The study aims were to examine daily associations between marijuana and alcohol use and the extent to which the association differs as a function of cannabis use disorder (CUD) and/or alcohol use disorder (AUD) diagnosis.


Timeline Followback interview data was collected in a study of veterans (N = 127) recruited from a Veterans Affairs hospital who reported at least 1 day of co-use of marijuana and alcohol in the past 180 days (22,860 observations). Participants reported 40% marijuana use days, 28% drinking days, with 37% meeting DSM-5 criteria for CUD, 40% for AUD, and 15% for both. Use of marijuana on a given day was used to predict a 3-level gender-adjusted drinking variable (heavy: ≥5 (men)/4 (women) drinks; moderate: 1 to 4/3 drinks; or none: 0 drinks). A categorical 4-level variable (no diagnosis, AUD, CUD, or both) was tested as a moderator of the marijuana-alcohol relationship.


Multilevel modeling analyses demonstrated that participants were more likely to drink heavily compared to moderately (OR = 2.34) and moderately compared to not drinking (OR = 1.61) on marijuana use days relative to nonuse days. On marijuana use days, those with AUD and those with AUD + CUD were more likely to drink heavily (OR = 1.91; OR = 2.51, respectively), but those with CUD were less likely to drink heavily (OR = 0.32) compared to moderately, nonsignificant differences between any versus moderate drinking in interaction models.


Heavy drinking occurs on days when marijuana is also used. This association is particularly evident in individuals diagnosed with both AUD and CUD and AUDs alone but not in those with only CUDs. Findings suggest that alcohol interventions may need to specifically address marijuana use as a risk factor for heavy drinking and AUD.

PMID: 29656401 PMCID: PMC5984172 [Available on 2019-06-01] DOI: 10.1111/acer.13639 

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