The findings of those studies fluctuated widely, depending on the demographic and the type and frequency of alcohol and marijuana use. One study, for example, found that states where marijuana is decriminalized had more emergency room visits related to marijuana and fewer visits linked to alcohol and other drugs. Some studies found that high school seniors in states where pot was decriminalized tended to drink less, while other research found that college students who used pot also drank more. Findings around medical marijuana also varied. One study reported that states with medical marijuana dispensaries had higher rates of both marijuana and alcohol use, as well as higher admissions into alcohol treatment facilities. But while states with medical marijuana had fewer alcohol-related fatalities overall, those with dispensaries saw more of those deaths. Other research found that while legalized medical marijuana wasn’t associated with any increases in underage drinking, it was linked with more binge drinking and simultaneous use of pot and alcohol among adults. The issue is particularly complicated in Washington state, which legalized recreational marijuana use in 2012 after privatizing liquor sales the previous year. As a result, the uptick in alcohol sales made it difficult to isolate the impacts of legalized marijuana on drinking from the change in alcohol policy. The researchers concluded that there’s evidence of marijuana and alcohol being both substitutes and complements.
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