Both marijuana and alcohol are well known substances throughout the world, with each having its own unique history. Once upon a time alcohol was uses for medical use, just like medical marijuana is being used now in modern time. The biggest difference however is that it was soon realized that using alcohol as a medical aid is not an effective measure, especially with the development of modern medicine. Doctors even recommend staying away from alcohol due to its long-term effects on the human body. Marijuana on the other hand has gone from being the face of the war on drugs to being legalized and sold for its medicinal properties and benefits. Marijuana vs alcohol has been an age-old debate that continues to this day, here we will discuss marijuana vs alcohol, which one is better for you, the long-term effects and everything else regarding weed and alcohol.
There is no definitive answer on the debate of marijuana vs alcohol and which one is healthier, it very much comes down to how each substance is used by each individual, but if you were to choose whether weed or alcohol was the best option for you health wise, the obvious candidate is marijuana. For years these two substances have been mirrored in different ways, alcohol has been widely legal since prohibition in the early 1900s which brings a false perception it is somehow safer for you. Then there is cannabis, which in large part is illegal in most areas of the world, this has led many to believe that marijuana is less safe then other substances, though some parts of the world have legalized it, the perception still remains that cannabis is an unsafe drug to consume. But as society evolves and we get a better understanding the facts are starting to become more concentrate.
When using any substance there is always going to be an effect on a number of areas of the body, this is especially true when it comes to the brain. The effects the brain can encounter from using a substance can effect things like thought patterns, memory and both physical and mental functions, resulting both short and long term effects.
When consuming alcohol various areas of the brain are affected, these areas include GABA, glutamate and dopamine. When our glutamate receptors and GABA center receptors are affected by alcohol the physical effects associated with drinking present themselves. Short term effects such as slurred speech and slow movement and reflexes are what provide the drunk feeling we encounter when consuming alcohol. When alcohol interacts with our dopamine receptors our brain produces more dopamine which causes us to be happier and feel more pleasurable, this is the happy relaxing feeling we get when consuming alcohol. These positive pleasurable feelings are known as part of the biphasic effect which has two phases, this phase being the first. The second phase is when things like motor functions start to become difficult, this is when people start to feel overly intoxicated due to the brain being overloaded, which can result in the body rejecting alcohol with nausea and vomiting. On a short-term basis this can lead to memory loss, poor decision making and blacking out. Long term effects can have a longer lasting effect such as a reduction in the brains gray matter, decreased cognitive functions, memory loss, shortened attention span and Wernicke-Korsakoff.
Marijuana also have effects on the brain but interacts with different areas, most commonly the CB receptors, these are the receptors that absorb endocannabinoids. When we consume marijuana vs alcohol there is a large influx in the activation of the brains CB receptors, which results in the feeling of being “high”. When this happens the brains experiences things like mood swings, impairment, impaired memory and a change in cognitive ability, these are short term effects that only last a few hours. In terms of long term of effects of marijuana vs alcohol, cannabis shows few sings of any permanent long term effects, with short term memory loss being one of the common symptoms to regular marijuana use. This has lead to many misconceptions of marijuana providing a loss of brain cells, though studies are limited, evidence points to marijuana having no long term effects on the brain and that marijuana only effects the brain on a short term basis rather then a long term.
It’s no secret that when it comes to weed vs alcohol, alcohol has a very negative effect on the liver. When alcohol is excessively consumed there is an intake of acetaldehyde which can cause serious damage to the liver and lead to serious cases such as liver cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, and a fatty liver. When it comes to liver damage it is the number one death related cause due to alcohol.
Marijuana on the other hand has no related toxins that effect the liver, the topic has been researched and no evidence has been found that marijuana has contributed or caused liver disease or any known deaths that correlate between marijuana and the liver. Marijuana has actually shown that it can help with existing liver diseases, helping reduce the severity and prevalence in the later stages of liver disease. It has also shown that it can help with therapy for chemotherapy and various other treatments that are used for treating both liver disease and liver cirrhosis. Notably helping with increasing appetite, increasing energy and preventing nausea.
The old one glass of red win a day additive to gain a healthy heart is true but unnecessary, the boost of good cholesterol and prevention of clotting can be achieved through various other avenues such as red grape skin or a glass of grape juice. Alcohol and its relation to the heart can have a negative effect, particularly when you consume more then one drink a day. The short term effects increase blood pressure, cause irregular heartbeat and difficulty breathing. Long term effects can cause potential permanent high blood pressure and also triglycerides in the blood. Heavy drinking can also lead to stroke and heart failure, it can also contribute to obesity due to the high caloric intake in beer, wine and some mixed drinks. This can cause severe weight gain with a long list of problems that comes with being overly obese.
When it comes to marijuana and alcohol, marijuana is the least harmful of the two. Though marijuana does contribute to poor heart health for those already experiencing heart issues. Marijuana and alcohol both raise heart rates, dilate blood vessels and increase blood pressure. But this is as far as marijuana goes when it comes to affecting the heart, although studies are limited on the subject. Some research has pointed towards the use of marijuana with patients with heart disease can be risky due to the possibility of cannabis causing stress which can lead to sudden chest pain, but more studies need to be conducted. The long-term effect of marijuana and the heart are somewhat positive as it has shown that cannabis can lower heart rate, increase blood volume and lower circulatory response while doing physical activity.
Though you may not expect it, the respiratory system and drinking alcohol do have a correlation and too much alcohol can result in various respiratory issues. For those who suffer from Alcohol Use Disorder it has been linked that they are more inclined to suffer from respiratory infections. They are at a higher risk of developing such things as pneumonia, tuberculosis, respiratory syncytial virus and acute respiratory distress syndrome. Ultimately it comes down to excessive alcohol use weakening the immune system which increases the risk of general respiratory issues.
A study done by Harvard University conducted a study which conclude that those who smoke joints for 10 years and beyond are likely to have an increased lung capacity, this is due to the deep sucking inhalation which stretches the lung tissue to expand lung volume. This results in a strengthening of the muscles in the chest wall, allowing for those who smoke joints to inhale and exhale air more forcefully. This aligns with other studies done on marijuana and the lungs point towards marijuana having more of a positive impact on lungs then negative with marijuana’s anti inflammatory effects helping both the strength and overall wellness of the lungs.
There is no definitive answer to whether alcohol or marijuana is the safer of the two since it all comes down to each individuals use of the substance. But when looking at the research and the physical effects, alcohol is clearly more harmful then the cannabis, especially when it is consumed consistent level over a long period of time. The long term effects of alcohol pose an even more serious health risks. Marijuana however poses a reduced risk due to the medicinal compounds found in cannabis. It is safe to say that cannabis is the lesser of two evils when it comes to safety and health. Just remember, everything in moderation.