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Cannabis vs Alcohol: Which is Safer?

05/10/2018 All About Cannabis

Now, we know what we’re about to say may sound bias coming from a leading cannabis dispensary in Colorado. But it really is hard to overstate how much safer cannabis is than alcohol. And consumers are wising up.

Adults all over the US with access to legal cannabis are choosing a safer alternative to alcohol. In 2017, research by Cowen & Co. concluded that the beer industry could lose up to $2 billion due to legal cannabis sales. They attribute this to consumers having more options for recreational vices than alcohol, a drug that can cause short-term and long-term issues, and has a highly addictive nature.

When looking at all the current science on the topic, one thing is clear: cannabis is less toxic, less addictive, and less likely to result in negative health effects than cannabis.

Possibility of THC Overdose? Alcohol Overdose?

There is no more stark a difference between cannabis and alcohol than alcohol’s ability to cause an overdose.

When drinking alcohol too quickly, the body cannot metabolize it fast enough. This leads to a build up of alcohol in the brain, shutting down parts that are necessary for survival. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), six people die from an alcohol overdose in the US every day, or more than 2,220 Americans annually.

Cannabis could not be a more different story. There has never been a recorded instance of a cannabis overdose death in history. And if you think that’s an exaggeration, it isn’t! The United Nations Drug Office released the 2017 World Drug Report. In it, they note that they were unable to find a single instance of cannabis overdose in the entire world, despite cannabis being the most widely used and trafficked drug across the globe.

Now, this isn’t to scare you out of ever having a drink. But drinking large amounts of alcohol can result in irreparable harm and cannabis simply does not carry that same risk.

Short-Term Health Effects of Cannabis vs Alcohol

Having a bad hangover has to be one of the very worst ways to spend a day. We’ve all been there. There’s the pounding headache, nausea, and the intense need to eat greasy food to soak it all up. One bad hangover will make even the strongest person question whether alcohol is worth all of the pain.  

What happens in the body while drinking alcohol to cause all these short-term negative effects? Alcohol irritates the lining of the throat, stomach, small, and large intestines, so the body overcompensates by producing extra mucus and bile. That extra mucus and bile is what so often comes up if you vomit during drinking or a hangover. Add this to the severe dehydration alcohol causes and you’re in for a day of Pedialyte, Netflix, and pizza in bed.

In addition to hangovers, alcohol seriously increases risk of injury due to clumsiness or violence. Unlike cannabis, research shows there is a direct intoxication-violence relationship with alcohol, making it a factor in 25-30% of violent crimes and domestic abuse in the United States. According to research published in “Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, 36% of hospitalized assaults and 21% of all injuries in America are attributed to alcohol.

Needless to say, there is no direct relationship between cannabis intoxication and violence. Nor is there an increased risk of injury when using cannabis. In fact, a controlled study from 2006 concluded, “Marijuana use may be associated with a decreased risk of injury. Other illicit drug use was associated with an increased risk.”

In summary, alcohol in excess can cause terrible hangovers, nausea, headaches, and can increase risk of injury or violence, as well as limiting motor function control. Cannabis use simply does not result in any of these things.

Long-Term Health Effects of Marijuana vs Alcohol

We’ve discussed the possibility of overdose with alcohol and the short-term effects of alcohol use. Now, let’s take a look into the long-term effects of alcohol compared to cannabis.

It should be said from the very start that the long-term effects of cannabis still need to be researched thoroughly. The illegality of marijuana on the federal level keeps us from fully understanding the long-term effects of its use with any scientific certainty.  

On the other hand, alcohol has been researched and picked apart in just about every way imaginable for the last few decades. According to 50 years worth of research, long-term alcohol use can lead to all sorts of diseases, including liver disease, fibrosis, cirrhosis, pancreatitis, and cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) labels alcohol as a Group 1 Carcinogen, or a substance that is cancer causing to humans. Chronic alcohol use can lead to cancer of the esophagus, stomach, colon, lungs, pancreas, liver, and prostate.

When it comes to cannabis use, there is no negative link to cancer. In the largest case-controlled study ever, Dr. Donald Tashkin at the University of California Los Angeles examined the respiratory effects of smoking cigarettes and cannabis. Surprisingly, the study found that smoking cannabis did not increase risk of developing lung cancer. Even more surprisingly, the researchers found that daily cannabis consumers had a lower incidence rate of cancer compared to non-cannabis users.

Unlike the flawed stereotype that has led so many to believe that cannabis kills brain cells, there is real science to support that long-term alcohol use actually does harm the neurons in our brain. Alcohol damages dendrites, the end of neurons, making it difficult for neurons to relay messages to each other.

All of this comes together to make for a pretty shocking statistic. According to the CDC, 30,000 people die annually in the US from health effects of long-term alcohol use, often a result of alcohol’s highly addictive nature (a characteristic not shared with cannabis). And that doesn’t even include the many thousand more that die from alcohol-related accidents or overdose.

This article isn’t meant to scare you. As with most things in life, moderation is key. But it is important for adults to understand the short and long-term effects of alcohol and that there is a healthier alternative available.

If you’re interested in switching from alcohol to cannabis, stop by Buddy Boy Brands and we will walk you through all the creative products that can take the place of alcohol.



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