The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more people than ever are binge drinking regularly, as opposed to the more occasional inebriated outburst. The vice once thought confined mostly to the foolishness of college kids has now apparently infiltrated the lives of more women and more adults age 35 and older.
In 2015, one in every six Americans identified as a weekly binge drinker, according to the CDC’s latest research, meaning they are prone to have five or more drinks in a single sitting for men or four or more for women. The 37 million American binge drinkers slurped 17 billion binge drinks that year, or about 470 binge drinks per binge drinker, according to the study.
But a select group of states, along with Washington, D.C., reported fewer instances of binge drinking and a decreased intensity per binge, and they all have one thing in common.
According to new research from Cowen and Company, seven of the nine states that allow adults to legally consume marijuana saw 13 percent fewer binge drinking episodes than non-cannabis states, and 9 percent fewer than the national average. In recreational use states, binge drinkers guzzled 6.6 drinks per binge, compared with 7.4 drinks in non-cannabis states.
Nevada and California, the two states to have most recently legalized recreational pot, still had higher rates of binge drinking intensity than Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, but the report stated the company expects “mean reversion for these states, too, given the historical precedent.”
People’s decision to switch to the green team, according to the report, include: outsized switching among younger consumers, shifting risk perceptions among 18- to 25-year-olds, less pressure to generate alcohol tax revenue in legal cannabis states, consumer survey work on alcohol consumption among cannabis consumers, and academic research that concludes medical cannabis weighs on alcohol purchases.
The Wall Street investment firm calls marijuana a viable “substitute social lubricant” for alcohol in the years to come, projecting even greater sales numbers for the industry than previously thought.
“Assuming federal legalization, we believe cannabis can generate gross sales of $75 billion by 2030 (and $17.5 billion in tax revenue),” the report reads. “As cannabis access expands, we expect further pressure on alcohol sales, given this notable divide in consumption patterns.”
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Health Economics and cited by The Washington Post, studying a drop-off in people’s marijuana use and a corresponding spike in their alcohol use once they reach age 21, the age to legally drink in the U.S., concluded that the two substances are indeed substitutes for each other among users.
What Cowen and Company’s more recent research finds is almost the exact inverse of that older study: that as recreational marijuana becomes legal in more and more states, some people are choosing the high from the plant over the the one from the bottle.
A study published in March in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology found that one of the non-psychoactive compounds in marijuana, cannabidiol (CBD), could also help drug addicts and alcoholics from relapsing.