I was a late bloomer in the weed department. It wasn't until I reached my last legs of college that I kicked off a steamy affair with pot, and it was partly fueled by how poorly alcohol and I were getting along at the time. During most bouts of drinking, I would have massive fights with my roommate while simultaneously battling depressive, headache-packed hangovers. It wasn't long before I was routinely choosing weed over booze every time the choice presented itself.
Clearly, I'm not the only one. In 1977, 24 percent of Americans said they had tried weed at least once in their lives. But in 2013, 38 percent reported having used weed at least once in the past month. We're also seeing some misconceptions about marijuana that were once widely believed being broken down. For instance, remember being taught in school that pot was a gateway drug? Well, The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy has declared, "There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs."
In his latest book Weed: The User's Guide: A 21st Century Handbook for Enjoying Marijuana , David Schmader, writer and former editor of Seattle's the Stranger, claims we're "a populace that's increasingly unwilling to accept the government's lies about weed's dangers and ignorance of its benefits." We're ready for the myths to be put to rest, because if alcohol is legal and so easily accessible, weed should be too. Bustle spoke with Schmader about the weed vs. alcohol debate, and he says, "The main reason I prefer weed over booze is the reliability and duration of weed's effects." Combine that with benefits like a lack of hangovers and better sex, and it's easy to see that pot generally comes out on top.
Here are 13 reasons I believe marijuana is better than alcohol.
1. It Doesn't Give You A Nasty Hangover
"With booze, you're always either on the road to getting drunker or sobering up," Schmader says. It's the sobering up part that affects us the most, with a crippling hangover that often includes a pounding headache, ruthless nausea, and unquenchable thirst. With marijuana on your side, though, you likely won't face such horrendous side effects the morning after being stoned. Although some claim they have experienced a weed hangover at one point, it's not nearly as brutal as the one you have post-birthday bash.
2. It's Not Harming Your Liver
Alcohol might as well be poison, considering the damage it does to your liver. Drinking excessively opens the door for liver disease because it halts your liver's ability to break down harmful substances in your system, meaning there's a lot of gunk left in that organ that should be cleaned out. This leads to inflammation and potentially extreme scarring of the liver called cirrhosis. Weed would never cause such damage to your liver, (although you should consider methods besides smoking if you want to protect your lungs, which we'll get to in a minute).
3. Light-To-Moderate Use Doesn't Increase Your Risk For Cancer
Consuming large amounts of booze raises your chance of contracting any of the following cancers: breast, liver, stomach, esophagus, and mouth. Granted, on a "per puff" basis, marijuana smoke is worse than cigarette smoke because it contains more carcinogens, five times more carbon monoxide, and three times more tar. However, according to a 2013 study from the University of California at Los Angeles, "well-designed epidemiological studies do not suggest an increased risk for the development of either lung or upper airway cancer from light or moderate use" of weed. So while it's not great for your lungs, at the end of the day, it doesn't look like smoking pot will raise your chances of getting lung cancer.
Let's not forget that when you consume marijuana in ways that don't involve smoking, your lungs aren't affected whatsoever, and your chances for cancer definitely don't rise.
4. You Can't Fatally Overdose On It
"You can die binge drinking five minutes after you’ve been exposed to alcohol. That isn’t going to happen with marijuana," Ruben Baler, a health scientist at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told the Huffington Post. The National Cancer Institute concurs. They say the cannaboid receptors aren't located in the brainstem areas responsible for respiration, so lethal overdose is impossible. Besides, when it comes down to bare numbers, there has never been a single case of a person dying from a weed overdose.
5. It Won't Give You The "Asian Glow"
More officially known as alcohol flush reaction, the Asian glow happens to people who lack an enzyme called ALDH2, which safely breaks down the acetaldehyde from alcohol. When acetaldehyde goes unprocessed, it causes our blood vessels to dilate, resulting in a flushed appearance and, for some, breaking out in hives. Eighty percent of East Asians have it, as do many people of Jewish descent. Anyone who gets the Asian glow knows how embarrassing it is to get blotchy and red after just half a glass a wine. The alcohol flush can also give you a splitting headache, nausea, and overall discomfort. In short, it totally wrecks your party experience.
6. It Rarely Lands You In Violent Or Angry Situations
I've never had a major fight with someone close to me when I'm high, and chances are the same is true for you. On the flip side, the biggest arguments I've ever found myself in can be traced back to a night that includes lots of booze. Schmader agrees, "Weed relaxes me, and brings me into the present, but it never changes my outward demeanor the way booze can. I never wake up from a night of weed worrying about 'Why did I make that too-mean joke?' or 'Why did I suggest that threeway?'" You laugh because it's true.
Experts on alcohol addiction say that those who have a drinking problem generally have trouble at home, too. They are more likely to be violent, unfaithful, and struggle with their finances. Forty-six to 60 percent of women who have had emotionally abusive or violent interactions with their spouses were married to heavy drinkers. A 2011 study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research found that 36 percent of assault cases brought into hospitals and 21 of all hospital injuries were linked to alcohol use. According to a recent survey by Cosmopolitan, though, women who enjoy weed healthily have generally found more solid ground in their relationships.
7. It Doesn't Tend To Encourage High-Risk Behavior
On the other hand, according to the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, lifelong use of marijuana almost never results in being admitted into the hospital for an injury. Pot and high-risk behavior simply don't go hand in hand, so you can rest easy that you won't come home with a sprained ankle after you attempted a dumb stunt on your way out of the bar.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that, when it comes to getting into car accidents, there's little difference in the statistics between high drivers and sober ones. People who drink alcohol and get behind the wheel, on the other hand, are much more likely to get into a crash. Eduardo Romano, a senior research scientist at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, agrees, saying his studies show that marijuana doesn't statistically increase the risk of an accident. That being said, it's clearly not a good idea to drive high.
6. It Can Be Used Medicinally
Unlike alcohol, marijuana has been administered as a medicine for thousands of years, long before it was ever whacked on the Schedule 1 drugs list. Schmader covers the medicinal history of weed in Weed: The User's Guide, noting that while pot wasn't usually used to actively treat diseases, it was used palliatively — that is, to treat pain and alleviate symptoms — for everything from epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, cancer, Crohn's disease, PTSD, and AIDS. Good luck finding a case where booze is used in a healing capacity.
9. There Are Just So Many Different Ways To Enjoy It
What can you do with alcohol? Drink it. That's about it. But the possibilities are endless in marijuana land. In Weed: The User's Guide, Schmader breaks down how you can enjoy pot into "three basic camps": inhalation, oral ingestion, and topical application. Obviously, under the first umbrella you've got options like smoking a blunt or vaporizing. The second category is probably the most interesting, in which you can create THC-infused food, drink cannabis teas, or take capsules. Finally, topical application includes things like tonics and tinctures that you rub into your skin. Each has a wildly different effect from the next, leaving you with a lot to play with.
10. It Can Stimulate Creativity
There's a reason so many musicians and artists like Lady Gaga and Rihanna have no shame in toking up. Some studies suggest that moderate use of marijuana actually stimulates neurogenesis in the hippocampus, which encourages the mind to stay sharp and alert. Researchers at Tel Aviv University similarly found that even the smallest amount of THC could protect your brain cells and preserve cognitive function. No wonder so many of us experience great epiphanies when we're stoned and harbor bursts of creativity. It happens to Schmader as well, who says, "I can be creative/productive on weed in ways that are not possible with booze."
Granted, there are a few stray studies out there that prove alcohol can also stimulate creativity. At the University of Illinois in 2012, researchers found that a group of men with a blood alcohol content of 0.075 tackled a problem solving activity more accurately than the sober control group because alcohol made them more "insightful." However, Harvard psychologist and author of the book about writer's block called The Midnight Disease , says alcohol ultimately inhibits brain activity, which might feel like a good thing at first, but it's not sustainable as the blood alcohol content keeps rising. The feeling of euphoria disguised as creativity wears off pretty quickly.
11. It Often Relieves Stress & Anxiety
Researchers at the National Institute of Health, University of Calgary and the Rockefeller University found that marijuana has significant positive effects on cognitive function and can help us cope with pain. In the journal Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, experts said, "Epidemiological studies have indicated that the most common self-reported reason for using cannabis is rooted in its ability to reduce feelings of stress, tension, and anxiety."
Studies have shown that 13 percent of people who drink alcohol do so to ease anxiety as well. However, for those of us with an anxiety disorder or related mental illness, reaching for booze can end poorly. We're much more likely to be diagnosed with social phobia after drinking in an attempt to self-medicate and we're 13 percent more likely to develop an addiction to alcohol over time. The likelihood of becoming addicted has a lot to do with genes, but overall booze just doesn't bode well for us.
That said, there is some evidence out there that suggests people with preexisting psychiatric conditions who use marijuana on the regular might experience worse anxiety. This is more common, though, with diseases like schizophrenia, and it varies case by case. Recent surveys show that teenage girls struggling with depression are more likely to reach for marijuana, and they were twice as likely to continue to battle with depression into their adult years.
12. It Makes Food & Sex Better
Everything you love in life is better with weed. Pot stimulates our brain's olfactory center (rather than dull it like alcohol does), which enhances our smell and taste, making food more magical. Music sounds more interesting and even the simplest visuals can blow your mind. Plus, it doesn't hurt that marijuana "greatly enhances sex," Schmader says, "whereas booze can smooth the road to sex but complicate the actual consummation." Alcohol is known to decrease sex drive in women, and up to 70 percent of men who drink heavily will suffer from erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. Finally, you should know that 60 percent of STDs are transmitted when alcohol is in the mix.
13. It Could Make Your Menstrual Cramps Better
Here's a question for any menstruating woman out there: when has a night out at your local pub ever eased your period cramps? Weed, however, has been used to treat menstrual cramps and related muscle spasms for centuries. In 1842, Irish physician Dr. William O'Shaughnessy brought cannabis into mainstream medicinal use by administering it to women who needed some PMS relief. Cannabis dials down the part of your brain that is experiencing pain, allowing you and your cramps to relax. It worked for Queen Victoria in the 1890s, anyway.
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