Booze or Pot? No Question Which Substance Is More Harmful to Health

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By Paul Armentano, Truthout

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Pot and booze both have their aficionados – and their detractors. But an objective assessment of these two substances’ impact upon health yields only one conclusion: that marijuana is far safer than alcohol. Here’s why.

Alcohol, unlike cannabis, is a central nervous system depressant that possesses an affinity to the brain’s opioid receptors. This is why the consumption of alcohol depresses the brain’s inhibitory control mechanisms, and why the over-consumption of alcohol may cause respiratory failure, coma and death. By contrast, consuming cannabis, regardless of quantity, is incapable of causing lethal overdose.

According to the National Academy of Sciences, about 15 percent of those who experiment with alcohol become dependent upon it. (For cannabis, this percentage is estimated to be 9 percent.) Moreover, ceasing one’s alcohol consumption after prolonged usage can trigger significant feelings of craving as well as physical withdrawal and even death. Manifestations of physical withdrawal from cannabis have also been observed, though these symptoms have been described by the National Academy of Sciences and others as “mild” compared to those of alcohol, opiates or nicotine.

It is well established that alcohol consumption is associated with adverse effects on the body and on behavior. Reports by the World Health Organization and others link alcohol consumption with increased odds of intimate partner violence. The use of cannabis is inversely associated with such violent outbursts. Victim survey data analyzed by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that just over a quarter of all violent crimes are committed by an offender who had recently been drinking. Cannabis, by contrast, does not typically stimulate reckless or aggressive behavior nor is its use associated with an increased risk of hospitalization…

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