Over the past decade, the phrase “Cannabis is safer than alcohol” has become the official slogan for why the average smoker should be able to enjoy the same freedom as those who enjoy a stiff drink. After all, pot is arguably less risky than the sauce Americans pour down their throats at sporting events, weekends, or any other day when it becomes absolutely imperative to celebrate the good times or drown out the bad. . But no matter how tightly the bottle is woven into the vomit-stained fabric of civil society, alcohol remains one of the most savage serial killers of any intoxicating substance, legal or not.
The nation’s affinity for all things beer, wine and spirits suffocates an estimated 95,000 diehard drinkers each year from diseases such as liver failure and cancer. Meanwhile, perhaps the most horrific consequence the average cannabis fan could endure, at least as far as we can tell, is putting on a few extra pounds after stuffing their face with everything. found in the kitchen once the cravings have started. But we digress. Given what we know about the two substances, the herb appears to be a safer alternative to alcoholic beverages. A legion of lawyers even claim that legalization can help lift the big, drooling drunk from the gutter of the nation’s misery and despair, finally putting them on the right path.
Fast forward a few years, and the legalization of cannabis for adults 21 and older has taken hold in more of the country. Yet alcohol-related harm continues to rise. In Coloradoone of the first states to legalize leaf in a manner similar to booze, booze continues to wreak havoc.
A recent study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) finds that alcohol-related deaths increased nearly 30% in the Centennial State in 2020. Although they had the option of using cannabis rather than of alcohol over the past eight years, Colorado residents are obviously still getting drunk to death at alarming numbers. Liver disease, alcohol poisoning, dangerous behavior under the influence, mental health problems and alcohol-induced damage to other organs appear in coroner’s reports like wildfires . This increase in alcohol-related deaths isn’t just happening in Colorado, either. In other legal states, the statistics are similar. On the whole, with or without pot, people always drink to excess and pay the price.
Nonetheless, some cannabis proponents still believe that legal weed could be a saving grace for a drunk nation. “That’s why liquor companies have fought so hard all these years to keep marijuana from becoming legal,” said Logan, a 34-year-old man from Houston, Texas. Highlights. “They know they would lose billions of dollars.” Logan is one of many pot purists on the cannabis scene who believes green is a dating drug, and it’s a drug he believes will draw more fanfare than alcohol ever has. had. “I know several people who were on their third or fourth DUI and almost homeless who got sober because they switched to cannabis,” he said.
Logan might be onto something.
In an attempt to clear up this controversy, Highlights reached out to the scientific minds connected to the NIAAA Alcohol Study to see if they had any idea why alcohol-related harm is still on the rise in states where cannabis is legal. But even Uncle Sam’s health buddies don’t understand how cannabis legalization is affecting the frothy minds of America’s lush great.
“We just don’t have a clear picture yet of the impact of marijuana legalization on alcohol use and related harms,” said George F. Koob, Ph.D. from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, says Highlights. According to Koob, all the agency’s research has found so far is growing evidence that using cannabis and alcohol at the same time leads to more hazards on the road. “There is growing evidence of increased harm associated with driving under the influence of both marijuana and alcohol,” he added.
Crucially, the NIAAA study in no way compared alcohol consumption rates to cannabis consumption. It simply reveals the savage nature of alcohol abuse in this country. Equally important, the study shows that there have been just as many alcohol-related deaths in states where pot is still considered an outlaw drug. Alcohol-related harm is on the rise in every state. What is discouraging, however, is that there is no reported decrease in states where weed is legal. And that is the purpose of this article. Cannabis might be safer than alcohol. Getting high could be a solid alternative to getting drunk. But most people who have a drink once in a while, who weren’t cannabis users to begin with, probably won’t make the switch.
There may have been reductions in alcohol consumption in states that have legalized (meaning some people have likely been able to cut back or quit entirely based on access to legal weed). These people, presumably the silent success stories, have simply been lost in a significant increase in alcohol-related harm. More research is needed on this topic before the story of the smoker getting sober is properly told. That said, however, some studies actually show that the concept of cannabis as a replacement for alcohol is defensible.
In 2009, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley interviewed hundreds of medical cannabis patients and found that most of them used cannabis as an alternative to alcohol. Other studies have found similar results. “In the sample as a whole, individuals drank approximately 29% fewer drinks and were 2.06 times less likely to have an binge drinking episode on days when cannabis was used compared to days where cannabis was not consumed. These patterns were seen in males, females, and infrequent and frequent cannabis use groups,” reports a team of scientists from the University of Colorado at Boulder and Colorado State University.
The medical professionals we spoke to say that cannabis can absolutely help those who are ravaged by alcohol find some peace beyond the bottle. The caveat is that the desire to stop drinking is essential and the results are not absolute. “For people who want to cut down or quit alcohol, cannabis may be a viable substitute,” said Dr. Jordan Tishler, CEO of InhaleMD and Instructor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Highlights. The problem is that many people use cannabis and alcohol together. “Cannabis use alone will not lead to a decrease in alcohol consumption,” he said.
Dr. Tishler does not provide medical cannabis recommendations for patients trying to reduce their alcohol intake, but he admits that many still report less alcohol consumption. “I have many patients who report drinking less or quitting alcohol,” said the good doctor. “However, for most patients, this seems incidental to their care (or perhaps a secondary benefit). I think it really comes down to whether they are looking to cut down on their alcohol consumption and whether they are motivated to do so. Overall, I think cannabis can be helpful in the context of intentional alcohol reduction, but is not going to result in alcohol reduction just because cannabis is used.
While weed is probably a healthier choice than booze, it doesn’t seem like legalization is helping to dry up a not-so-sober nation. And it doesn’t matter. The cannabis plant does not have to heal the sick, raise the dead or perform other miracles for the oppressed of humanity to deserve legal status. Specifically, cannabis users should not be viewed as less civilized and law-abiding because their drug of choice does not cure the ills of an alcoholic society.
If you ask Dr. Tishler, a longtime proponent of pot for medicinal purposes, the Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol spiel should definitely be canned for the nation’s well-being. While the slogan makes a strong case for legalization, it does nothing to benefit public health and safety as cannabis use becomes more widespread nationwide.
“There is good data to support the idea that one-on-one cannabis is safer than alcohol, but in reality, none are entirely safe,” Dr. Tishler said. “Saying that cannabis is safer than alcohol sounds like a good argument for legalizing cannabis, but that only overlooks the risks of cannabis for political purposes.”