Binge drinkers could be protected from liver problems by cannabis

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For many people, drinking and drug use go together. And contrary to popular belief, that might be a good thing.

Researchers at the National Institute of Scientific Research at Canada’s University of Quebec have produced some interesting figures on the number of cannabis users who are affected by alcohol-related diseases such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, and even liver cancer.

Heavy drinkers who never touched cannabis had a 90% chance of developing liver problems later in life.

But heavy drinkers who were also moderate cannabis smokers, the study found, only had about an 8% chance.

Even more dramatically, for heavy drinkers who were also big-time pot smokers the likelihood of liver trouble went down to about 1.4%.

Alcohol, too, can have health benefits if used in moderation

“We found if people are using cannabis in the dependent manner, they actually are much more protected from alcoholic liver disease,” Terence Bukong, a liver specialist who led the study, told Tonic.

The Quebec findings, while only preliminary, are confirmed by similar research from a joint American-Korean team based out of Seoul National University Hospital.

The effects of cannabis use differ depending on whether it is smoked or swallowed

Their paper suggests active marijuana use helps prevent liver conditions in test subjects who weren’t heavy drinkers.

They theorise there might be a relationship between marijuana use and insulin production, which served to protect the liver from accumulating too much fatty tissue.

Cannabis also has well-known anti-inflammatory properties and is finding its way into a number of medical treatments.

That’s not to say that you should start smoking weed tomorrow. There are definitely health risks associated with cannabis use and, like its benefits, they are not yet fully understood.

The research isn’t even 100% clear on how the cannabis is affecting the liver tissue.

“I think that we need to go further and know exactly what is the detailed molecular mechanisms and also what are the potential side effects,” Mr Bukong says.

“It's a bit premature to make conclusions based on just preliminary data, but we will know more in the next couple of years.”

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