Marijuana vs. Alcohol
Aside from cigarettes, marijuana and alcohol are the two most popular recreational drugs. There are very few human beings who pass their entire lives without having tried one or the other – unless their religious beliefs have them abstain completely from both.
Both drugs have a rich and varied history of use in human circles. Alcohol may be known to human beings for a few millennia, while marijuana has been found in use as early as the 3rd millennium BC. In terms of exposure, the UN estimated in recent years that around 4% of the world’s population use cannabis annually, where over 80% of the US population have consumed alcohol at least once in their lifetime. This relatively high number in comparison to marijuana may be attributed to the fact that alcohol is almost omnipresent in western society and other societies, whereas marijuana’s status, even in recent years, has largely been that of between illegal to sale to somewhat tolerated for self consumption.
The large gap between the „culturally accepted“ (even encouraged, sometimes) alcohol and the „socially tolerated“ marijuana may be attributed to many different factors, which are observed in this article. We may only remark considering a study on the annual cases of death by cause in 2007 in the US, that 23 thousand were alcohol induced, whereas the study could not find even one case of death by direct marijuana consumption.
Short Term Effects
Alcohol is a largely homogeneous drug in the respect that it is almost universally consumed in the same manner (drinking mixed with another liquid) and its effects are usually the same and attributed to the amount of the alcohol consumed, not exact type of drink. Marijuana, on the other hand, is a much more heterogeneous drug, its consumption methods varying by a large degree from different methods of smoking (joints, bongs) to eating (for example so called “space cookies”). These different methods of consumption also affect the strength of the drug, and while inhaling is the most common method, eating products of marijuana is considered to have a much stronger effect. In addition, while marijuana is just one preparation method of cannabis, there are many others with largely different scales of high associated with them, the most known one being hash.
One distinguishing difference between the consumption of alcohol and marijuana is the high factor. Most people do not become completely intoxicated after the consumption of one bottle of beer, and will need continuous and dedicated consumption (also known as a „binge“) to become „high“, or drunk. However, once in a complete state of drunkenness, users usually show almost identical symptoms – not being completely aware of your whereabouts or actions, not being to articulate yourself properly, let alone walk or perform actions requiring delicate coordination.
The consumption of marijuana, on the other hand, is usually involved with an almost immediate (in case inhaled) high. Two or three tokes from a joint give the user a floaty, enjoyable feeling, while four to eight hits render most people classically high. As with other drugs, one can reach the state of plateau (destination, i.e. comfortably high) after a while of consumption.
Alcohol and marijuana each bring forth something else from a person. Both are known to loosen one’s tongue, though in different ways. Alcohol may turn people violent when consumed in large doses, although this may only be a side effect of its tendency to diminish personal restraints. In the same manner, marijuana also contributes to lowering psychological hurdles or inhibitions, but in a more carefree way. Alcohol may be more a „I can do whatever I want“-drug, while marijuana a „everything is OK with me“ one.
Long Term Effects
Both drugs are known to change the body when consumed regularly for a long time. Chronic alcohol consumption may be the cause of cardiovascular disease, malabsorption, chronic pancreatitis, alcoholic liver disease, and cancer, although studies have shown that moderate regular use may in fact be beneficial to the body and decrease the risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or osteoporosis (the French paradox). On the marijuana side, long term heavy users may deal with problems with the reproductive system, memory issues, as well as heart and lung diseases (marijuana users are often known as deep inhalers, which damages the lungs more than normal inhales). In addition, many people consider marijuana as a gateway drug to other, harder drugs, attributed to the fact that long term users often report the feeling of high diminishing with time, as with any addiction that the body gets used to. In such cases, some people may turn to more powerful drugs, which may result in wider health consequences for the body.
Most users of either drug report negatively on the combination of the two drugs. Consuming the two together may result for many people in a feeling of disgust. In fact, in a study on the interaction between alcohol and marijuana, researchers have discovered that the effects of each drug separately seem to augment each other when taken together, which may be too much for many people at a time. In that fashion, a slight dizziness or loss of motor skills caused from consuming alcohol may be increased by combining it with marijuana. Adding to that, the study concluded that alcohol and marijuana are distinctly different drugs.
Social Environment of Consumption
While alcohol is often associated with college parties, balls, religious ceremonies and other public events, there are many people who consume it on a regular basis privately, alone or with a friend. Marijuana, on the other hand, is largely known as a social drug, with some people consuming a whole joint on their own even considered somewhat antisocial. Not surprisingly, marijuana is often smoked in a circle, where one or more people prepare the joint, which is then lighted and passed around the participants. This tendency of social consumption may be attributed to some of the effects of marijuana mentioned before, like allowing people to feel better about themselves and open up more to deep conversations.