Sunday, September 23rd, 2018

Alcohol vs. marijuana vs. tobacco

Posted on April 20, 2015 in News
By Zachary Searles

In recent years, marijuana has become the most widely used illegal drug in the United States, with over 94 million people having admitted to using it at least once. According to the United Nations, nearly 159 million people have used marijuana worldwide, roughly 4 percent of Earth’s population.

The numbers of Americans who smoke tobacco are much higher. According to the CDC, 17.8 percent of adults in the United States use tobacco regularly, whereas only 6.7 percent of Americans claim to be a frequent marijuana user. Each day, 3,200 kids younger than 18 smoke their first cigarette.

Marijuana appears to be used far less than alcohol by Americans. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 86.8 percent of Americans 18 or older have had a drink in their lifetime. Among full time college students, 59.4 percent  drank alcohol in the past month, with 12.7 percent engaging in heavy drinking (having 5 or more drinks in a night on 5 or more nights in a month).

What are the mental and physical effects of using these drugs? According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a person that smokes marijuana is likely to have altered sensory perception, changes in mood, impaired memory and difficulty with problem solving. Some studies show that if a person’s marijuana usage starts as a teenager and continues into adulthood, there is chance of it affecting brain development and the loss of, on average, eight IQ points.

Comparatively, numerous studies show the usage of tobacco causing conditions such as cancer, heart disease, strokes and many others. According to the CDC, 480,000 people die every year from smoking-related illnesses and 16 million Americans are currently living with a disease caused by smoking. Not to mention, 88,000 Americans die every year from alcohol related causes, making it the third leading preventable cause of death.

According to a recent survey taken here at USM, asking 300 students which of the three is more dangerous, over 250 responded that marijuana is the least harmful.

Unlike tobacco, there have been reports saying that there are some benefits to alcohol and marijuana use. Moderate consumption of red wine is shown to decrease the risk for heart disease and many states have started to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes because of studies that show marijuana can be used to treat illnesses such as AIDS and Alzheimer’s.

So which of these drugs is most harmful?

“People don’t overdose on marijuana. Kids don’t get wild and crazy smoking too much pot and get taken to the hospital for marijuana poisoning, or get in marijuana induced car crashes,” said Gwendolyn Randall, a student at USM. “It’s not as easy to slip a pill into a girl’s bowl of weed and then take advantage of her.”

Randall also believes that marijuana doesn’t change your mood or behavior as much as something like alcohol can.

“Marijuana doesn’t make people violent, or angry, or belligerent. Alcohol can be such a dangerous drug that it’s really ridiculous to place it on the same level of harm as marijuana,” said Randall.

However, when it came to comparing marijuana to tobacco, Randall was a little more hesitant, and said it’s a little more reasonable to believe cigarettes are far worse for you than marijuana.

“If you look at a habitual cigarette smoker compared to a marijuana smoker, the tobacco smoker looks more harrowed,” said Randall. “Their teeth are more yellowed and disgusting, their hair thinner, their skin less hydrated, their voice more hoarse and the smell of tobacco covers them like a cloud.”

Thomas Collier, a recent English graduate, also commented, and said that this question isn’t a matter of opinion but rather has a factual answer.

“Marijuana is chemically safer to consume than either tobacco or alcohol,” said Collier. “That’s just the way it is. People can and will believe what they want, but beliefs are not always founded in reason.”

Collier also believes that alcohol can drastically change a person’s demeanor and has seen some ridiculous behavior exhibited from individuals under the influence of alcohol, but never any crazy behavior from someone who has smoked marijuana.

“I’ve never seen stoners get into a fistfight over a spilled beer, but I’ve seen a bar fight start for just that reason. It was ridiculous,” said Collier. “You just don’t see that sort of stuff with marijuana. If anything, marijuana pacifies those who use it.”

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