For most of us, one of the perks of getting high is exactly that: higher perceptions and a more expanded awareness. Cannabis is often seen as a stimulant while alcohol is more frequently seen as a depressant (in the medical sense). Even proponents of alcohol will acknowledge its suppressive qualities. If alcohol makes you more social, it’s due to the lowering or suppressing of your inhibitions. If it raises your confidence, it’s likely a result of numbing your senses. If you have found yourself saying, “actually…” after reading this first paragraph, we invite you to continue reading while we discuss cannabis vs. alcohol - the debate of the decade.
In social settings, the choice between these two is ultimately a matter of personal preference. That numbing of your perception can be a good thing if your confidence is affected by over-analyzing your faults and actions. However, if you think you’re hot shit and you don’t really have any chill, alcohol can become a problem, at least for the folks around you. Some people love to be surrounded by the buzz of an intoxicated crowd while others find that cannabis gives them the ability to connect more deeply with their surroundings.
Researchers have the ability to study alcohol’s effects much more freely than cannabis due to regulatory hurdles. That being said, one “win” cannabis has going for it off the cuff is that unlike alcohol, it [cannabis] doesn’t appear to maintain the ability to directly kill you. However, it would be disingenuous for us to not consider all aspects instead of dropping the argument right there.
The History of Cannabis in a Nutshell
Over 5,000 years ago, emperor Shen Nung of China sung the praises of cannabis for the first time. The earliest use of the plant was as a medicine, with its psychoactive traits being of less interest to users. In India, the euphoria of being high were highlighted a bit more openly. Cannabis has deep roots in Indian culture. Even the Rastafarian “Ganja” most likely got its name from the Indian/Bangladeshi river, Ganges.
In fact, India’s oldest literature, The Vedas, tells a story of how the first cannabis plants sprouted from a drop of heavenly nectar. It was known to bring joy, happiness, and delight to mankind. These mythical origins may not serve as the most accurate history, but one thing is clear: humans have been enjoying cannabis for at least as long as we’ve been keeping written records.
Eventually, the Spanish were responsible for bringing cannabis to the New World. After just a few hundred years, it would become a larger cash crop than cotton. By the 1920’s, still legal in America, cannabis was used widely in both recreational and medical senses.
A Glance into Alcohol’s Background
Unlike THC which comes from a specific plant, alcohol comes from a process that many things are capable of. A tiny organism called yeast breaks down starch and sugar from rotting fruits or vegetables. This process is called fermentation. Yeast creates a waste product called ethanol, which is the least toxic and only ingestible form of alcohol. In fact, researchers believe that around ten million years ago, our genetic makeup mutated to allow us to metabolize ethanol at a much faster rate.
Around 9,000 years ago, China began brewing the first wines from rice and fruit. Around 3,500 B.C., beer was invented in Sumer. Early beers were considered dietary staples, nutrient rich, and hydrating. It was more sterile than water and would keep longer than bread and grains.
As these processes were perfected and industrialized, we learned that the yeast was actually the component that kept the alcohol from reaching its full intoxicating potential. This led to brewers discovering the ability to concentrate the alcohol, leading to stronger products. This was done by boiling off the water and collecting the ethanol as it evaporated. This concentrated form is how we now have insanely strong liquors.
Cannabis and Your Health
As we mentioned, the regulatory hurdles in place prevent a lot of research from being conducted around cannabis’ medical potential. These hurdles are falling quickly though, and scientists are racing to play catch up. In a report published by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), researchers took a look at the current state of cannabis research.
Ultimately, this report puts a light on how little we know about the benefits or risks of cannabis. That said, there is strong evidence that cannabis provides relief to those suffering from chronic pain. There is evidence of relief from spasticity of multiple sclerosis, and solid evidence for the relief of nausea caused by chemotherapy.
We feel that in the next few years, the world will be inundated with more cannabis research. There’s a reason that scientists around the world feel that cannabis’ Schedule 1 inclusion is absurd and inaccurate, because it prohibits funding for much of the research that the world needs. These days, more people than not are beginning to view cannabis as any other medication, not the “dangerous narcotic” that it has been labeled as for the past 100 years.
Alcohol and Your Health
There is an intimidating amount of research around alcohol’s effect on the human body. There’s a popular anecdote that pops up frequently stating that a glass of wine a day will help you live longer. There’s also another anecdote that goes along the lines of “having one drink tends to lead to another…and another…and another.”
The research seems to agree that most of the damage caused by alcohol comes from consuming too much of it. As they say, the dose makes the poison. Over time, alcohol abuse takes a toll on your liver, heart, pancreas, and more. You would probably be hard pressed to find a doctor or scientist who would categorize alcohol as having medical benefits that outweigh the potential issues it can cause.
Another consideration of alcohol are the lovely hangovers. Now, we’re not going to tell you that there’s no such thing as a cannabis hangover. We’ve all gotten a little too high late at night only to wake up groggy, but if you’ve ever milked an alcohol hangover then you’re well aware that a weed hangover is nothing like the skull-crushing, vomit-inducing effects that an alcohol hangover can cause. This alone sort of makes you step back and question if your body is trying to tell you sometime.
So, Who Wins?
People have been using both cannabis and alcohol forever, and ultimately, neither are likely to go away. It is clear that prohibition isn’t the answer, and there really isn’t a need to “pick a side”. Regardless, the hypocrisy on display from governments who make a clearly more toxic drug the only legal option is shocking. Consider this, nearly three million people die worldwide each year from alcohol related issues . Cannabis on the other hand? Well, it seems we are still waiting for someone to build a bong tall enough to fall from.
Thankfully, cannabis regulation is changing at a rapid pace (though not fast enough in some areas). Hopefully, this failed war on drugs will come to an end sooner than later and we can finally conduct some thorough research and be able to put this age-old argument to rest.