High Spirits: Cannabis vs. Beer

In the ongoing discourse surrounding cannabis and alcohol, both substances possess their proponents and critics. However, new research indicates that cannabis might hold several advantages over alcohol, spanning its impact on health to its societal implications. 

A significant divergence between cannabis and alcohol lies in their health impacts. While excessive alcohol intake is linked with various health hazards, including liver disease, cardiovascular issues, and addiction, cannabis poses fewer physical health risks when consumed responsibly. Studies reveal that cannabis is generally less toxic to the body than alcohol, with a lower risk of overdose and organ damage.

Furthermore, cannabis exhibits promise in treating a diverse array of medical conditions such as chronic pain, epilepsy, anxiety, and PTSD. Unlike alcohol, which can exacerbate mental health ailments, cannabis may provide therapeutic relief for individuals grappling with psychological disorders.

According to a 2020 study, while cannabis has been utilized for centuries for therapeutic purposes and anecdotal evidence hints at its potential in alleviating psychiatric symptoms like anxiety and depression, heavy cannabis usage has been correlated with contributing to psychiatric issues, especially in predisposed individuals. The principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis, THC, can yield both positive and adverse effects on mental health, whereas CBD, a non-psychoactive compound, exhibits promise in mitigating psychotic and affective symptoms.

In terms of safety, cannabis holds a notable edge over alcohol. The risk of impairment and accidents is markedly lower with cannabis than alcohol consumption. Research indicates that alcohol impairs cognitive function, motor skills, and decision-making abilities, heightening the likelihood of accidents and injuries. Conversely, cannabis typically induces milder impairments, enabling users to maintain greater cognitive control and coordination.

Dr. Godfrey Pearlson, medical director of the Olin Neuropsychiatry Research Center at the Institute of Living, was quoted as saying, “The odds of being involved in a motor vehicle crash when driving ‘stoned’ are approximately double those of sober driving, but significantly less than the 10 to 15 times increase when driving with a blood alcohol concentration of approximately 0.1.”

Moreover, an article from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reconfirms that while marijuana use can result in neurophysiological impairments, individuals tend to overestimate their impairment when under the influence. This differs from alcohol users, who frequently underestimate their impairment. Consequently, marijuana users may employ compensatory strategies while driving, potentially elucidating why laboratory tests have not shown an elevated crash rate among marijuana users versus alcohol users.

Additionally, alcohol is closely linked to violent behavior and aggression, while cannabis is more commonly associated with relaxation and sedation. Opting for cannabinoid-infused treatments over alcohol may mitigate the risk of engaging in harmful or aggressive behaviors, fostering safer interactions and environments for not just the user but those around them.

The societal impact of cannabis legalization versus alcohol consumption is another area to ponder. Historically, alcohol has been at the forefront of societal issues, including drunk driving accidents, domestic violence, and alcohol-related crime–must we bring up Prohibition? Conversely, the legalization of cannabis has not precipitated a commensurate surge in social problems.

In fact, some physicians are now prescribing medical cannabis to help alleviate the frequency and/or severity of aggression-related disorders and symptoms, such as hyperactivity, self-mutilation, anger outbursts, sleep disturbances, anxiety, restlessness, psychomotor agitation, irritability, aggression, perseveration, and depression. 

Last but not least, we cannot forget to include that cannabis legalization harbors the potential to yield substantial tax revenue and create job opportunities within the legal cannabis industry. By regulating cannabis production and sales, policymakers can mitigate the adverse consequences associated with illicit drug trade while also stimulating the economy.

While the discourse between cannabis and alcohol persists and likely will for years to come, mounting evidence suggests that cannabis may offer several advantages over alcohol. Cannabis presents a compelling alternative to alcohol consumption. 

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