There has all along been a dispute as to whether the risks involved in cannabis dependency are more than that of alcohol or not. In the wake of the increasing enthusiasm for the legalization of cannabis, especially that of recreational cannabis, this question has come to the forefront in the discussions of social workers, health care professionals, and cannabis users.
As historical shifts take place in cannabis policy across the world, many cannabis-use supporters are of the opinion that marijuana should ideally be regulated the same way that alcohol is.
Most people believe that marijuana is less risky than alcohol and this claim is endorsed by scientific evidence also. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the federal government’s public health agency, about 66.3% of adults aged 18 years and above consumed alcohol in the year 2018.
Of these, only 5.1% were heavy drinkers and that meant that the rest drank responsibly or in moderation. Cannabis legalization supporters are of the opinion that they should be allowed to buy and use cannabis within reasonable limits, just as others do in the case of alcohol.
It is a simple and reasonable argument that voters can understand easily, unlike the complicated arguments based on clinical and financial data, and the criminal justice system.
Scientific Data on Marijuana and Alcohol Use
Studies were done in Canada and Germany in 2015, comparing the risks from relaxing and psychoactive substances like tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, and other pharmaceutical drugs. The researchers mainly focused on how much of each of these substances were required to make it lethal.
One of the results obtained from the study was that cannabis was about 114 times less risky and dependable than alcohol.
According to the data provided by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), every year, about 95,000 people die as a result of alcohol-related problems. On the contrary, cannabinoids have so far been not the cause of a single death.
According to data published in Visions Journal, health-related expenses on alcohol users, which is $165 per person, are much more than that of cannabis users which is only $20 per person.
Certain changes in the structure of the brain like the decline in the volume of gray matter are also seen associated with alcohol use but not associated with cannabis use. On the other hand, cannabis has the potential to undo the damages resulting from excessive use of alcohol.
Does Marijuana Use Help to Alleviate the Damage from Alcohol Use?
A study conducted in 2019 has revealed that cannabidiol (CBD) has the ability to reduce the damages in liver from steatosis (infiltration of fat into liver cells) and fibrosis (an increase of scar tissue in the liver), by lessening lipid accumulation in the liver, stimulating autophagy (destroying redundant cell matter), regulating inflammation, reducing stress from oxidation, and by causing the death of hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) that were activated.
CBD has also the ability to reduce brain damage resulting from too much alcohol consumption, by preventing loss of neurons because of its immunomodulatory and antioxidant properties. And at least in one study, it has been seen that the use of cannabis is linked to reduced consumption of alcohol.
In short, scientific evidence shows cannabis to have far fewer risk factors than alcohol. At any rate, it is not correct to give preferential treatment to alcohol and both these psychoactive substances deserve to be treated alike.
Consumers should be allowed to purchase and consume cannabis at shops and venues in the same way they can buy and consume alcohol. Needless to say, discriminatory treatment is more political than scientific.