President Barack Obama said to The New Yorker magazine, “As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”
The much-loved quote from Obama became a well-explored fact by anyone curious about either side of the argument: which substance is more dangerous OR are they just too different to compare?
When it comes to alcohol, over 100,000 people die each year in North America from alcohol-related causes: drinking over-doses, driving, and other accidents such as falls, fires, homicides, and suicides. With marijuana, that tally is much much less. There is no anecdotal evidence of death by cannabis, but according to science, you would have to consume up to 40,000 times the average dose for cannabis in order for it to be lethal. That is, the average person would need to ingest ~1,500 pounds of marijuana within 15 minutes. But as there are more ways than one to skin a cat, there are more perspectives than just this on the differences between booze and bud.
The human body can only metabolize so much alcohol at a time, which is why drinking too much of it can kill a person that same day. Alcohol builds up in the brain and shuts down areas necessary for survival, such as those involved with heartbeat and respiration.
Marijuana increases heart rate and blood pressure, but not to a lethal level. Either substance can impair coordination, spatial awareness, and balance, increasing the risk of hurting oneself.
Of the two, alcohol is more likely to mess with other drugs. This fact means that for people taking medications while drinking—be it prescription or not, a daily medication or not—alcohol can seriously affect a drug’s potency and bioavailability in the body.
Over time, drinking can lead to alcoholic liver disease, which can progress to liver inflammation, which in turn can potentially lead to liver cancer. Excessive drinking can lead to very severe consequences, and chronic excess use will likely to result in a lot of threatening issues. Why some of us are at risk of developing liver disease from drinking faster than others is not entirely understood, but it’s best to stay away from it when you can.
The long-term impact of marijuana use seems to be much more subtle than long-term regular alcohol consumption, but that could be because a chronic marijuana users data is not well-established beyond animal trials. According to some animal studies, long-term chronic smoking can bring on bronchitis, coughing and chronic inflammation of the air passages. Thankfully, there are combustion-free ways of consuming cannabis, such as tinctures, edibles, and vaporizer.
Drinking alcohol has yet to show medical benefits, but some studies claim that its effects include a lower rate of cardiovascular disease and possibly a stronger immune system.
For marijuana, there is good evidence that its cannabinoids can increase resistance and recovery from cancer, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, glaucoma and other many other diseases.
What are your thoughts on this? – – comment below and let us know.
Alana seeks to see cannabis from the perspective of politicians, advocates, entrepreneurs, and consumers. She got her start with a byline in the arts and culture section and crossed over into cannabis after using it medicinally. Current projects include investigations into cannabis and wellness; entrepreneurs of the Green Rush; cannabis for athletes; and the evolution of cannabis laws and culture in Canada.