A non-binding referendum on the legalisation of cannabis will be held in conjunction with the general election on 19 September 2020. Although many New Zealanders have consumed cannabis there is a much greater familiarity with alcohol as a recreational drug to the extent that a lot of people don’t even think of alcohol as a psychoactive drug.
This paper seeks to provide comparative health information about two drugs: delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive drug in cannabis, and ethanol (ethyl alcohol) the psychoactive drug in alcoholic beverages. We have been taught to consider cannabis a dangerous substance for 50 years through publicity aligned with the so-called “War on Drugs”, a global movement initiated by US President Nixon’s declaration in 1971 that drug abuse was “public enemy number one”.
At the same time, alcohol has been promoted as relatively harmless and that it is not only entirely normal for people to consume alcohol most days of the year but that regular drinking is a sign of a successful and popular citizen. This marketing of alcohol by Big Business has been buttressed by backroom lobbying of successive governments to prevent stronger regulation of alcohol.
The result of all of this propaganda and pressure is a strong tendency for us to think of alcohol as good and cannabis as bad. Table 1 compares delta9-THC and ethanol according to 13 commonly discussed issues related to drugs and health. The descriptions of harm are in some cases based on very solid information, such as the overdose and cancer risks of alcohol, whereas other aspects such as whether cannabis causes brain damage and depression are not clearly established by existing research.
Table 1: A descriptive comparison of 13 harms to health related to two psychoactive drugs, delta9-THC and ethanol. *Evidence that ethanol is more harmful than delta9-THC. **Good evidence ethanol is distinctly more harmful than delta9-THC. Ethanol is more harmful than delta9-THC on nine of the 13 aspects considered. For two of these, motor vehicle injury and causation of depression, the evidence is indicative that alcohol is more harmful; but for seven of these there is good evidence that ethanol is distinctly more harmful as follows: 1. The safety ratio of delta9-THC is >1,000 1 indicating it is almost impossible to die from a cannabis overdose, whereas ethanol, with a safety ratio of 10, close to heroin which is six, makes death from alcohol poisoning a not infrequent event in New Zealand life and tragically associated at times with coming of age challenges to drink a potentially lethal dose of alcohol.2. Ethanol directly causes aggression through a number of interacting mechanisms, including misinterpretation of visual cues2 and inducing sadism.3 The damage from drunken aggression can be observed every weekend and many weekdays in New Zealand’s ‘vibrant’ social life, and seen in the appalling alcohol-fueled family violence statistics that continue year after year, a phenomenon not observed for cannabis. In head-to-head research cannabis was found to decrease aggressive feelings following aggression exposure compared with alcohol, which enhanced aggressive feelings.4 6. When severe, the withdrawal syndrome following neuroadaptation from ethanol is associated with complications that can pose a high potential for death in some patients. These complications include seizures and delirium as well as the risk of aspirating vomit. These complications are not a feature of delta9-THC withdrawal.7. Chronic cognitive impairment is a well-known consequential risk for alcohol when consumed heavily for an extended period of time. The two main syndromes are alcoholic dementia (due to the direct toxic effect of alcohol on the brain and affecting frontal lobes in particular) and the Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (mediated by depletion of thiamine (Vitamin B1) in combination with the toxic effects of alcohol). The evidence for chronic cognitive impairment from heavy cannabis use is much less well established. Sensitive testing including electrophysiological measures have revealed long-term deficits in attention,5 although the clinical significance of this effect is considered subtle.6 8. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is the result of brain damage to unborn children when alcohol is consumed by their mothers during pregnancy resulting in a range of cognitive-behavioural problems in affected children.7 It has been estimated there could be as many as 3,000 children born with FASD every year in New Zealand.8 The same cannot be said for cannabis use by pregnant mothers. It has been shown that cannabis using mothers are at increased risk of producing low birth weight infants even after controlling for cigarette, alcohol and other drug use,9 but the existence of a fetal cannabis syndrome causing behavioural problems in affected children requires further research.6 In the meantime the best advice for women who are planning pregnancy or who find themselves pregnant is to discontinue all recreational drug use including both alcohol and cannabis.9. Ethanol consumption is implicated in the causation of over 200 different medical conditions,10 whereas delta9-THC appears relatively non-toxic to the human body and has no such medical linkages. On the contrary, delta9-THC and other cannabinoids are the focus of a growing anecdotal literature as treatment for a range of medical conditions including glaucoma, nausea, AIDS-associated anorexia, chronic pain, inflammation, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy.11 13. Alcohol is classified as a Group 1 carcinogen (definite carcinogen to humans) according to the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC),12 which the alcohol industry goes out of its way to not warn its customers about.13 On the other hand, delta9-THC has not been classified by the IARC despite considerable research. While there remains doubt about whether smoking cannabis causes lung cancer, there is nevertheless good evidence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in heavy cannabis smokers,14 but this is likely the consequence of smoking dried plant matter in similar fashion to smoking tobacco rather than consuming the drug delta9-THC. There is only one of the 13 health aspects, 3. Risk of anxiety during intoxication, where cannabis is distinctly more harmful than alcohol. Alcohol dissolves anxiety in most people, whereas cannabis can heighten feelings, including anxiety in some people. There will be a presentation to emergency departments most months of an inexperienced user of cannabis with a panic attack. The one harm often pointed to as evidence of the danger of cannabis compared with alcohol is 11. known to cause psychotic conditions. In fact both cannabis and alcohol can cause psychotic conditions although these are rare events. They generally occur following chronic heavy use of potent forms of either drug, especially when there is a family history of psychosis. The main conditions are alcoholic hallucinosis and psychosis as part of delirium tremens in relation to alcohol, and cannabis-induced psychosis and schizophrenia where cannabis is considered an initiating factor. In terms of the latter, taking the extremes of people on a continuum of cannabis use there is a doubling of the risk of developing schizophrenia in people who are daily users of cannabis compared with people who have never used cannabis.15 Cannabis has been singled out as a psychotogen partly because it is known to change people’s perceptions. Some researchers have labelled these perceptual changes “psychotic” when in fact the vast majority are “psychotic-like”. In addition to seeking a change in mood, users of cannabis generally enjoy changes in their perceptions as well as their accompanying thoughts; such as experiencing time going slower, having surprising new ideas or a deeper sense of meaning about normal routines or ordinary objects, or having a greater appreciation of music. A small minority of users view cannabis as a spiritual aid. The differential harm profile described above demonstrates how irrational our drug laws are. A highly toxic, aggressigenic, carcinogen is sold by teenagers to the public through every supermarket in New Zealand, as well as via thousands of liquor stores, bars and restaurants, while the sale of a more benign substance is prohibited. A rational ‘No’ vote in the upcoming referendum would not be based primarily on the potential health harm from cannabis, unless one is also advocating for the sale of alcohol to be made illegal. On the other hand, to vote ‘Yes’ requires trust the door isn’t being opened to Big Business to ultimately control and exploit cannabis. The “unbridled commercialisation”16 that exists with Big Business’ involvement with alcohol, resulting in enormous harm and cost to the New Zealand public, would likely be similar if cannabis became a new product available for Big Business activity. However, societal harm can be predicted to be less overall if this occurred because cannabis is inherently safer than alcohol.
Why do some people prefer weed over alcohol?
The science behind why some people prefer marijuana to alcohol On a night out, some college students may find themselves reaching for a blunt or some other way to smoke marijuana, rather than buying drinks at a bar, Among Generation Z, marijuana outranks not only alcohol, but also tobacco for recreational use according to a in New Frontier Data, a marijuana consumer research group.
But why might one be chosen over the other ?Alexander Wilson, a chemistry professor and co-director of Northern Michigan University’s medicinal plant chemistry program, said that a key difference between alcohol and cannabinoids is the ways in which they each affect the body and brain, Wilson said that while ethanol, the main component of alcohol, is a depressant that stimulates dopamine activity and affects the brain, the compounds that make up marijuana products interact directly with the body’s endocannabinoid system, producing the effects of a ” high,”
“They affect a different system in the body than alcohol would,” Wilson said. “So the mechanisms of action are quite different,” These differences in what organs alcohol and marijuana interact with impact the outcomes people see when consuming them. Some people cite stress relief or the lack of a hangover as reasons to smoke instead of drink, and marijuana is considered far less risky in terms of addiction than alcohol,
Americans seem to have a rudimentary understanding of the differences between the two, and in turn form opinions about which is safer to consume, A from the American Addiction Centers showed that when it comes to picking what to consume, Americans tend to perceive alcohol as more dangerous than marijuana.
Among survey respondents who didn’t smoke or ingest marijuana, people believed that alcohol was 25% more dangerous than marijuana, People buying marijuana products at their local dispensary don’t always know what exactly goes into the item they’re consuming, though.
- Wilson said sometimes, retail branding can lead to people being misinformed about the ingredients of the cannabis products they’re purchasing and consuming,
- Advertise names, which in the chemical literature we’ve found aren’t really correlated that well with the chemistry of the plant,” Wilson said.
“So, I think most people probably are not aware of this, because it’s relatively rare to actually give a full description of the chemistry of the plant,” While Wilson acknowledged there are sociological and cultural reasons someone might choose to smoke rather than drink, he said that science can also be a contributing factor, and while marijuana and alcohol can produce similar reactions in the body, they occur differently,
“You could get at certain doses and certain plants, similar effects,” Wilson said. “But those are going to be through different signaling pathways in the brain and in the body,” But when it comes down to the basics, Wilson said people tend to choose whether to drink or smoke because they’re partial to the experience they’ll get from their particular choice,
“Why somebody would want to utilize one versus the other would be for what effects they were hoping to get out of the experience,” Wilson said, Share and discuss “The science behind why some people prefer marijuana to alcohol” on social media. : The science behind why some people prefer marijuana to alcohol
Is CBD healthier than alcohol?
Short-Term Effects of Cannabis vs. Alcohol: The Verdict – In the short-term, both alcohol and high-THC marijuana can cause an enjoyable “buzz”, though the intoxicating effects differ significantly. They also can cause adverse effects in the short-term, leading to a “hangover” or crash following the comedown.
- High-CBD hemp, on the other hand, does not cause intoxication, and its negative short-term effects (potential for drowsiness and, at very high doses, diarrhea) are more manageable.
- Verdict: Cannabis is undoubtedly safer than alcohol for short-term use, and alcohol bears significantly higher risk.
- Of the two strains of cannabis, marijuana/THC has more negative effects, and marijuana users absolutely should not drive under the influence.
Hemp/CBD has remarkably fewer adverse effects, with the only common negative side effect being drowsiness. As such, new users should not drive under the influence of CBD until they have determined how it affects them; while driving on CBD is legal, the potential for drowsiness may put you and others at risk.
How much alcohol is OK in a day?
Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol
- Alcohol consumption is associated with a variety of short- and long-term health risks, including motor vehicle crashes, violence, sexual risk behaviors, high blood pressure, and various cancers (e.g., breast cancer).1
- The risk of these harms increases with the amount of alcohol you drink. For some conditions, like some cancers, the risk increases even at very low levels of alcohol consumption (less than 1 drink).2,3
- To reduce the risk of alcohol-related harms, the recommends that adults of legal drinking age can choose not to drink, or to drink in moderation by limiting intake to 2 drinks or less in a day for men or 1 drink or less in a day for women, on days when alcohol is consumed.4 The Guidelines also do not recommend that individuals who do not drink alcohol start drinking for any reason and that if adults of legal drinking age choose to drink alcoholic beverages, drinking less is better for health than drinking more.4
- Two in three adult drinkers report drinking above moderate levels at least once a month.5
The Guidelines note that some people should not drink alcohol at all, such as:
- If they are pregnant or might be pregnant.
- If they are younger than age 21.
- If they have certain medical conditions or are taking certain medications that can interact with alcohol.
- If they are recovering from an alcohol use disorder or if they are unable to control the amount they drink.4
The Guidelines also note that not drinking alcohol also is the safest option for women who are lactating. Generally, moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages by a woman who is lactating (up to 1 standard drink in a day) is not known to be harmful to the infant, especially if the woman waits at least 2 hours after a single drink before nursing or expressing breast milk.
- The Guidelines note, “Emerging evidence suggests that even drinking within the recommended limits may increase the overall risk of death from various causes, such as from several types of cancer and some forms of cardiovascular disease. Alcohol has been found to increase risk for cancer, and for some types of cancer, the risk increases even at low levels of alcohol consumption (less than 1 drink in a day).” 4
- Although past studies have indicated that moderate alcohol consumption has protective health benefits (e.g., reducing risk of heart disease), recent studies show this may not be true.6-12 While some studies have found improved health outcomes among moderate drinkers, it’s impossible to conclude whether these improved outcomes are due to moderate alcohol consumption or other differences in behaviors or genetics between people who drink moderately and people who don’t.6-12
- Most U.S. adults who drink don’t drink every day.13 That’s why it’s important to focus on the amount people drink on the days that they drink. Even if women consume an average of 1 drink per day or men consume an average of 2 drinks per day, increases the risk of experiencing alcohol-related harm in the short-term and in the future.14
- Drinking at levels above the moderate drinking guidelines significantly increases the risk of short-term harms, such as injuries, as well as the risk of long-term chronic health problems, such as some types of cancer.1,15,16
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention., Accessed April 18, 2022.
- Di Castelnuovo A, Costanzo S, Bagnardi V, Donati M, Iacoviello L, de Gaetano G., Arch Intern Med 2006;166(22):2437-45.
- Rehm J, Shield K. Alcohol consumption. In: Stewart BW, Wild CB, eds., Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2014
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.,9th Edition, Washington, DC; 2020.
- Henley SJ, Kanny D, Roland KB, et al., Alcohol Alcohol 2014;49(6):661-7.
- Chikritzhs T, Fillmore K, Stockwell T., Drug Alcohol Rev 2009;28:441–4.
- Andréasson S, Chikritzhs T, Dangardt F, Holder H, Naimi T, Stockwell T., In: Alcohol and Society 2014, Stockholm: IOGT-NTO & Swedish Society of Medicine, 2014.
- Knott CS, Coombs N, Stamatakis E, Biddulph JP., BMJ 2015;350:h384.
- Holmes MV, Dale CE, Zuccolo L, et al. BMJ 2014;349:g4164
- Naimi TS, Brown DW, Brewer RD, et al., Am J Prev Med 2005;28(4):369–73.
- Rosoff DB, Davey Smith G, Mehta N, Clarke TK, Lohoff FW., PLoS Med 2020;17:e1003410.
- Biddinger KJ, Emdin CA, Haas ME, et al., JAMA Netw Open 2022;5(3):e223849.
- Naimi TS., J Stud Alcohol Drug 2011;72:687.
- Holahan CJ, Holahan CK, Moos RH., Am J Prev Med 2022 (in press);10.1016.
- Vinson DC, Maclure M, Reidinger C, Smith GS. J Stud Alcohol Drugs 2003;64:358-66.
- Nelson DE, Jarman DW, Rehm J, et al. Am J Public Health 2013;103(4):641-8.
Can lungs heal after 40 years of smoking?
Quitting smoking is always a good idea, but it doesn’t mean the lungs will automatically heal back to their pre-smoking state. What happens to a smoker’s lungs after they quit? When a person smokes, they’re irritating and inflaming lung tissue, aggravating protective mucus production in the lungs — further inflaming them.
Smoking paralyzes and kills cilia (tiny hairs), whose main function is to clear out mucus. This means mucus accumulates within the lungs, leading to symptoms like shortness of breath and coughing. After a person quits smoking, their lung function returns to almost normal within a year — the cilia become fully functional again and can clear the mucus pooling in the lungs.
Quitters also observe an improved ability to perform cardiovascular abilities like running and jumping. Related on The Swaddle: Indian Anti‑Smoking Laws Have Failed to Change Cultural Acceptance of Smoking However, if a person was a smoker for a long time, they’ve irritated their lung tissue so frequently that it forms scarring.
If there’s fairly little scarring on the quitter’s lungs, they’re likely to lead a life free of any complications. However, heavy scarring — caused by a long history of chainsmoking — can lead to thick, stiff lung tissue. Visualize how the lungs function — they’re constantly inflating and deflating to take air in and out.
Stiff, thick lungs will need to work much harder to accomplish what comes so naturally to most humans. This will lead to fatigue, feeling short of breath often, and an inability to do cardiovascular exercise. Smoking also destroys lung alveoli, which are the tiny sacs present within the lungs that help exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide with the circulatory system.
There are about 500 million alveoli in our body, but they do not regenerate after they’ve been destroyed. Plus, a long history of smoking is capable of destroying more than a million alveoli. Regardless of whether a person quits, if enough alveoli have been destroyed, this will lead to pulmonary emphysema, which is an incurable, fatal disease with symptoms like coughing, excessive sputum production, fatigue, anxiety, sleep problems, heavy weight loss, and heart complications.
As for cancer, ten years of avoiding cigarettes can cut an individual’s lung cancer risk into half, when compared with smokers’ lung cancer risk rates. Smokers who quit post a cancer diagnosis are also more likely to respond to treatments, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine,
This even reduces the likelihood of mortality by up to 40%. However, a quitter’s risk for developing lung cancer will remain higher than a non-smoker’s. Heavy smokers who quit will require lung cancer screenings annually for at least 10-15 years due to the lingering risk, according to Harvard Health,
While lung tissue cells do regenerate, there’s no way a smoker can return to having the lungs of a non- smoker, At best, they will carry a few scars from their time smoking, and at worst, they’re stuck with certain breathing difficulties for the rest of their lives.