Dear California Sober Curious,
First of all, good on you for evaluating how you feel and deciding to make a change. In a culture still dominated by drinking, that’s not an easy choice. The stigma around weed is extremely pervasive on both a cultural and political level, and I totally understand why you see it as a “bad habit” in the same way you view a substance like alcohol.
To be blunt, though, alcohol is… poison. While there are a few potential health benefits associated with drinking in moderation like ingesting the antioxidants present in red wine, the Mayo Clinic states, “Any potential benefits of alcohol are relatively small and may not apply to all individuals. In fact, the latest dietary guidelines make it clear that no one should begin drinking alcohol or drink more often on the basis of potential health benefits. For many people, the possible benefits don't outweigh the risks and avoiding alcohol is the best course.” Not to mention, irresponsible alcohol use is responsible for over three million deaths per year.
Cannabis, on the other hand, is rife with health benefits like pain relief and muscle relaxation (a huge value-add to a country rattled by opioid addiction), symptom reduction for mental illnesses like depression and PTSD, and even cancer cell elimination. Plus, there is no risk of death if over-consumed (though you should still never operate heavy machinery if you’re under the influence, obviously).
Besides simply comparing their health effects though, you might consider the substances’ versatility – there are more dimensions to weed besides just having a good time at the cookout (though, it’s great for that too). People use weed as an emotional regulator, a spiritual guide, a parenting aid, a bad romcom companion, a conversation stimulant, and a creative muse.
Weed and alcohol are two of the most commonly used substances in the world. And while they both have their pros and cons, there is one clear winner when it comes to which is better for your health: weed. Here’s a look at some of the key ways in which weed is superior to booze.
1. Weed is less addictive than alcohol.
One of the biggest dangers of alcohol is its potential for addiction. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), nearly 17 million adults in the United States suffer from an alcohol abuse disorder. By contrast, cannabis addiction is relatively rare, with less than 10% of users becoming addicted (and even then, it’s typically only psychologically — not physically).
2. Weed is less harmful to your body than alcohol.
Alcohol is a toxin that can take a serious toll on your entire body, from your liver and kidneys to your brain and heart. Regular alcohol use has been linked to an increased risk of cancer, stroke, liver disease, and dementia. Cannabis, on the other hand, has not been linked to any major health problems (although it is important to note that smoking anything comes with some risks).
3. Weed is less likely to lead to violence than alcohol.
Because alcohol lowers inhibitions, impairs judgment, and amplifies emotions, it’s no surprise that it increases the risk of violence and aggression. In fact, according to a report from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), alcohol is a factor in 40% of all violent crimes. Cannabis, on the other hand, has not been linked to increased levels of violence or aggression in any studies.
4. Weed is less likely to cause accidents than alcohol.
Impaired judgment and coordination are two more side effects of alcohol that can lead to accidents. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), alcohol was a factor in nearly 30% of all traffic fatalities in 2013. Marijuana, on the other hand, has been shown to have little-to-no impact on driving ability — though you still should not operate heavy machinery while under the influence of anything.
While I don’t deny the beauty, care, and artistry that goes into alcohol products like natural wine or craft cocktails, alcohol takes you further outside of your body, while weed brings you closer in. Personally, it has helped me develop the courage to say yes to the things I do want in my life (like watching the sunset with a pink joint and a good friend) and no to the things I don’t (like jumping up and down to “Mr. Brightside” at 3 in the morning).
Don’t get me wrong, I think drinking can be fun (just last weekend I found myself walking a mile and a half home from the bar with just a street slice and a dream), but if you’re asking me if weed is any “better” for you than alcohol? I’d say absolutely. And if you’re looking for an easy swap, look for a pre-made THC drink or a tincture to drop in your own mocktails.
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Until next week,