
But despite promise, experts are unlikely to advise taking up cannabis smoking if a patient has an alcohol disorder.
Some studies suggest patients trying to recover from alcohol abuse relapse quicker if they also smoke marijuana.
Dr Bukong said: ‘My research group is currently working to discover which cannabinoids or cannabinoid formulations will provide the best therapeutic benefits for specific liver diseases.’
WHAT IS ALCOHOLISM AND HOW IS IT TREATED IN THE UK?
Alcoholism is the most severe form of alcohol abuse and involves the inability to manage drinking habits.
It is organised into three categories: mild, moderate and severe. Each category has various symptoms and can cause harmful side effects.
If left untreated, any type of alcohol abuse can spiral out of control.
Individuals struggling with alcoholism often feel as though they cannot function normally without alcohol.
This can lead to a wide range of issues and impact professional goals, personal matters, relationships and overall health.
Sometimes the warning signs of alcohol abuse are very noticeable. Other times, they can take longer to surface.
When alcohol addiction is discovered in its early stages, the chance for a successful recovery increases significantly.
Common signs of alcoholism include:
- Being unable to control alcohol consumption
- Craving alcohol when you’re not drinking
- Putting alcohol above personal responsibilities
- Feeling the need to keep drinking more
- Spending a substantial amount of money on alcohol
- Behaving differently after drinking
Short-term effects of alcohol abuse can be just as dangerous as long-term effects.
For instance, drinking can impact your reaction time, causing you to have slow reflexes and coordination.
That’s why drinking and driving is extremely dangerous. Getting behind the wheel of a car can alter your perception of speed and distance, putting yourself and others at risk.
Several short-term effects of alcohol abuse may produce:
- Slow reaction time
- Poor reflexes
- Reduce brain activity
- Lowered inhibitions
- Blurry vision
- Difficulty breathing
Additionally, consuming too much alcohol can affect your long-term health. Some side effects may lay dormant for years before they surface.
Because of this, professional medical care is required for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Long-term health conditions caused by alcohol:
- Brain defects
- Liver disease
- Diabetes complications
- Heart problems
- Increased risk of cancer
- Vision damage
- Bone loss
Treatment for Alcoholism
There are different forms of treatment available based on frequency and severity of alcohol abuse.
Recovering from alcohol addiction is a process that continues long after rehab.
It takes commitment to practice and apply the techniques you learn in rehab, counseling, support groups and other types of therapy.
Although every individual will have their own recovery plan that’s tailored to their specific needs, treatment generally follows a structure.
Alcohol treatment is broken into three sections, consisting of:
The first stage in alcohol addiction recovery is detoxification. This phase should be completed with the help of medical professionals due to the potential for serious, uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Many times, individuals are given a medication to help alleviate the painful side effects of a withdrawal.
There are two types of rehabilitation that help treat alcoholism: inpatient rehab and outpatient rehab. Inpatient rehabs are intensive treatment programs that require you to check into a facility for a certain period of time, usually 30, 60 or 90 days. Outpatient rehab allows individuals to participate in a recovery program while continuing with their daily life. Talk with your doctor about treatment options to determine which form of recovery will best fit your needs.
The recovery process doesn’t end with the completion of rehab. Long-term sobriety requires ongoing therapy and may entail support groups, counseling and other recovery resources. These will make sure you maintain sobriety and continue on a happy, healthy path for months and years to come.
Source: Alcohol Rehab Guide
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