Alcohol consumption in Australia is prevalent in many social and cultural events. However, consuming alcohol in dangerous amounts leads to extreme health issues associated with chronic disease, premature death, and increased risk of injury.
Alcohol is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “a toxic and psychoactive substance with dependence producing properties”. It was reported by WHO that alcohol consumption contributes to 3 million deaths per year globally as well as causes poor health and disabilities to millions of people. Overall, the harmful consumption of alcohol is responsible for 5.1% of the global burden of disease. 
Alcohol is absorbed rapidly in the bloodstream and affects the brain within about 5 minutes, though this may vary from person to person depending on body mass and general state of health. When alcohol is consumed in harmful volumes, unpleasant side effects occur which cause some individuals to engage in acts of violence. Listed below are a few short-term and long-term side effects that alcohol cause:
Short Term Side Effects
- Reduced inhibitions
- A sense of relaxation
- Loss of alertness or coordination, and slower reaction times
- Impaired memory and judgement
- Nausea, shakiness and vomiting
- Blurred or double vision
- Disturbed sleep patterns
- Disturbed sexual functioning
Long Term Side Effects
- Oral, throat and breast cancers
- Liver cirrhosis
- Brain damage and dementia
- Some forms of heart disease and stroke
Did you know… that alcohol is the 6th highest risk factor that contributes to the burden of disease in Australia? It is estimated that alcohol usage in Australia was responsible for 4.5% of the total burden of disease and injury in 2015. There were 1,366 alcohol-induced deaths recorded in 2017, with an additional 2,820 (alcohol-related) deaths where alcohol was mentioned as a contributing factor to mortality (ABS 2018a) .
Alcohol has been used to relieve pain since ancient times . Laboratory studies have confirmed that alcohol does reduce pain in animals and humans. Furthermore, recent research suggests that roughly 18% of people experiencing chronic pain conditions turn to alcohol to alleviate their pain. However, using alcohol to alleviate pain can only lead to people risking their health for several harmful consequences .
Those who suffer from chronic pain are most likely taking prescription medications which may or may not interact with alcohol . Mixing alcohol and pain medications can be extremely harmful and it is vital that you talk to your doctor or pharmacist about any reactions that may result from mixing them with alcohol. Some examples of medication and alcohol causing negative effects:
- Is that mixing alcohol and acetaminophen can cause acute liver failure
- Mixing alcohol and aspirin increases the risk for gastric bleeding
- Alcohol increases analgesic, reinforcing, and sedative effects of opiates, elevating risk for combined misuse of alcohol and opiates as well as overdose.
Many Australians use alcohol as a way to escape the pain they are experiencing. So how does Medical Cannabis tie into this?
Ways to treat Alcohol Use Disorder
There are many common and alternative ways to treat this disorder and will commonly involve support from a health professional, brief intervention, group counselling or an outpatient program. Some treatment options are:
- Detox and withdrawal
- Psychological counselling
- Oral medications (disulfiram)
- Medical cannabis
- Spiritual practice
- Learning skills and establishing a treatment plan
For serious cases, it may be required that you will stay at a residential treatment facility. The workers in this program are typically drug and alcohol counsellors, nurses, doctors, social workers and others specialised in treating alcohol use disorder.
Alternative medicine may be useful in addition and in conjunction with a treatment plan for one recovering from alcohol use disorder. One alternative medicine in particular has gained a lot of attention in the media in Australia, which is medical cannabis.
A review of literature conducted by the frontiers in Pharmacology aimed to provide a rationale for using CBD to treat human subjects with alcohol use disorder (AUD), based on the findings of experimental studies.
They conducted a narrative review of studies that related to the assessment of CBD efficiency on reduction on drinking, or on the improvement of any aspect of alcohol-related toxicity in AUD. Their findings found that CBD can reduce the overall level of alcohol consumption in animal models of AUD by reduction of ethanol intake, relapse, anxiety, motivation for ethanol and impulsivity.
Furthermore, it was also found that CBD reduced alcohol-related steatosis and fibrosis in the liver by reducing lipid accumulation, modulating inflammation, reducing oxidative stress, stimulating autophagy and by inducing death of activated hepatic stellate cells. To conclude, CBD reduces alcohol-related brain damage, by preventing neuronal loss by CBD’s antioxidant and immunomodulatory properties .
It is important that you speak to your doctor to see if medical cannabis would be a part in your treatment plan.
CanView does not endorse the use of Medicinal Cannabis without lawful prescription. Just like any Medicine, Medicinal Cannabis may have both positive and negative side effects on the user and should only be prescribed to patients by a Health Professional with the authority and expertise to do so. The information provided by CanView is for informational and educational purposes and is of a general nature. If you are interested in accessing Medicinal Cannabis please talk to your doctor and request a referral to a Medicinal Cannabis clinic.