What if I told you there was a widely-known substance that Americans love using that leads to 95,000 deaths, can lead to chronic conditions like liver disease, heart disease and stroke, unspecified liver cirrhosis, upper aerodigestive tract cancers, liver cancer, supraventricular cardiac dysrhythmia, breast cancer, and hypertension, and costs the nation more than 249 billion per year? And what if I told you there were commercials on TV advertising that substance?
Well, that substance is alcohol. And despite the grim statistics attached to it, anyone aged 21 or older can buy alcohol with just a valid state ID.
Meanwhile, a substance like cannabis, which has been shown by countless studies to have profound medical uses for treating and managing a wide range of illnesses and conditions, is as or more effective than opioids for treating and managing pain, and is legal in some form in the majority of U.S. states, is still treated as a Schedule 1 drug due to outdated and non-scientific Reefer Madness-era legislation.
On the surface, cannabis and alcohol seem to have a lot in common. Both were fully outlaws with prohibition-style legislation, both were still used and beloved by Americans in spite of those prohibitions, and both are legal and widely consumed by Americans today. When it comes to the impact on the health of the user, however, there’s no comparison to which one is more destructive. From a health standpoint, cannabis is clearly the healthier option of the two.
This article is going to break down exactly why alcohol is worse for your body and mental health, the impacts of alcohol abuse compared to issues associated with cannabis use, and the huge costs associated with alcohol compared to cannabis.
Alcohol vs Cannabis For Your Overall Health
From a scientific perspective, trying to compare the impacts of cannabis and alcohol on your overall health is like trying to compare apples and oranges. Here’s just a quick round-up of some of the many issues with alcohol compared to cannabis:
You Can Overdose on Alcohol. You Can’t with Cannabis
This is a stat that’s likely to have been cited by every cannabis user you know, especially when comparing cannabis-related to harder drugs like cocaine, heroin, or even alcohol. But, like many things when it comes to cannabis, science has proven the myths to be valid.
According to the Scientific Research Society, alcohol is one of the easiest drugs to overdose on. And when those overdoses happen, the results are often deadly. It only takes ten times the normal dose of alcohol to lead to death. That’s why, according to the CDC, more than 1,600 people in the U.S. die of alcohol poisoning per year.
Cannabis, on the other hand, is nearly impossible to overdose on alone. According to the same Scientific Research Society study, a cannabis user would need to consume “thousands of times” the normal dose to suffer any life-threatening effects. That’s likely a key reason why cannabis overdoses consistently have a yearly overdose death count of zero.
Download Our 1 Pager Guide to Dosing Medical Marijuana
Alcohol is FAR more Addictive than Cannabis
While there’s still some scientific and academic debate to be had about whether or not cannabis is actually addictive in the first place, there’s zero wiggle-room to suggest that alcohol is even comparable.
Studies as far back as 1998 definitely show that alcohol’s addiction potential is significantly greater than that of cannabis. Even the federal government has been forced to admit that cannabis simply isn’t anywhere close to as addictive as alcohol. A comprehensive federal study said, “Millions of Americans have tried marijuana, but most are not regular users [and] few marijuana users become dependent on it … [A]lthough [some] marijuana users develop dependence, they appear to be less likely to do so than users of other drugs (including alcohol and nicotine), and marijuana dependence appears to be less severe than dependence on other drugs.”
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) affects about 8 percent of men, 4 percent of women, and 2.5 percent of adolescents aged between 12 and 17 in the U.S.
Alcohol is Devastating to Your Internal Organs. Cannabis Is Not
While alcohol has long been shown to have a serious impact on people’s health, breaking it down by the numbers shows how destructive alcohol can be to the body. The liver, your body’s filtration system, is the internal organ most impacted by alcohol abuse. In 2019, of the 85,688 liver disease deaths among individuals, 43.1 percent involved alcohol. Alcohol-related liver disease is responsible for 1-3 liver transplants in the U.S.
Statistics like that don’t exist for cannabis, especially since the use of edibles, tinctures, and other alternatives to smoking cannabis can be harmful to your lungs and your heart has exploded in recent years.
At the end of the day, research has shown that people who drink alcohol excessively have a greater risk of liver disease, heart disease, depression, stroke, and stomach bleeding, as well as cancers of the oral cavity, esophagus, larynx, pharynx, liver, colon, and rectum. On top of that, those who abuse alcohol will likely have problems managing conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, pain, and sleep disorders. Cannabis, on the other hand, helps manage the vast majority of those issues or help deal with the discomfort often associated with them.
Alcohol Kills People. Cannabis Doesn’t
This might be the most important factor to consider when it comes to choosing between consuming alcohol or cannabis.
According to the CDC, more than 30,000 annual deaths in the U.S. can be directly attributed back to the health impacts of alcohol. And that’s without even factoring in those who die in vehicle crashes or accidents related to cannabis.
The same claims can’t be reasonably made for cannabis. In fact, some studies have shown that the mortality risk associated with cannabis is about 114 times lower than for alcohol. That’s a striking, real difference.
In fact, even just consuming alcohol increases the risk of overall injury to the consumer. Research shows that 36 percent of hospitalized assaults and 21 percent of all injuries can be directly tied to alcohol use while the injured person. Meanwhile, the American Journal of Emergency Medicine reported that lifetime use of marijuana is rarely associated with emergency room visits. According to the British Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, this is because:
“Cannabis differs from alcohol … in one major respect. It does not seem to increase risk-taking behavior. This means that cannabis rarely contributes to violence either to others or to oneself, whereas alcohol use is a major factor in deliberate self-harm, domestic accidents and violence.”
Cannabis, on the other hand, has actually shown the potential to decrease the overall risk of injury. While more research for sure needs to be done on the subject, it makes sense on paper. We’ve all seen the differences between someone who’s consumed too much alcohol and someone who has consumed too much cannabis, right?
The Bottom Line
While cannabis has been shown by study after study to do mostly harm to not only society but the body of those who use it, cannabis has proven over and over again to have the opposite effect. Medical cannabis has absolutely exploded over the last two decades or so, and the vast majority of those who get their cards have benefitted from it.
Studies have shown that medical cannabis patients are happier and healthier than non-users on average. So the next time you’re trying to figure out whether you should crack open a beer or take a rip from your vape pen, maybe consider putting that can away for another day.