Marijuana Vs Alcohol - Which One Is More Harmful?
If you are trying to figure out ‘is marijuana safer than alcohol’, then you are in the right place.
Let’s start with the obvious: Alcohol is legal, while marijuana still isn’t in many places.
This alone can make it hard to pick through online information, as much of it looks down on marijuana for being on the illegal side of the debate.
In this article, we have put together some of the key factors of both marijuana and alcohol, helping you to draw your own conclusions as to which is safer for consumption.
Is Marijuana Safer Than Alcohol? A Closer Look...
The illegality of marijuana means that it’s impossible to do the type of large-scale studies on weed that scientists like to perform.
Also, there are no established national guidelines for “safe” levels of cannabis consumption.
The choice is pretty clear regarding the physical effects of marijuana vs alcohol; alcohol consumption has a far worse overall impact on your body.
Alcohol use disorder is directly linked with higher rates of cancer and death.
In contrast, marijuana isn’t thought to cause cancer or death (although it’s worth noting that some research shows otherwise).
Weed also doesn’t seem as addictive as alcohol, and some studies show that it might be less likely to cause cardiovascular problems and organ damage than booze.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a “pothead,” we’re guessing that many of you have probably still smoked at least a few joints in your life.
And if you find yourself in a room with people who are smoking weed, you’d probably prefer to be around them than those who are drinking alcohol.
So is marijuana safer than alcohol? Keep reading to find out.
Marijuana vs Alcohol - Are they equally harmful?
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has published results from a recent study that concluded chronic marijuana users were more likely to experience health problems such as heart attack, lung cancer, coughs, and phlegm production than their peers who did not smoke marijuana.
However, they noted that alcohol abuse was significantly associated with worse health risks and worse mental health problems.
Marijuana is frequently considered a safer alternative to alcohol in many respects, but we still do not know enough about its long-term effects.
Some Of The Risks
At first glance, marijuana and alcohol appear to be equally dangerous.
However, much like apples and oranges, these substances are very different in their effects on our bodies and brains.
The significant distinction between cannabis and alcohol is that THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) is not lethal.
Although it’s possible to overdose on THC by ingesting or smoking too much at once, deaths from marijuana use alone or marijuana overdose have never been recorded.
It is well known that drinking too much alcohol is bad for your health.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), excessive alcohol consumption causes 95,000 deaths in the United States each year. It can also cause cancer, stroke, and liver cirrhosis.
This statistic does not even include suicides, violent crimes committed under its influence, nor other related issues such as drunk driving car accidents.
Many studies are exploring how moderate alcohol consumption may protect against cardiovascular disease from a health perspective.
Moreover, some studies suggest moderate drinkers live longer than heavy drinkers.
It remains unclear whether similar benefits may be associated with cannabis use; more research is required to reach definitive conclusions.
If anything, scientists agree that occasional use of both substances may result in fewer negative effects than regular consumption.
However, high doses could cause severe cognitive impairments, unintentional injury, or death for either drug user.
Scientific reports show little association between marijuana use and lung cancer risk, as there has been with smoking cigarettes.
In contrast, heavy alcohol consumption increases the risk of certain cancers, such as esophagus, mouth, throat, and breast cancer.
Even if you are not a binge drinker, your risk of cancer can be elevated if you drink alcohol regularly. Marijuana use has been associated with an increased appetite.
However, it appears that alcohol is linked more closely with weight gain, despite weed’s tendency to trigger the “munchies.”
A study published in 2018 analyzed data from nine extensive studies and concluded that “those who used marijuana had significantly lower odds of being overweight or obese.”
Marijuana vs Alcohol: Which is more addictive?
Approximately half of all adults in the U.S. have tried marijuana at least once in their lives, making it the most widely used illicit drug in the country.
Although less addictive for most people, about 9% of users become dependent on marijuana.
Marijuana also does not seem to cause physical dependence in the way that other drugs do.
Withdrawal symptoms are relatively mild compared to withdrawal from alcohol.
In the short term, it’s harder to become addicted to marijuana, but it’s easier to become dependent in the long term.
It takes about ten times more exposure to marijuana before you get hooked than it does with alcohol.
So if you smoke weed a few times a month, you’re less likely to become addicted than if you drank less alcohol for that past month.
Marijuana vs Alcohol: Are there significant differences in behavior?
There are some key differences between marijuana vs alcohol’s effects on behavior.
Alcohol causes more violent behavior than marijuana does. It is a legal drug, commonly used in a variety of social settings.
Alcohol abuse is known to cause a number of serious behavioral problems, especially in the younger generation.
Binge drinking and unprotected sex are just some of the major concerns that have been linked with alcohol consumption among young adults.
Drunk people often lose their inhibitions and say or do things they would never do while sober. Marijuana use has not been shown to have similar effects.
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Excessive alcohol use can contribute to depression, as it is a depressant. It affects the parts of the brain that you need for decision making, learning and memory.
As a result, people who regularly use alcohol often have problems at work or in school. They may also have trouble with their friends and family.
More than 40% of all violent crimes are linked to alcohol, according to research by the National Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
In addition, a survey of college students indicated that on days when couples drank, the likelihood of mental and physical abuse was higher.
In fact, intimate partner violence increased fivefold when they drank compared with days when they didn’t drink.
In general, both marijuana and alcohol can cause behavioral changes.
However, it appears that those associated with marijuana use are far less serious and dangerous than those associated with alcohol use.
While alcohol has been linked to aggressive behavior, marijuana does not appear to induce similar effects in most people.
Instead, short-term side effects of marijuana include memory loss, impaired judgment, paranoia, and anxiety.
These symptoms generally do not last beyond a few hours, whereas alcohol effects can last for days.
Are there any adverse long-term effects from alcohol or Marijuana use?
While long-term alcohol abuse can destroy brain cells and cause permanent brain damage, no studies have found that the use of marijuana is associated with irreversible mental impairment except in young people below 25 years of age.
Nevertheless, smoking marijuana still may still cause some adverse effects on long term- health.
Research has shown that heavy cannabis users have an increased risk of heart attack.
A 2015 analysis in JAMA Internal Medicine reviewed over 1,900 studies and found that marijuana smoke may lead to an increased risk of stroke and heart failure.
For people with predisposing factors such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension or high cholesterol levels, there is a higher risk of heart problems than in healthy people.
Unlike alcohol that slows down the body’s heart rate, marijuana can speed up the body’s blood pressure and heart rate.
Regular cannabis consumption is also associated with an increased risk of schizophrenia, and other psychotic disorders while alcohol causes depression and anxiety.
Weed may also exacerbate symptoms in patients who have schizophrenia or other serious mental illnesses.
Quitting cannabis after long-term use can cause withdrawal symptoms including irritability, insomnia, sleepiness, depression and anxiety.
This occurs in a small number of individuals but can be severe enough to cause some people to start using marijuana again to relieve these feelings.
Marijuana vs Alcohol: Are there any positive effects from use?
Or does smoking weed cause cancer?
Medical Marijuana has been legal in many states for some time now, but the legalization of recreational marijuana is a relatively new phenomenon.
As more and more people use marijuana, they are wondering whether it is physically addictive or if there are any positive effects associated with its use
Smoking cannabis, on its own, is not associated with higher rates of lung cancer.
The researchers speculate that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a compound found in marijuana smoke that has been shown to have anti-cancer properties on its own, may be responsible for lowering lung cancer risk among those who smoke weed long term.
In comparison to alcohol, there is evidence that marijuana may have some positive health effects of marijuana.
For example, researchers suggest that low doses of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), marijuana’s active ingredient, stimulate a process called autophagy, which helps eliminate intracellular pathogens and cancer cells more than other compounds.
It also helps in managing chronic pain, insomnia, and severe depression.
Aside from its benefits, there are other positive effects regarding the economic costs of marijuana use.
According to a study published in The Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics, non-treatment-seeking medical cannabis patients spent less money on prescription medications, mainly due to a reduction in opioid drug use.
Is Marijuana Safer Than Alcohol? The Bottom Line
The evidence suggests that alcohol causes more harm to individuals (liver damage, cancer, violence) and society (costs, conflicts) than marijuana does.
Particularly given the current health risks associated with heavy alcohol use, marijuana may be viewed as safer than alcohol for recreational users.
But this would not mean it’s entirely safe; there are still potential risks involved.
Because we don’t yet know what all the effects of prolonged marijuana use might be, but we know all about how alcohol affects you.
If your health is a concern, we think it’s pretty clear. Perhaps people should quit confusing the effects of marijuana vs alcohol.
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