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Marijuana vs. Alcohol - Our Choices Are Changing

Aug 9, 2022 10:00:00 AM

One significant change we’ve seen recently is the increasing acceptance of recreational marijuana use. Since medical marijuana is now legal in many states and the federal government is seriously considering legalization, we’ve entered a new landscape. As a result, more people are thinking about smoking a joint at a moment when, in the past, they might’ve grabbed a cold beer or mixed a stiff drink.

There are many choices for cannabis consumption available to consumers – a visit to your local medical marijuana dispensary will show the array of products to help with relaxation and stress relief.

For more on Alcohol & MJ - watch our video below

Marijuana Over Alcohol?

Those who love pot have many good reasons handy for why it’s better than alcohol. Marijuana, they say, is not addictive, unlike alcohol. You can function better when you’re high than you can when you’re drunk. You don’t get as sloppy on marijuana as you do when you’re drinking. You won’t have a hangover in the morning after ingesting a lot of cannabis. Marijuana, they’ll be happy to tell you, is not as bad for your body as alcohol is.

female hand turning down a mug of beer

When we examine these reasons, we find they do hold up under scrutiny. Cannabis doesn’t cause damage to your liver or brain cells, and it won’t cause harm to other organs in the body. Of course, your mileage may vary – depending on how your body reacts to different substances. Still, in a contest between cannabis and alcohol, we would pick marijuana over alcohol every time.

Mixing Cannabis with Alcohol

Is there a difference if you smoke marijuana first, then drink alcohol? In this area, I do have some experience from which I’m happy to draw! During my college days and my partying 20s, I found that being stoned first helped keep me from getting too drunk.

The THC in marijuana can change how alcohol is metabolized in the body. It causes the alcohol to be pulled more slowly from your GI tract. Still, you will want to drink less than usual if you’ve already had some pot. This is because the effects of the alcohol can sneak up on you.

Joint, grinder, cannabis buds, alcohol shot and related items on a table

What about when you drink alcohol first, then smoke ganja? My experience was that if I drank then smoked, it was a bad combination -- I did get sloppy! Back then, drinking a lot was considered the norm, and while it was fun, I’m glad I learned at a young age that alcohol isn’t a good fit for me.

Academic research supports my anecdotal study in the field. Any kind of alcohol increases the absorption of THC in cannabis products because it primes the liver enzymes. Alcohol also relaxes your arteries, increasing blood flow to many parts of the body. This means marijuana will be absorbed faster.

Our best advice is to proceed with caution when mixing marijuana and alcohol and start slow and go slowly.

More People’s Choice

While marijuana and alcohol affect the brain differently, they both target the dopamine center of the brain. Both can help you relax, release inhibitions and cause you to feel happy! While there are many similarities when people can choose between the two, more choose marijuana over alcohol.

Young caucasian woman exhaling the smoke while smoking marijuana from a bong or glass water pipe, sitting in the kitchen

In a recent poll, one-third of those surveyed said they prefer cannabis to alcohol, and 42% indicated they started using cannabis or increased consumption since the pandemic. Another survey found that 64% of respondents planned to replace alcohol with cannabis during the holiday season.

Considering that marijuana has only recently become an option, these numbers show a significant shift toward marijuana over alcohol.

Can Marijuana Help with Alcoholism?

It used to be said that marijuana was a “gateway drug,” meaning it could lead to the use of harder drugs.

Some are now saying that marijuana could be a gateway of a different kind – a gateway to recovery. There is growing evidence that medical marijuana can be part of an effective treatment for alcoholism. It can help reduce nausea, sleep problems, lack of appetite, fatigue, and cravings for alcohol -- all components of withdrawal and recovery from alcoholism.

Close up people sit in circle holding hands participating at group therapy session

A study from 2009 showed that marijuana was helpful for addicts in withdrawal from alcohol, illicit drugs, or prescription drugs. In addition, respondents cited marijuana’s helpfulness in managing symptoms of withdrawal and its reduction of negative side effects.

During the process of withdrawal from alcohol, many neural cells are susceptible to cell death. The cannabinoids found in marijuana can prevent cell death during alcohol withdrawal and act as neuroprotective shields, helping prevent brain damage.

Medical Advice Still Vital

Facing an addiction is a very serious time for anyone. Some feel it’s inadvisable to use medical marijuana during alcohol withdrawal because of the chance of replacing one addiction with another.

However, it’s essential for someone in this situation to have the best medical advice possible. If you’re on a journey to heal from an addiction, your best option would be to seek help from a trusted doctor, therapist, counselor, or other health care provider.

Everybody is different and everyone’s perceptions are unique. While many of us have never considered marijuana an option in the past, the new vista of legalization means that more people have more choices. We’re happy to be your guide on this journey to having fun, feeling good, and being safe!


Joy San Diego
Written by Joy San Diego

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