Marijuana vs Alcohol

7 July 2016

They were both icons of unforgettable eras: one, the glamorous nineteen twenties; the other, the revolutionary seventies. In the twenties, alcohol was sipped cautiously behind the walls of speakeasies; glasses clinking under the flashing lights of entertainment signs. The hippies of the sixties and seventies passed pipes of burning marijuana, promoting peace while protesting for the rights of millions of Americans. No doubt, both drugs have had a major influence on the country, both have had their “glory” days.

After a time of prohibition, the once thought sinful substance of alcohol was re-legalized. Marijuana, on the other hand, remains illegal in the country of the United States. But through increasing medical knowledge, more is known about these drugs today than ever before. It’s knowledge that points to shocking conclusions. Based on the differences between the two drugs’ toxic levels, consequences of long term use, their association with violence and reckless behavior, and their benefits, could it be possible that we have the wrong drug illegalized?

Marijuana vs Alcohol Essay Example

For most people, the reason they choose to use alcohol or marijuana is because of the intoxication they bring. When compared to marijuana, alcohol has a far greater level of intoxication, which can easily lead to overdoses. In 2001 alone there were 331 reported cases of alcohol overdose deaths in the United States. Using just ten times the amount required to get the desired effect, what some may call a buzz, can lead to alcohol poisoning.

So if a college boy goes out to the bars and decides to take shots with his buddies, and he knows (being an experienced college drinker) that it takes him two shots to start feeling nice, taking just 20 shots could reserve him a spot on a table at the morgue instead of on his best friend’s futon. On the other hand, it is physically impossible to overdose on marijuana. For the same college boy to die from an overdose of marijuana he would have to hypothetically smoke thousands of times the regular dosage amount.

And thankfully for the college student, the risk of that happening is non-existent; there has never been a death from a marijuana overdose in recorded history. So while it is very possible to die from having a few too many drinks, smoking marijuana seems to be far less toxic of a substance (Foland). Not only are the toxic levels of alcohol much greater than those of marijuana, but the consequences of drinking long-term are far more damaging as well. Next to smoking tobacco and being overweight,

drinking alcohol is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Not including all the accidents and homicides that are attributed to the use of alcohol, the number of people that suffered alcohol induced deaths was 20,687 in 2003 alone (Foland). Those who choose to drink face the risk of many different health conditions, including some cancers, liver cirrhosis, liver disease, and heart disease—not to mention the risk of physical dependency (“Alcohol vs. Marijuana”). The effects on the brain are just as detrimental.

In contrast to the old myth that drinking alcohol kills brain cells, recent studies have shown that instead it prevents new cells from being made. This process of making new cells, called neurogenesis, was found to be decreased by over fifty percent in abusers of alcohol. Marijuana seems to have the opposite effect. The same study showed that the use of marijuana actually increased neurogenesis, thus increasing the making of new brain cells (Wenk). Recent studies have also shown that, unlike alcohol, marijuana does not seem to cause any types of cancer.

Yet, it is still not a completely safe drug, for it may cause damage to the airways of the smoker. But, like the lack of marijuana overdose cases, there are no recorded deaths where marijuana use was the cause (Foland. ) Unfortunately, because alcohol is legal, and marijuana isn’t, some people are lead to believe that slamming down four glasses of whiskey a night is not going to hurt them, which is undoubtedly false. While the effects of long term alcohol use are clear when it comes to one’s health, it is often times even more clear as to how much it affects the personal safety of others.

Violence and alcohol seem to go hand in hand; they’ve always appeared to be the best of friends. Who hasn’t witnessed a bar fight in their lives? Some guy standing five feet nine inches tall gains what many describe as “drunken muscles”, and belligerently decides to fight the guy across the room who slightly resembles Hulk Hogan. This is not an uncommon occurrence, because alcohol is known to increase the likelihood of violence. Domestic violence is also shown to increase when the abuser is drinking.

In fact, alcohol is a factor in two out of every three violent incidents that occur between spouses and significant others. If an abusive husband comes home from work and pops open a Bud Light, his wife’s chances of getting abused that night are eleven times more likely than if he’d opened a can of Pepsi. It is unquestionable that alcohol is a direct cause of violence. In contrast, marijuana is rarely associated with violence and has been shown to actually reduce the likelihood of it occurring (Foland).

Even some of those who fight to keep the drug off the streets agree that marijuana and violence are not related. A former police chief by the name of Norm Stamper shares: “Over the past four years I’ve asked police officers throughout the U. S. two questions. When’s the last time you had to fight someone under the influence of marijuana? (I’m talking marijuana only, not pot plus a six-pack or a fifth of tequila. ) My colleagues pause, they reflect. Their eyes widen as they realize that in their five or fifteen or thirty years on the job they have never had to fight a marijuana user.

I then ask: When’s the last time you had to fight a drunk? They look at their watches” (Stamper). This is a case where general stereotypes actually support the evidence. The hippies of the seventies promoted peace, not violence, while on the other hand, the image of a drunk and the scene of a bar fight are one and the same. And often after the man with a little too much drunken courage loses miserably in the fight he instigated, he decides to stagger to his car with visions of his soft pillow and a bottle of aspirin dancing in his head.

It’s definitely not news anymore that drinking often leads to reckless behavior such as drunk driving. A person who has been drinking all of a sudden thinks he’s become Superman and nothing can affect him, not even the twelve shots he just downed at the bar. This failure to notice one’s impaired condition is what often leads to people making the choice to get behind the wheel, and it’s what leads to an average of 14,000 deaths every year. A typical drunk driver seems to forget the dangers that are present on the road, and consequently decides to speed and drive in a reckless manner.

While driving while under the influence of marijuana isn’t safe either, those who did so in a testing environment were shown to be far more aware of their impaired motor skills, and compensated by driving well below the speed limit (Stamper). In general, the using of marijuana does not seem to increase risk taking behavior in the same way that drinking does, meaning that a person who knows while sober that it’s a bad idea to drive under the influence, will still know so after they have smoked.

While the use of both alcohol and marijuana have gained negative reputations for their effects, including those on one’s decision making, that isn’t to say that the two substances don’t have any benefits. In extreme moderation, both substances can be quite beneficial to the user. Studies have shown that a glass of red wine (not a bottle) can help promote heart health. Drinking in moderation not only helps to decrease the risk of heart attacks, but also strokes and Type 2 Diabetes (Doheny).

There’s also a long list of health benefits of marijuana, when used for medical purposes. It’s been known to slow down tumor growth in patients suffering from lung, breast, and brain cancer, as well as having enormous effects on patients with glaucoma. The muscle spasms and neurological damage caused by multiple sclerosis is also effectively treated with the use of medical marijuana. Those who suffer from ADD or ADHD are sometimes prescribed marijuana as a better alternative to the drug Ritalin, because it has been known to have negative side effects (Derysh).

In excess, of course, no drug use is healthy, but in moderation both marijuana and alcohol have benefits that can lead to better health. Unless prescribed by a doctor, refraining from drugs altogether is of course the best option when it comes to avoiding health problems, addictions, violence, and bad decision making. Yet, as the evidence shows, it’s shocking to see that while alcohol is legal and its use is socially accepted nationwide, the consequences of doing so are considerably worse than those of marijuana. Some even believe marijuana to be perfectly safe.

So, while both substances infamous days will always be simultaneously glorified and criticized, which drug was really worse for the American drug culture? Culture is an extremely influential concept, and it’s no surprise that substance use (or abuse) occurs often in the United States, especially in today’s youth. And as the next generation of parents, the question we may be faced with is, if we have to choose, before our children grow up, would we rather have them drink up or toke up? What are we going to tell them when they ask for the truth?

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