Researchers from Rutgers University recently published a study in the American Journal on Addictions suggesting a link between medical cannabis and nicotine use. Simply put, medical cannabis users are more likely to use nicotine than people who avoid cannabis altogether.
The study cites the fact that the relationship between nicotine and recreational cannabis is well-established by previous research. Little is known about the link between nicotine and medical cannabis, which is partially what prompted the Rutgers research.
With links clearly established, it is now time to look at whether mixing cannabis and nicotine is harmful. That is a different topic for another post. For now, let us look at the details of the Rutgers study and explore possible explanations.
More About the Study
Rutgers researchers conducted their study by way of a survey of just under 700 patients purchasing medical cannabis at a local dispensary. The researchers queried patients about how they consumed cannabis, the medical condition for which they used the drug, and their nicotine consumption habits. Here is what they found:
- 40% of the cannabis users also use nicotine
- 75% of the cannabis patients smoked, rather than vaped, their medicine
- Non-smokers and nicotine vapers were more likely to vape cannabis than smoke it.
What isn’t exactly clear is how many of the cannabis users were nicotine users prior to beginning a medical cannabis regimen. If the majority were, that would explain the link between the two drugs.
It would be interesting to take the same survey conducted by Rutgers in New Jersey out to a more conservative state, like Utah. Asking the same questions of patients as they enter Park City’s Deseret Wellness could produce remarkably different results.
Fewer Concerns with Cannabis
Nicotine has been a controversial drug since America launched its war on tobacco a few decades ago. But truth be told, the danger of smoking is the smoke. Nicotine is relatively harmless when used in moderation.
That being said, it makes sense that nicotine users already comfortable with their drug of choice would have fewer concerns about cannabis. However, common sense would also seem to indicate that this would apply more to vapers than smokers.
The dangers of smoking are well documented. Even the most adamant of smokers are aware that tobacco smoke contains thousands of chemicals, some of which are carcinogens. Incidentally, the Rutgers research showed that 80% of the surveyed tobacco users were planning to quit.
Being unconcerned about either nicotine or cannabis would seem reasonable to regular nicotine users. But there should still be plenty of concern about smoking either tobacco or cannabis.
A Natural Gateway
It could also be that nicotine is a natural gateway to cannabis. Not in terms of physical or psychological addiction, but in terms of personal acceptance. It is possible that people who already have a positive view of nicotine would be more likely to consider medical cannabis as a result.
Both nicotine and cannabis affect brain function, though in different ways. They are similar in the sense that the two drugs tend to create positive feelings in users. Nicotine is a stimulant while cannabis creates a euphoric feeling. Could it be that the brains of nicotine users are more susceptible to cannabis’ psychotropic effects?
Rutgers researchers have established a link between medical cannabis and nicotine use. What that link means isn’t clear. It is a safe bet that future studies will try to answer that question. In the meantime, do you use either nicotine or cannabis? If you use them together, you are in good company. There are a lot of other people who do the same.