Medical marijuana is now legal in 29 states, with a laundry list of positive uses including pain control and controlling nausea. But according to a new analysis of hospital discharge records, chronic marijuana use could have another side effect: Preventing liver damage in alcoholics.
A peer-reviewed paper accepted for publication in Liver International journal looked at inpatient discharge data for 320,000 adult patients with a history of alcohol abuse. When comparing the data, researchers found that the 10% of alcoholics who also used weed exhibited a lower rate of liver disease of any kind.
Alcoholics who were habitual users exhibited an even lower incidence of liver disease than occasional users, strongly suggesting that yes, weed can help prevent liver damage from drinking.
“Our study revealed that among alcohol users, individuals who additionally use cannabis (dependent and non-dependent cannabis use) showed significantly lower odds of developing alcoholic steatosis (AS), steatohepatitis (AH), cirrhosis (AC) and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC),” the study found. “Further, dependent users had significantly lower odds than non-dependent users for developing liver disease.”
As a outcome-based study, it doesn’t speak to how or why cannabinoids might help reduce liver damage. However, the authors hypothesize, using animal studies, that cannabinoids’ anti-inflammatory properties may reduce inflammation of the liver, reducing long-term damage.
Of course, cannabis use does have its own long-term health effects, mostly related to smoking rather than the THC itself. Without comprehensive data on how cannabis reduces long-term liver damage, or the long-term effects of cannabis consumption on its own, you probably won’t find your doctor recommending weed as companion to boozing just yet.