Is Marijuana really safer than alcohol? Science weighs in

Is Marijuana really safer than alcohol? Science weighs in

Move over, alcohol, Marijuana is now America’s choice. 

A recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed that more Americans are toking up daily than cracking open a cold one.

It’s a historic shift, fueled by widespread legalization and the persistent belief that weed is the “healthier” option. But is it really?

Marijuana legalization

With 24 states waving the green flag for recreational marijuana, it’s no surprise that weed is experiencing a popularity surge.

The legalization movement has long championed marijuana’s supposed safety, even leading the Biden administration to reclassify it as a less dangerous drug. But as the smoke clears, we’re starting to see a different picture emerge.

Today’s marijuana is significantly more potent, with some products boasting a staggering 90 percent THC – the psychoactive ingredient responsible for the high.

This surge in potency has sparked a wave of research, revealing a host of health concerns that can no longer be ignored.

Hidden dangers of cannabis

Recent studies have painted a worrying picture of marijuana’s potential risks. In Canada, hospital visits for cannabis poisoning among older adults tripled after legalization.

In California, admissions for cannabis-related complications skyrocketed. And across the US, thousands of young people are hospitalized annually for reasons linked to weed.

The culprits behind these hospital visits range from mental health crises, including psychotic breaks and suicide attempts, to heart and lung problems.

There’s even a bizarre vomiting condition called cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, thought to plague up to a third of regular users.

And let’s not forget the alarming rise in marijuana-related DUIs, a sobering reminder that weed can impair judgment and reaction times.

Alcohol’s dark side

Alcohol is no saint, of course. It’s a well-known villain, linked to a list of health problems, including heart disease, liver damage, stroke, diabetes, and various cancers. Binge drinking is particularly dangerous, increasing the risk of heart disease and heart attacks.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared that no amount of alcohol is safe, a stark reminder of its potential to wreak havoc on our bodies. And the numbers don’t lie: alcohol-related deaths far outnumber those linked to marijuana.

Marijuana vs. alcohol

While alcohol may reign supreme in physical harm, marijuana takes the crown for its devastating impact on mental health. Psychosis, a severe mental disorder characterized by a loss of touch with reality, can occur after just one joint or edible.

“Chemically speaking alcohol is water soluble. It is metabolized at a reliable steady rate in the urine,” says Dr. Roneet Lev, an emergency medicine doctor.

THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana is fat soluble. That means the drug likes to stick around the fatty parts of the body, namely the brain.

Large population-based studies have shown that that the risk of cannabis induced psychosis can be up to 20 percent. That can happen after a single use.

“Alcohol does not have the same risk for psychosis as marijuana. Alcoholics who develop psychosis do you after years of drinking, not after an episode of binge drinking,” Dr. Lev concluded.

Tragic cases like that of a Californian audiologist Bryn Spejcher, who stabbed her date 108 times during a cannabis-induced psychosis, highlight the extreme and violent nature of marijuana-related deaths. And let’s not forget the countless children who have suffered brutal fates due to their parents’ marijuana use.

Impact of marijuana and alcohol on brain

Contrary to popular belief, marijuana addiction is a real and serious problem. Studies estimate that millions of Americans meet the criteria for marijuana use disorder. Research has even linked chronic marijuana use to an increased risk of depression and bipolar disorder.

So, which is worse: marijuana or alcohol? The answer is not as simple as you might think. Both substances carry significant risks, but the nature of those risks differs.

Alcohol is more likely to cause physical harm, while marijuana poses a greater threat to mental health. And while alcohol-related deaths may be more numerous, those linked to marijuana tend to be more violent and extreme.

“We have decades of research on the health effects of drinking. But research on cannabis is still evolving and the public health consequences of its commercialized use — in new products and doses — will take years to understand,” notes internal medicine physician Dr. Salomeh Keyhani.

Ultimately, the choice between marijuana and alcohol is a personal one. But armed with this knowledge, you can make a more informed decision about your health and well-being. Remember, moderation and responsible use are key to minimizing the risks associated with either substance.

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